Return to Transcripts main page


Justice Department Announces Investigation Into Death Of Baltimore Suspect While In Custody. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 21, 2015 - 16:30   ET



[16:33:18] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back.

We're back with some breaking news in the national lead today. The Department of Justice just announced it has opened an investigation into the death of a man who died while in the custody in Baltimore City police over the weekend.

That investigation will focus on whether any civil rights were violated. This news comes as so many questions remain unanswered in this case, the biggest, who or what caused the death of Freddie Gray.

We're just minutes away from a new round of protests starting in Baltimore. Another group will march here in Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Capitol. So many people across the country not satisfied with the lack of information given by police about what happened.

According to the charging documents, Freddie Gray ran when she saw police in the neighborhood in Baltimore. Officers caught up with him. They found a switchblade in his pocket. Then they arrested him. And that's where the cell phone video picks up. You can see officers dragging Freddie Gray to the police van. By the time Gray got to the police station, according to the police, he was not breathing.

And officers called for an ambulance. So, what happened? Did the injury happen before he got into the police van, after he was inside the van?

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live in Baltimore.

Suzanne, you talked to Gray's family attorney today. What did he have to say?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Billy Murphy was hoping to tell the family some news, that the autopsy report would be handed over, at least a preliminary report, they would be able to see it, as well as Freddie Gray's body handed over to the family. Neither one of things likely to happen today.

We heard from the medical examiner's office that said this is a legal process that's got to play out and take some time. Murphy is telling people to be patient and to be calm, but, admittedly, Jake, he's also saying that he's not satisfied and he's not impressed with what he's heard so far from police. [16:35:06]


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're all hear to hurt us.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): In Baltimore, tensions are running high, as police struggle to answer for the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

Gray's arrest was captured on these dramatic cell phone videos. Shortly after this, Gray's attorney says his spine was somehow nearly severed. Then he slipped into a coma and died a week later. Police say the incident began when Gray inexplicably ran from police in a high crime area. They found a switchblade on him and he was arrested.

BILLY MURPHY, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY: The kid was ultimately stopped for running while black. It's never been probable cause for an arrest.

MALVEAUX: The police still can't explain how Gray's neck was broken.

MURPHY: When Mr. Gray was placed inside that van, he was able to talk, he was upset. And when Mr. Gray was taken out of the van, he could not talk and he could not breathe.

MALVEAUX: The Baltimore Police Department just released the names of six employees who were involved in Gray's arrest. All are now suspended with pay, including one sergeant and one lieutenant with 18 years' experience.

The group of five men and one woman range in ages from 25 to 45, half with just three years of experience on the force.

MURPHY: They don't know when he was injured. That's both refreshing and depressing.

MALVEAUX: Freddie Gray was apprehended here, a West Baltimore area known for drug activity that police call the hot spot.

According to court documents, Gray's arrest occurred without force or incident. But it's clear something went wrong. More than 600 closed- circuit cameras city wide are constantly scanning, but very little is captured in the area that Gray was arrested. What happened off camera depends on who you ask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the young man screaming, get off my neck, get off my neck, you're hurting my neck.

JERRY RODRIGUEZ, BALTIMORE DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: There was no physical bodily injury that we saw, nor was it evident in the autopsy.

MALVEAUX: Gray's attorney is urging the family to be patient while they wait for the autopsy reports.

MURPHY: It's been traumatic for them. And in addition to being in grief, they are outraged.


MALVEAUX: And Jake, we are going to see the mother, the stepfather, as well as the twin sister of Freddie Gray here. They're going to be holding a vigil within about a half-hour, 40 minutes or so.

And as for those six people who have been suspended from the force, I talked with the police Captain Eric Kowalczky, who said that it is policy for 48 hours if there's a death in the custody of police that they release the names of the officers. It does not mean necessarily that they have determined the role of those officers. That's going to happen through their investigation -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discus this tragedy is the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Madam Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

It's been nine days. Almost everyone there seems to have been interviewed. Are you and the police commissioner any closer today to being able to tell the people of Baltimore how this 25-year-old man suffered injury?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), MAYOR OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: No. It's going to take more than the interview to determine that. It's going to also take the medical examiner's report.

I did talk to our governor today and asked him to work with us to try to get that information out to the family and to the public as soon as possible. I share the frustration that you heard from Mr. Murphy, from many in the community. You see a case where we don't know what the probably cause was.

Having a knife is not necessarily probable cause for a stop or for an arrest. We know that Mr. Gray asked for medical attention and we know that there was some time between that request and when medical attention was gotten for Mr. Gray. These questions need to be answered.

TAPPER: Right.

Madam Mayor, I don't know if you heard Suzanne Malveaux's piece, but there was a gentleman who said he was a witness who said that Freddie Gray said, according to this witness, get off my neck, get off my neck before he was put into the police van. I'm wondering have you heard anything along these lines, that there might have been an injury to his neck before he got in the van? Because, obviously, he suffered a severe wound to his neck that ultimately killed him.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: What we have done is continued to ask for members of the public who have information. I think it's great that they're talking to you. They need to talk to the police department, the state attorney's office that is doing its own independent investigation.

[16:40:02] We want to get -- we want to hear from as many people as possible, so

it is possible to piece together in the most accurate way possible what happened. We want to get to the bottom of it.

TAPPER: I guess one of the reasons there seems to be such frustration is because the only thing we're hearing from authorities is nothing happened to Freddie Gray that was wrong, nothing happened to him that was wrong, we didn't injure him, we didn't wound him, and yet he ended up dead and nine days later there's still no information coming from the authorities.

It seems fairly obvious that something happened to him and there just doesn't seem to be an acknowledgment by authorities that that's just the reality.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I want to be abundantly clear. Mr. Gray died while in police custody. We don't know what the cause of the injury was.

I think that's what you're hearing, not that we're not -- there can't be any assignment of blame until we know exactly what happened. But we're going to get to the bottom of it. We know that while he was in our custody, when he first engaged the police department, he was alive, he was breathing, he was responsive.

When medical attention came to Mr. Gray, he was unresponsive and not breathing. We're going to figure out what happened. The fact that we're not assigning blame doesn't mean that we won't hold accountable anyone that we found out is responsible for any wrongdoing.

TAPPER: But, Madam Mayor, why is it taking so long? It's been nine days. I can't recall any situation like this before where there's just not even basic information about this young man dying.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think you're getting a lot of information and certainly a lot of basic information.

What you're not getting is answers and that's because there's an investigation going on. We put out a timeline yesterday. We put out the video that the city cameras, the closed circuit TVs were able to capture. You have seen the videos from bystanders on the street. That's a lot of information. Not a lot of answers, because there is an ongoing investigation.

TAPPER: The lawyer for Freddie Gray's family says that race colors this case. I don't the race of any of the officers involved. You have a much better perspective on this than I do. Do you agree with that?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think Baltimore has had a very challenging history when it comes to the black community and the police department.

And because I know -- because I'm born here, raised here and because I understand that problem, I have worked very hard to try to repair the relationship between the police and the community. We have done a lot of work and made a lot of progress. I was just down in our state capital, one of only a handful of elected officials willing to stand up to the law enforcements lobby to say that we need stronger enforcement and more tools to hold officers accused of wrongdoing accountable.


TAPPER: Madam Mayor, aren't you against body cameras? Aren't you against body cameras?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: No. The council sent me a bad bill. I'm against bad legislation. I'm for body cameras and my track record speaks to that. I want to make sure that we do it and we do it right.

I put together a task force that took a look at all of the issues around privacy, around cost, around data collection, around making sure that we get it right for Baltimore. If the legislature sends -- if the council sends me a bad bill, I can't, I can't sign it. But that doesn't mean we're not going to have body cameras and it certainly doesn't mean that I'm against them. My track record is clear there.

TAPPER: All right, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, thank you so much more taking the time to join us today. We appreciate it.

Coming up, it's an idea that only Vladimir Putin could think of, Steven Seagal as a diplomatic go-between between the U.S. and Russia. Believe this or not. What was President Obama's reaction when Putin actually brought up this idea about Steven Seagal to his face? That's next.

Plus, a listeria outbreak already linked to three deaths. Now Blue Bell is admitting it has no idea where the bacteria came from -- that story and a big recall coming up.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Buried Lead today is one of the cookiest stories we've and is completely true, a budding bromance with serious diplomatic implications. One is the bare chested horseback riding leader of one of the most powerful and feared regimes.

The other a washed up action star known more for his high flying kicks and memorial flicks like "Undersiege" and "Undersiege II" and "Above The Law." That's right. Russian president, Vladimir Putin and American actor, Steven Seagal may seem like an odd couple.

But they've been photographed together visiting a Russian judo team, dining at Putin's private residence, bonding over their shared love of martial arts. Now we are learning even more about just how close the men actually are.

According to a new report in "Buzzfeed," Putin suggested to President Obama at the 2013 G8 Summit that Steven Seagal serve as an honorary envoy between Moscow and Washington to help improve the frosty relationship between the two countries.

Let's bring "Buzzfeed" reporter, Rosie Gray, who broke the story with one of her colleagues. Rosie, thanks so much for being here. Welcome to THE LEAD.

So first of all, I just want to assert people this isn't like a goof. This is a real story. I saw the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, tweeting your story out. What was President Obama's response to this crazy suggestion?

ROSIE GRAY, "BUZZFEED" NEWS REPORTER: I think the U.S. officials who were there were pretty aghast that this was even brought up.

TAPPER: I would hope so.

GRAY: And I think President Obama basically dismissed it out of hand. But the Russians did bring this up multiple times afterwards with the State Department.

TAPPER: They've brought it up a number of times. So in 2013, Seagal called Putin one of the greatest world leaders, describing him in other interviews as a, quote, "brother." What is the exact nature of the relationship between these two macho men?

[16:50:03] GRAY: Well, I mean, it looks as though they're basically friends, but also obviously for President Putin there's a certain propaganda value. It fits into this here of macho tough guyness that Putin tries to cultivate for himself.

TAPPER: Does Seagal actually have any clout in Russia?

GRAY: I don't know about cloud. He certainly has contacts. From our reporting, we understand that he's on sort of a first name basis with several high level Russian officials. He can call them on the phone, et cetera.

TAPPER: What do you think it is about Putin and the celebrities that he finds so intoxicating? He's also obviously been interested in Mickey Rourke and Sharon Stone, Jean Claude Van Damme to reach back again to that era. What is it about them that Putin seems to like?

GRAY: Well, I think Putin himself, his presidency is the cult of his own celebrity, his own personality. It's an ego boost to him to surround himself with these celebrities and a certain propaganda that a lot of them are western celebrities although that has changed in the past since the U.S.-Russian relationship has disintegrated so much.

TAPPER: There is a talk of replacing the outgoing now gone U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, a highly respected expert on Russia who is at Stanford, replacing him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Was that taken seriously?

GRAY: Yes, a scholar brought this up and suggested this seriously to the administration. It never happened, but this was a serious thing that was suggested.

TAPPER: What's the thinking behind putting the (inaudible) in that position?

GRAY: Well, again, it's the tough guy macho thing. Putin would understand him and Arnold speaks fluent German and that's a language that Putin feels very comfortable in.

TAPPER: All right, Rosie Gray, congratulations on the very, very fascinating and bizarre scoop. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a deadly bacteria scare that leads to one company recalling every single product it makes. Why Blue Bell is taking the unprecedented step and what you should do in you have any of its products at home, next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The Money Lead today has a deadly listeria outbreak pushed the Blue Bell ice cream company to its melting point? The Texas-based company, the third largest ice cream company in the United States announced a massive recall that will involve pulling every single one of its products off every single store shelf.

This is what the freezers look like inside grocery stores across the country now. The move comes after new sample tests showed listeria contamination in containers of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Ten listeria cases have already been linked back to Blue Bell products, three of them sadly fatal. CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen is in Atlanta.

Elizabeth, we've learned that some of these listeria cases date all the way back to 2010. How has this gone on for so long?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I know, Jake, it does seem so odd, but here's why. When there's a single case of listeria here and there, they don't necessarily do a full-on investigation.

But even if they had, ice cream would not have been at the top of their list of things to look for because listeria, it can exist at freezing temperatures, but it doesn't grow. Investigators would have been zeroed in on things like soft cheese and deli meats.

TAPPER: So the good news is that Blue Bell has recalled every product it makes out of an abundance of caution, but are consumers you think out of danger?

COHEN: You know, Jake, not completely and that's because you can get sick two months after eating a product containing listeria. So the people who really need to be concerned here are those that are immune issues, people with HIV or people with underlying conditions like diabetes or pregnant women. And they really need to make sure that if they have symptoms

like fever or diarrhea that they talk to their doctor if they've consumed a Blue Bell product.

I want to go over these again because they make a lot more than just ice cream. For example, they make frozen yogurt, sherbert, an other kinds of frozen snacks. It can take a while before getting sick from eating something with listeria.

TAPPER: How does listeria get into a product like ice cream? What's the origin? Is there a contamination process or does it just spontaneously occurs in certain temperatures?

COHEN: You know, Jake, that really is the big mystery. Presumably they're using pasteurized milk so presumably it wouldn't come to the milk. There are, for example, nuts in ice cream and nuts can bring in listeria.

But listeria can also last in plants for a very long time and equipment. Not just last or really lurk. It's very, very hearty and difficult to clean it out. If you don't know it's there, you're probably not going to get to it in the nooks and crannies of all of your equipment.

TAPPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. We are going to continue with our Money Lead. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, there's a reboot of an early '90s classic two millennials.

The Tanner family is set to return with a "Full House" remake. Rumors of the show return sent social media abuzz to which Netflix said in response --

Netflix confirming that it's ordered 13 episodes for the series. The re-launch will feature show originals like DJ, Stephanie and Uncle Jesse along with everyone's favorite neighbor, Kimmy Gibbler.

Talks with TV dad, Bob Sagett and the Olson twins are ongoing. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper. Check out our show page at for videos, blogs, and extras.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'm turning you over right now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.