Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Feds Investigate Baltimore Police Custody Death; U.S. Conducting Manned Reconnaissance off Yemen; U.S. Conducting Manned Reconnaissance off Yemen; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Protests in Baltimore Over Police Custody Death. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 21, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, federal investigation. The Justice Department is now looking into the arrest of a Baltimore man who died in custody of a broken neck. And new details emerge about the arrests. Some people are saying the police version of the events does not add up.
You'll hear from the Baltimore police spokesman.
Protests building. Demonstrators gathering for a second day, adding Baltimore's Freddie Gray to their list of African-Americans killed in encounters with police. Was there a civil rights violation in this latest case?
And harm's way, a flotilla of U.S. warships and thousands of U.S. sailors and Marines, they are off the coast of Yemen, ready to block possible Iranian arms deliveries to rebel forces, but will Iran's navy push back?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And the breaking news: the Justice Department here in Washington now says it's officially looking into the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died of a broken neck days after his arrest by local police. Federal authorities now say the investigation will determine if there was a civil rights violation that can be prosecuted.
Six officers involved in the arrest have now been suspended, and police have now identified them, as well. There are new questions about the police version of how the incident played out, and new protests are developing this hour in Baltimore, as well as here in Washington, as demonstrators say there -- this is one more example of injustice.
I'll talk live this hour with a Baltimore police spokesman, and our correspondents, analysts and guests are all standing by with complete coverage.
But let's begin with Brian Todd. He has the very latest -- Brian. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this protest just getting started here on the west front of the Capitol. This is a group called the Justice League that has been marching for a while now. This protest was organized long before the Baltimore incident, but the protest leaders here say that Freddie Gray is one of many people, many police victims, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown, who they are here on behalf of. This is just going to get started in just a couple of minutes. But also tonight, there are many gaps in Gray's case that still have not been filled in.
TODD (voice-over): The inconsistencies begin outside the police van. Freddie's body is limp. A witness yells to officers he can't support himself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His leg's broken. You're dragging him like he's dead.
TODD: But the mayor and police site this frame of video, claiming Gray was using his legs when he got in the van. They say when he got in he was able bodied, able to talk.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER JERRY RODRIGUEZ, BALTIMORE POLICE: None of the officers describe using any force against Mr. Gray.
TODD: Witnesses say they saw something rougher.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They flipped him over, and they put both knees on his back and held him there until the cruiser came to pick him up.
TODD: Later when Gray was taken out of the van, less than an hour after he got in, he couldn't breathe or talk. He lapsed into a coma and died a week later of a severe spinal cord injury.
The critical questions remaining tonight: what caused his injury and what happened inside the police van?
Police say Gray asked for an inhaler about the same time he got in the van at 8:42 a.m. on April 12. Less than four minutes later, the van stopped. The van operator says Gray was irate. He was placed in leg irons. It's one of at least two stops the van made with Gray inside. Another was to pick up another suspect. Police say the two were separated by a metal barrier.
WILLIAM MURPHY JR., ATTORNEY FOR GRAY'S FAMILY: We learned for the first time at some point, probably right before he was sent to the hospital, there was a second person in the van. Well, that's a curious thing. And we heard that he was separated by some kind of screen. But did he hear anything? What did he say?
TODD: Law enforcement veterans say investigators will be talking to that second passenger, whose testimony will be crucial, and to the van operator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far I haven't heard allegation that the brakes were deliberately applied. But yes, they would need to look into the question of how the van was being operated and whether brakes were applied and at what point. And also how he may have been seat belted or secured in the van, if he was.
TODD: Another key question: why it took so long for Gray to get medical attention. About 42 minutes elapsed between the time Gray was put into the police van and when a medic was called. Baltimore's mayor now says that was too much time, a mistake.
TODD: All day we have pressed Baltimore police about those two questions about the conduct of the van operator and also about what that second passenger in the van has had to say. They've declined to answer those questions, saying it's part of the ongoing investigation. Wolf, but those questions are part of what's leading the protests here tonight in Washington and in Baltimore -- Wolf.
[17:05:05] BLITZER: All right, Brian, stand by. We're going to get back to you.
I want to get some more now on this latest development, the federal investigation into the death of this man in custody. Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think what really is disturbing is the latest revelations of how this -- of how Freddie Gray died. You know, the revelation that he had a spinal cord injury and that it wasn't an arrest without violence, as the police first indicated.
I think this is what basically tipped the balance here, caused the FBI and the Justice Department to decide that they want to take a look and talk to some the witnesses, look at some of the video and try to determine what exactly happened here, make sure that whatever is being done locally is backed up.
BLITZER: Because they know there's a history of some police abuses in Baltimore that the FBI and the Justice Department, they've been investigating for the last several years. So would that be sort of a vote of no confidence in Baltimore right now, that authorities there couldn't necessarily do the right job as far as a full investigation?
PEREZ: I think it's partly because of, you know, all of the attention it's getting. They want to make sure that they can also answer those questions. It seems the public there clearly is not satisfied with the answers that they're getting, Wolf. And, you know, the Justice Department is already in Baltimore working with the police department at the invitation of the city to take a look at the police and whether there are some recommendations for some improvements to be done.
Now this is like over 20 investigations of the Justice Department has been doing of this type since 2009.
BLITZER: Around the country. Not just in Baltimore. PEREZ: That's correct.
BLITZER: OK, Evan. Thank you very much.
Let's go to Baltimore right now. Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is on the scene. Suzanne, what are they saying over there? What have you learned about the police involved in this specific case?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, I talked to the Baltimore police captain, Eric Kowalczyk, and he tells me that it's police policy within 48 hours if there is a death in police custody that they release the names of those officers employees who are involved. And they released the six names of those involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray.
But he wants to emphasize, this does not mean that they have been found of any wrongdoing, necessarily. That is going to be up to the investigation. It's interesting, Wolf. They range from 25 to 45 years old. There are five men, one woman. Three of them have only three years of experience on the force. The most senior one has 18 years.
So we're learning more about these individuals, and of course, it's going to play out as the interviews do to determine what specifically their roles were in his arrest and, potentially, in his death, Wolf.
BLITZER: We have some life pictures I want to show our viewers, Suzanne. Some protesters are gathering in Baltimore, where you are right now. They're obviously upset. It's not a huge crowd yet. But this is potentially just the beginning. People are clearly not very happy with what happened to this young man, Freddie Gray. What have you learned about how his family is reacting? What are they doing? What are they saying, Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Sure. I mean, you've seen pockets of very angry people in the community that has erupted throughout the day. Here what we're expecting is what's being called a candlelight vigil.
You're actually going to see Freddie Gray's mother, the stepfather, as well as the twin sister, also 25 years old, had a chance to catch up with the attorney, Billy Murphy, of the family, and he said it has been very frustrating, as you can imagine. They thought they would have the autopsy report by now. That is not happening, potentially a week or two away.
And they also want to retrieve the body, quite frankly, of Freddie Gray so that they can begin with the burial process. So here's how he described what they're going through right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURPHY: This has been so catastrophic and so sudden. Can you imagine how his mother feels, that he's no longer here? Can you imagine how that community feels, that yet again there's somebody victimized who didn't deserve it? I mean, it's been traumatic for them. And in addition to being in grief, they are outraged, outraged that the police did it to them this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And Wolf, what Murphy is doing is he is simply urging the family members to stay calm, to be patient as much as they can, that the investigation that police say is supposed to be done by next Friday, that they'll have more answers and, certainly, hopefully, they'll have the body in custody, as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Suzanne Malveaux on the scene for us in Baltimore with the latest there. Thanks very much.
Joining us now is Captain Eric Kowalczyk. He's the Baltimore police spokesman.
Thanks so much for joining us, Mr. Kowalczyk. The Department of Justice here in Washington is now gathering information on Freddie Gray's death to see whether any civil rights violations took place. Your reaction to that.
CAPTAIN ERIC KOWALCZYK, BALTIMORE POLICE: So, Wolf, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to be here.
We announced yesterday the findings of where we are in our investigation right now, and as part of that announcement that we did yesterday, we made it very clear that we welcome outside review. We've already promised an independent review of our investigation of the events that led up to this. We owe that to the Gray family. We owe that to the citizens of Baltimore.
[17:1014] Anyone who comes in to look at what we're doing, to evaluate the agency that can bring a level of expertise to us, we welcome that with open arms. Since 2012 when Police Commissioner Batts first began the reform of the agency, we've opened ours up a number of times to outside reviews, from the strategic plan to individual examinations of use of force incidents, all the way up to our request to the Department of Justice for a collaborative reform process.
We want to be open. We want to be transparent. We owe that to the city, and more importantly, we owe it to the Gray family to be able to determine exactly what happened.
BLITZER: So you welcomed the Justice Department civil rights investigation into what the police did. Is that what you're saying?
KOWALCZYK: We open ourselves up to reviews all the time. We open ourselves with open arms. We welcome reviews from the outside. People bring different levels of expertise. Different groups come in and are able to evaluate our processes.
We've been on a path of reform since 2012, when the commissioner set us on a reverence for life that we were going to be as open and transparent as we could be.
In this investigation we've tried to be open and transparent as we can be, releasing information faster than we've ever released information before, trying to put out as much information as we can.
We hear the frustration of the community. We hear the angst and the hurt in the Gray family. And we have an obligation to make sure that we are as open and transparent with this investigation as we can be. Our community deserves that. And so anyone who comes in to evaluate, whether it's our independent review process or any other organization, we welcome that with open arms.
BLITZER: What is the Justice Department seeking? What have they asked you for? What kind of information?
KOWALCZYK: You know, Wolf, I would have to refer you to the Justice Department on that. What I can tell you is right now our force investigation team continues their investigation. There's a lot of work left to be done. There are still interviews that have to be done. We have as many questions as we have answers, and we want to find out exactly what happened here. We have to find out what happened here.
And this process is playing itself out. We promised to have this investigation done by May 1, so we could turn it over to the state attorney's office. Our goal is to make sure that it's accurate, that it's done with a sense of urgency, and that we are able to be held accountable to the public that we serve. But most importantly the Gray family, who is suffering right now, deserves the answers, and we're trying to get them.
BLITZER: Why were the six Baltimore police officers involved in Freddie Gray's arrest suspended?
KOWALCZYK: We have a mechanism and a process that we engage in any time there is an incident like this. If you look back over the last several years, it's consistent with how we always operate. That whenever there's an in-custody death or an incident of a severity like this, this is the process that we engage in.
And again, as we said in the previous report, it doesn't mean that anyone did anything wrong. But we want to make sure that, from the beginning of the investigation, we're doing everything that we can to hold the agency accountable, to be transparent and to get to the truth of what happened here. We owe that to the city; we owe that to the family.
BLITZER: Are these six police officers cooperating with your investigation?
KOWALCZYK: So I can't get into the specifics of the investigation. Obviously, there's a criminal investigation at play here. There are other people looking into this, and we're bring in an independent review board. So we don't want to put information out which might potentially compromise investigations or interviews that still need to take place.
And I know that that's frustrating. We hear that in the people that we talked to today. The commissioner held to his promise today and went out to the community and spoke with residents in the community. We feel that frustration. We understand the concern that people have. And so we don't want to do anything that might potentially either compromise the investigation or change a witness's testimony. So there's just some information that we're not able to put out right now.
But again, we're going to continue to put out as much information as we can to be open, transparent and to hold this department accountable for -- to the community that we serve.
BLITZER: We have more questions for you, Captain Kowalczyk. I want you to stand by. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.
[17:18:52] BLITZER: Our breaking news. The Justice Department here in Washington now investigating the death in custody of a Baltimore man. We're back with Baltimore Police spokesman, Captain Eric Kowalczyk.
Captain, you say you're conducting an investigation. And I know you are; there are several investigations now underway. Yet you also say, and I believe you said this yesterday, or one of your police spokesmen said it yesterday, there was no force used in the arrest.
So what are you investigating now? Were you wrong -- was someone wrong when they said that she was taken into custody without force or incident?
KOWALCZYK: So what we know from the evidence that we've been able to see from interviews, from all of the -- everything that we've been able to put together so far. And the deputy police commissioner said it yesterday, there's no indication that we have at this time that there was any use of force. So that leaves us with more questions than it does answers, which is exactly why we're conducting this investigation. We need to go step by step, piece by piece to find out exactly what happened.
Yes, we're concerned -- you heard it yesterday in the police commissioner's statements. You heard it from the deputy police commissioner. We want to find out exactly what happened here.
And as we're conducting this investigation, we're looking at our policies and procedures to see where we might have made mistakes or to see where we could do better.
And the police commissioner has already directed that some of our policies and procedures be changed. We're in the process of bringing those policies into alignment with national best practices, and we're evaluating our procedures with regards to medical care to make sure that everything is at the best standard that we can provide for the people of Baltimore.
BLITZER: As we're speaking, Captain, we're seeing the protesters gathering in Baltimore right now. They're not happy. If there was no force used in the arrest during the initial incident,
when they sort of dragged him into that van, his body looked completely limp. He couldn't move his feet. He was just sort of hanging there. The video is pretty dramatic. What happened?
KOWALCZYK: You know, the video is dramatic. And as one of your reporters mentioned earlier, there's been talk about there's indications at the end of that video that Mr. Gray is standing and assists himself into the wagon, but that doesn't get to the heart of this issue. That doesn't address the frustration of the community. And we know that, and we hear that.
You're right, though. Our people are very frustrated, and we've been listening to those concerns. We share in those concerns, and we want to make sure that this investigation to find out exactly what happened addresses those concerns.
The police commissioner talked yesterday about the fact that people have a right to express their frustrations. We're asking people to remain peaceful when they do it. But we expect people to voice their frustrations in that matter. We're going to allow them to do. We're going to continue with our investigation so that we can give them the answers that they want. But more important, so that we can give the Gray family the answers that they deserve.
BLITZER: Why did it take 30 minutes to call for an ambulance?
KOWALCZYK: Yes, that's part of what this investigation hopefully is going to find out. The commissioner said it yesterday. It took us too long to key into that. That is of a concern.
But again, that goes to why we're looking at our policies and procedures, why the police commissioner took the very decisive action yesterday to review all of our policies with regards to prisoner contact with regards to providing medical care for people, to make sure that our policies are as up to date as they can be.
It's why we are now in the process of mandating training for every officer who is responsible for a transport wagon to make sure that they have the best training that's in line with national best practices so we can do everything that we can to care for the people that are in our custody. And now we're taking the steps. We're still continuing our investigation. We're not waiting for the investigation to be completed to address concerns when we see them, to address outdated, outmoded policies when we find them. And we're going to continue to do that as the process moves forward.
BLITZER: I understand there was another civilian, another passenger inside that van. Is that person cooperating with your investigation? Has he or she said anything that's of use?
KOWALCZYK: You know, I wish I could get into the specifics of the investigation. There's a lot of questions that need to be answered, and there's a lot of -- there's a lot of frustration, as you've mentioned, in the community. And these are some of the things that would help that. Unfortunately, we have to be sure that we do not compromise this
investigation. We don't want to do anything that will change witness statements or hinder the ability of our force investigation team, which has been joined by our homicide unit, our training academy and the crime lab. We really need to let them finish this investigation so that it's accurate, it's done with a sense of urgency and that we can turn it over to the state's attorney's office for their independent review.
BLITZER: Captain Kowalczyk, good luck. We'll stay in close touch with you. We're anxious, just as everyone else, to find results of this investigation, because the mystery continues.
These are live pictures we're showing. People gathering in Baltimore. Protesters are very unhappy with what happened to Freddie Gray. We'll stay on top of this story for our viewers.
Coming up, just months after it attacked a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier, Iran is now moving a convoy of ships toward a fleet of U.S. warships and thousands of American Marines and sailors in the region. Will there be a faceoff?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:28:39] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking news stories this hour. Take a look at this: live pictures coming out of Baltimore. Some folks are gathering there, a crowd of protesters. They're protesting the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. We have a lot of information on that. We're monitoring to see what's going on there. Not a huge crowd yet. We'll see if it develops.
But there's other breaking news we're following, this from the Middle East. CNN has learned the U.S. is now conducting manned reconnaissance issues in the waters off Yemen, including possible F/A- 18 Hornet jets. Those flights are part of the nine U.S. warships, nine U.S. warships, including an aircraft carrier with thousands of American sailors and Marines on board. They're tracking an approaching Iranian fleet of warships.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is monitoring this rather intense situation out there on the seas. What's the latest, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is a new development. And here is the USS Theodore Roosevelt as it is sailing off the coast of Yemen. It has a lot of air assets on there, including the F-18 Hornet that can fly manned reconnaissance flight of this Iranian convoy, some nine ships nearby off that coast, as well.
So let's take a look at the map and see where all these assets are.
So you've got the U.S. warships here. They're joining, keep in mind, other members of the coalition. You have Egyptian warships, Saudi warships, as well as -- rather this is Egyptian. That's UAE, altogether.
Now I'm told by U.S. defense officials that it would be an extraordinary step, extremely unlikely to have a U.S. warship actually board on Iranian warship in Yemeni waters.
[17:30:13] This is really about a couple of things: one, it's about sending a message to Iran, saying that we're watching you. We're watching this convoy of ships. We know they're there. We're going to look. And as we know now, aircraft flying off of that U.S. aircraft carrier watching the Iranian convoy.
But it is also -- this is crucial -- about sending a message to those Arab allies, those Gulf allies, that even though the U.S. is in these critical, sensitive nuclear negotiations with Iran, it still, in effect, has their back right now.
In addition to that, as well, it gives the president military and counterterror options inside Yemen. Because remember, the U.S. has closed its embassy there. It's taken the U.S. Special Forces off the ground there. It's taken a lot of intel gathering assets off the ground in Yemen. When you have a U.S. aircraft carrier -- carrier group off the coast of Yemen, that gives you a lot of options, a lot of oversight, a lot of intel-gathering capability inside Yemen. That's a crucial part of this, including this, as well.
They want to keep these key trade routes open coming down from the Suez Canal through the Red Sea. That's an easy chokepoint right there. It's important that you have a navy presence to keep those trade routes open, Wolf.
BLITZER: Critically important, I should say. The Saudis, as you know, Jim, they now say they're done with the air campaign, the bombing that they've launched in Yemen. What's going on?
SCIUTTO: I'd say it's a pretty abrupt end to it. I was just at the Saudi embassy last week, hearing from the Saudi ambassador, Abdel al- Jubeir, saying that they're committed to this campaign. There will be no half measures.
Six days later they say that the military objectives have been met in Yemen. So now they're entering a political phase.
But I am told by a senior U.S. military official that from a U.S. perspective, they don't see this as a complete cease-fire. They believe that the Saudis will retain -- they certainly have the capability to continue strikes inside Yemen if need be. At this point they've taken out the big military targets with, ballistic missiles, et cetera, that they believe inside Yemen could threaten Saudi Arabia or their neighbors. So it's moving more ratcheting down of military activity, as opposed to a complete end to it.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper now on this tense situation. Joining us is Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's a Republican from Illinois. He's an Afghan and Iraq war veteran.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
As you know the U.S. moving, what, nine warships, including an aircraft carrier battle group. That aircraft carrier alone has 6,000 or so Marines and sailors on board. There may be 3 or 4,000 others. They're approaching probably 10,000 U.S. troops to that area. They're going into harm's way. This is not just simply a joyride, if you will.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: No, it's not. That's a significant commitment, especially if you think about the USS Roosevelt having a mission, for instance, in fighting ISIS in Iraq and a mission in fighting ISIS in Syria.
To put them in this position, they can still fly their missions, but it's not as convenient as maybe if they could be stationed somewhere else, Persian Gulf or something like that, Kuwait. So this is a big deal.
The question is if it's found out, if it's discovered that these Iranian ships are actually carrying arms to the Houthi rebels, then what's next? I mean, you just watch them? Because that could be embarrassing for us, if in fact, they're not blockading...
BLITZER: It would be a huge deal if the U.S. intercepted an Iranian warship and boarded that Iranian warship searching for cargo of weapons. That -- even if it were, certainly, in international waters, but let's say it were in the territorial waters of Yemen. That would still be a huge deal.
A lot of us remember the USS Cole. That was blown up, as you well remember, in the Gulf of Aden, right in Yemen, and a lot of American sailors were killed in that. I've got some pictures to remind our viewers what happened in October of 2000.
KINZINGER: Yes, it's a really dangerous area. And I think obviously, you're not going to see the United States probably board these ships or stop them in international waters. But if the legitimate government of Yemen calls it -- you know, they want protection of their borders, their waters. You very well may see some interdiction happen.
But if it does, and at the end of the day, these Iranian ships have weapons on them for the Houthis, and we simply fly over them and watch them dock and resupply, you kind of wonder at the end of the day what have you accomplished. You might look a bit toothless. So it's really kind of a tight wire that the administration is walking. You don't want to escalate the situation, but you also don't want to back down from a pretty serious problem.
BLITZER: And you also have not just potentially a little clash or maybe a big clash with Iran. You've got the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. They don't like the United States. You've got AQAP, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They've got a significant base in Yemen right now. All of them would like to go after that big U.S. target. KINZINGER: Well, that's right. And I was in Yemen probably about a
year and a half ago now. And it was a pretty quick trip in there. Met with the president, saw some of the situation on the ground.
And at the time we were pretty optimistic that, with the Yemenis' government, their troops and with our assistance, we were able to push al Qaeda back. But now with this chaos that's enveloped in Yemen, it's not just what's going on with Iranian influence in the area, which is bad and terrible and destabilizing, but al Qaeda is now taking advantage of chaos, like they do everywhere. Like, you know -- like ISIS has done in Syria, like they've done in Afghanistan. They're like a bacteria.
BLITZER: And what was going on in Yemen when you were there, there was at least a friendly government in charge of Yemen that welcomed the United States' involvement. But that friendly government is now gone, and it is chaos in that failed state, at least that we call Yemen.
BLITZER: I want to stand by, Congressman. We have a lot more to discuss, including what's going on in Iraq. I know you fought in Iraq. You fought in Afghanistan. I'm sure it pains you to see what's going on there right now.
[17:40:15] BLITZER: Take a look at this. The protesters in Baltimore, they have now marched to police headquarters there in Baltimore. They're protesting the death of Freddie Gray, the young African American man who died of a broken neck days after his arrest by local police.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is with the crowd, marched with them to police headquarters. Tell us what you're seeing, what it was like.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've had about seven or eight -- there are between a thousand and 2,000 people here, perhaps over that. The police headquarters that they have marched to, they went about six blocks. Mr. Gray was arrested -- Freddie Gray was arrested and put into a van. The last time you see him alive or at least out of a coma and down the police headquarters. They are angry but peaceful so far.
The police station, I can say, has been barricaded and a lot more police presence here than there was last night, with only a few hundred police officers here, a few hundred protestors.
Police helicopters are overhead, police (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here and forces are down the street. And there are dozens and dozens of police officers, if not hundreds themselves, that we have seen pouring into this area. It is a very, very tense place this afternoon, with people here upset with the way the city and the police have explained what happened, or failed to explain what happened to Freddie Gray -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It looks peaceful from the vantage point of the cameras that we have there, although it did look like someone was arrested at -- when we just got back on the air. Did you see that individual being arrested, Miguel?
MARQUEZ: I could not see what happened to that individual. I was in the middle of the crowd, the walking crowd, and that's the end of it now. But people are still pouring into the area. So it's going to be a long night, it looks like, for these protesters and police.
BLITZER: And what are they chanting? What's their main complaint?
MARQUEZ: It is many of the same things we have heard, that black lives matter, no justice, no peace, and that they won't rest until they get the truth out of what is happening here in Baltimore.
And again the citizens, that they say the police here in this neighborhood -- this is a tough, tough neighborhood in Baltimore. And the people who live here say it feels like it is us against them with their own police force. There is very, very little trust, if any trust, between the people here and their own police force. And this -- the Freddie Gray situation has just become a lightning rod, Wolf.
BLITZER: Stand by, Miguel, because Suzanne Malveaux is also there, a different location at police headquarters. Suzanne, where are you and what are you seeing?
MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, I'm right in front of the police station here in the western district, and I did see the arrest that was made. The gentleman who had broken the barrier and was therefore arrested and taken inside.
Before the crowd came they set up these barricades around the police station and positioned about 12 police officers outside.
I had a chance to talk to the president of Baltimore's NAACP chapter, Tessa Hill-Aston, who said she was concerned about some people who might be wanting to get attention, people who might cause some trouble. She said that she is here for the long haul, as well as many of the people in the community, who are trying to serve and do better and come up with a better relationship with the police department. But she -- she said she was quite worried that there might be a few people who would want to cause some commotion.
As it is now, people are simply chanting. It was just that one individual who decided that he would go across the barricade and be arrested. Right now, what you have is a lot of people who are shouting. You have families here, some people who are carrying their children. You have a lot of young people, young boys, eight, nine, ten years old, who are curious seeing what's going on. You have a mixed crowd in some ways. Mostly African-American, but also others who are here who have gathered in one message, a unified voice. Many just standing around, waiting to see what's going to happen next.
I was able to talk to the attorney of the family, William Murphy, earlier today who did say that they expected some family members to come forward and to talk and to speak publicly for the first time about their feelings, specifically the stepfather. He also said the mother and twin sister would be here. The head of the NAACP, Ms. Hill, said that she believes that perhaps
it was an uncle and a cousin and a brother that would be here instead. She has been in contact with the family. But right now, you can probably just hear.
BLITZER: And we haven't seen -- I take it -- I take it -- I take it, Suzanne. I take it, Suzanne, the mayor of Baltimore, the police commissioner, no one in a position of authority has actually come out to address these people. Is that right?
MALVEAUX: No. We have not seen anyone from -- from the mayor's office or the police commissioner or the captain. These are community activists. These are people from the western district of Baltimore's police station who have been the ones who have really been under fire and served -- been at the brunt of criticism because this is where Freddie Gray was brought in that van, where he was transported.
And this is just two and a half blocks away from where he was initially apprehended. So the community here, in speaking to a lot of people, I've asked them, do they think this is a racial thing or do they think it is a case of police brutality. Most of them say they believe it's police brutality. That they've had a long standing problem with the police in this community and that sometimes it is members of the African-American community as well, the police department that they've had problems with.
And so a lot of people are out here in general expressing a lot of frustration with the relationship with people in this neighborhood, in this police department. That's where they're ending up here, in the western district.
BLITZER: People are protesting. Obviously they're angry. They've got their signs. But so far it looks pretty peaceful, although we did see at least one arrest so far.
Miguel Marquez, you're in the crowd over there, a different location. What are you seeing?
MARQUEZ: Yes, I brought you in front of the police station here, nearest the crowd where they are speaking and chanting very loudly. There are a lot of activists up there who are actually speaking to the crowd. They're basically making speeches at the moment and trying to get people to listen to their message.
There is great upset with the way police have handled affairs here in the neighborhood. I can tell you that the police commissioner did go house-to-house and door-to-door (INAUDIBLE), the chanting is very, very loud here. Police are on high alert. You can see them standing up in front of the western district here (INAUDIBLE), with great concern.
And they have plenty of police that we have seen pouring in through the afternoon to deal with anything that happens here tonight. Clearly they do not think that tonight's protest is going to be, perhaps, as peaceful and uneventful as other nights have been.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's hope it stays peaceful.
Stand by for a moment, Miguel, Suzanne, as well.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger is here with us. He's the Republican from Illinois.
You're watching these live pictures from this protest, Congressman, as am I and all of our viewers out there. You're a veteran of the U.S. military. You served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's always difficult to see these kinds of incidents here in the United States.
KINZINGER: Yes, it is. And you know, I think we have to take it in a large context. There are tens of thousands of people that put on a uniform every day.
BLITZER: A police uniform.
KINZINGER: A police uniform. They're willing to react to a call of who knows what. And they're absolute heroes. And, you know, in this situation, there's a lot of information to gather yet. We just hope it stays peaceful.
But it's always tough seeing, you know, our country at such a tense point. And hopefully we can get some answers to what happened then and at the end of the day also realize there are a lot of amazingly great people that protect us.
BLITZER: There certainly are. We're grateful to the police for protecting all of us. But there obviously have been abuses, there have been some bad apples as we say. Almost every week some incident like this seems to surface and it causes a lot of pain.
KINZINGER: Yes, it does. And I think, you know, again, that's where things like body cameras that are coming in, that had been good. You know, you saw the officer, the Marine veteran that really held his fire with the guy that wanted a death by cop. And so there's some examples. But look, there's some bad apples in every community, in everything, and they ought to be rooted out and treated very harshly and justly.
But at the end of the day it's tough to see communities torn apart, it's tough to see a mistrust that exists. And whatever we need to do to get to the bottom of that, hopefully it's probably going to be a long healing process but hopefully we get there.
BLITZER: Yes. Hopefully this investigation will figure out exactly what happened. Transparency so critically important --
KINZINGER: Because we just don't know. We just don't know right now.
BLITZER: Right now, there are several investigations, police investigation in Baltimore, the city investigation, maybe a state investigation, now the federal government is involved, the civil rights investigation, the Justice Department announced a little while ago. So plenty of investigations. Let's hope they find out what happened.
Suzanne Malveaux, you're still over there and you're in the middle of that crowd. What else are you seeing?
MALVEAUX: Well, Wolf, it's calmed down dramatically since we saw that one gentleman who was arrested and taken away. It's actually become kind of quiet now. They were chanting for quite some time, "Justice for Freddie," "Jobs, not police killing." So people's power, assembly, various groups have gathered. And a lot of neighbors and just young people, people who have brought their children here to express their concern about what happened to Freddie Gray.
[17:50:11] We are still looking for what we were told that there would be a few family members, at least one from the Gray family who would speak on the family's behalf. We haven't seen them yet but we have just seen quite a number of neighbors, who as you saw marched down the street holding signs and expressing a lot of frustration.
I've had a chance to talk to a lot of people in the community here and, you know, it's like you mentioned before, that sometimes there are good cops and there are bad cops, and people have had various experiences with the police department. But particularly those in the western district here where Freddie Gray just two and a half blocks away was first apprehended.
So this has touched this community in a very personal way but most people are very calm and just even a sense of warmth among each other as they are waving to each other and have really kind of settled into a place where they're just watching and listening and waiting for someone from the Gray family potentially to say something.
BLITZER: Well, I think we found someone from the Gray family. Miguel Marquez is joining us right now. I take it you have a cousin of Freddie Gray, Miguel?
MARQUEZ: Hey, Wolf, this is Miguel. We are here right in front of the western district and these are supporters of Mr. Gray.
How are you? How tough is it to be out here today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very tough.
MARQUEZ: What is the message that you want people to hear, not only here in Baltimore but across the country about what's happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has to stop. It has to stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sorry for what happened to him. What happened to him is a very serious matter. They didn't have to do that to him. They didn't have to do it to him. They didn't have to do it to Freddie.
MARQUEZ: And -- sir, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a district that we know and it's been documented that has a history of falsifying information for police when they're involved in abuse. I know of two cases that are sitting right now down at the federal court where police officers have intentionally given the wrong name of officers that slammed a young man across the street on a store.
MARQUEZ: And this is clearly a concern for you because Mr. Gray, the confusion, the timeline about when and what happened to Mr. Gray along the way, does it not satisfy you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, when somebody is in police custody for seven days and sitting in the hospital in a coma and then all of a sudden you come up with a story as to what may have happened, that's unacceptable. That's unacceptable to the citizens of Baltimore City and that should be unacceptable for any elected official in Baltimore City.
The state's attorney of Baltimore City, her husband is a representative for this district. And we're calling Nick Mosby out today. He's the city council for this district. Why is he not here? His wife, Marilyn Mosby, is a state's attorney. Why are they not here? Somebody needs to support this family.
MARQUEZ: What are relations like between the people in this neighborhood and its own police force?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This police force in Western District has a history of police brutality. The entire district needs to be shut down and every officer in that district, the next words they should hear is you have a right to remain silent.
MARQUEZ: Thank you very much.
We just also heard from a cousin of Mr. Gray's, Anita Gibson, who said that the family is holding together but it is a very difficult time for them and she hopes tonight will be peaceful despite -- I want to turn the camera around here if we could, Wolf. I want you to see the size of this crowd outside of the police station here. Nobody is going anywhere so far and it looks like they are out here for the evening -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Miguel, I want you to stand by.
Congressman Kinzinger is still with us, Tom Fuentes, our law enforcement analyst, is with us as well, a former FBI assistant director.
I know that usually police are always worried. You used to be a cop on the street. A demonstration like this, most of the people, almost all of them very peaceful, they're chanting, that's their right, of course, but the cops are always afraid of what they call outside agitators who come in and create some bad things.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, even if not knowing, Wolf, whether they're inside or outside, they're worried about the few people that may show up, take advantage of the mayhem and throw bottles, bricks, molotov cocktails or other debris at the police with the intent to hurt a police officer or to hurt another protester. And I think that's always the concern they have, less with where are they coming from, do they live in town or out of town, just who might show up and create (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Yes. Just let the people scream, let the people shout, carry their signs, as long as they're peaceful, Congressman. That's their right.
KINZINGER: Yes. Absolutely. That's what the Constitution is about and we completely respect that. But you're right, a lot of times they refer to themselves as anarchists or whatever that looked an opportunity gone bad and -- you know, light places on fire, incite crowds and that's something that obviously I'm sure the police are very susceptible to.
BLITZER: Yes. That's what -- that's what happened, a small number, in Ferguson as a lot of us remember as well.
[17:55:04] I want you to stand by, guys. We're going to stay on top of this story. All the day's important news. We'll take a quick break, we'll be right back.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Protesting police. Demonstrators are on the streets of Baltimore right now as the federal government launches an investigation into the arrest of a suspect who died in custody. Tonight we now know the names of the officers at the center of this exploding controversy.
[18:00:01] Show of force. U.S. warships are on the move and on the lookout for Iranian weapons. We're learning more about the potential danger for thousands of American sailors and Marines now heading toward a warzone.