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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Source: Tape Shows Attack "Meticulous, Planned; Interview with Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden; Republican National Convention Starts Tonight; Obama Awards Lt. Col. Charles Kettles Medal of Honor. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired July 18, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:14] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan, live in Cleveland where just a short time from now the Republican National Convention is kicking off. We're getting word at about possibly a surprise appearance here tonight.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman, live in Baton Rouge where a gunman unleashed a deadly attack on police officers.
And we have breaking news. Brand-new information about the ambush. And it is now being called an ambush. A source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN a tape of the attack shows a meticulous planned approach toward the officers. Three policemen were shot and killed. Three other officers wounded, one overnight clinging to life. The fallen heroes, husbands, fathers. 32-year-old Montrell Jackson had a new baby boy, just 4 months old. Matthew Gerald, Army veteran, had two daughters. He worked on a helicopter crew in Iraq, on several tours. And 45-year-old Brad Garofalo was the father of four.
Authorities trying to learn more about the killer, an ex-Marine, who ambushed the police in their own neighborhood, just about a mile from where I'm standing now in broad daylight. The officers were responding to a 911 call about a man dressed in black, armed with an assault-style rifle. Police did kill the gunman in a firefight.
CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the scene of the shootout, just down the street from here.
Boris, what are you learning this morning?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's what we know so far about the investigation. Gavin Eugene Long, a 29-year-old, was the shooter. He actually carried the attack out on his birthday yesterday. We know about him so far, he was active on social media, involved with conspiracy groups and anti-government websites. We know that shortly after the attacks on Dallas, fewer than two weeks ago, he rented a car in his hometown of Kansas City and drove to Dallas where he filmed a YouTube video calling for people to take up arms against police. At some point after posting that video, he came here to Baton Rouge. We don't know exactly how long he was here but investigators tell us he was not alone. We don't know who he was with or how much they knew about this plot against police officers. What investigators have told us is they've interviewed several people. They were interviewing persons of interest up until 1:00 a.m. So far, no arrests have been made. No charges were filed against those persons of interest.
We're expecting a press conference at 3:00 today where we're hoping to get more information about any potential accomplices or whether or no more charges may be pending.
In the meantime, we're still holding out hope that this officer, this deputy in critical condition, will pull through. His name is Nicholas Tullier. He's 41 years old, and he dedicated 18 years to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Department. We're told he's fighting for his life right now. Obviously, the entire community is pulling for him to get through this.
BERMAN: Boris Sanchez, just down the street from us here in Baton Rouge. Thanks so much, Boris.
I'm joined now by Mayor Kip Holden, longtime mayor of Baton Rouge.
You've been going through so much, Mayor. Thank you for being with us.
KIP HOLDEN, MAYOR OF BATON ROUGE: Thank you.
BERMAN: We heard him talking about the officer, Nicholas Tullier, who was wounded, critical condition. We were told he was clinging to life overnight. Update.
HOLDEN: Basically, there's not a lot of change. A very serious wound. Some have said he might have to have another operation or two. We're all praying for him and his family and all of the other officers involved in this terrible tragedy.
BERMAN: The latest information we have in the investigation is this was a meticulous attack. The colonel with the state police said this killer was certainly seeking out police officers. You could tell by the way he was moving. There was something about it that made it clear he was targeting police officers. Can you elaborate on that?
HOLDEN: Basically all of the information we're getting right now is indicating this guy was not just a kook out there. You look at his military background. You look at how he planned this out. Some are saying he was in Baton Rouge several nights even before this happened. We're finding out somebody that was methodical in the planning and really an outright murderer in terms of taking the lives. Somebody who knew how to position them so they can be within range of him killing them.
BERMAN: He had been here for several nights. You said may be in contact with other people.
HOLDEN: Right now, we are getting some new information that will maybe be divulged later this afternoon but there's something we're looking at based on other tips we're getting --
(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: People?
[11:05:00] HOLDEN: Whether or not there were other people involved in this and some people stepping forward and telling about suspicious things they saw.
BERMAN: Anybody else in custody?
HOLDEN: Not anybody else in custody but we're looking at the FBI, ATF, state police, sheriff's office, city police and the Intel that's coming in, I would say we are following up every lead and we're not going to let this rest until everybody involved in this is brought to justice.
BERMAN: Mayor, are your officers safe this morning?
HOLDEN: I'm saying the officers are safe. I can tell you this. These men and women go out there either day and make an effort to make sure we're safe. I told some people yesterday they're our first responders. Now it's time for us to be their first responders, because they set a lot of things aside. And yesterday morning, when you walk into a room and his 7-year-old daughter is there and the mom is crying and holding a baby in her hands and so the young lady said no, my daddy is not dead, he's coming home this afternoon. Man, you talk about gut-wrenching, because there's nothing anybody can say. She's holding out a hope that her dad will come back and, unfortunately, the news was already there.
BERMAN: Same officer working in his garage, fixing up a car for a 15- year-old daughter, who is getting ready to drive. That's just the kind of guy he was. And there's two other lives lost with similar stories.
You have been talking about the rhetoric, the level of discourse going on in this town. You said it's time to dial it down to zero.
HOLDEN: Without a doubt, you know, you got people there going back, protesting the sterling killing or shooting. OK, then they called, they wanted me to resign. I told them I resign 12/31 of this year, my last day in office. You have folks out there trying to stoke things. We tell people tune them out. Doubt in to people telling you the right things to do. Put null and void on their phone when they call you. These are people who, regardless of what an officer does, they paint everybody in the same brush. These officers are individuals. They have families. They're going out here to protect the community. Give them a break, because they've given us a break every day we get up and we're safe.
BERMAN: This killer, this guy drove 800 miles across the country to do this act. We're not aware he's in any connection with the protesters on the ground.
HOLDEN: No aware. I can tell you, I'm just going to speak gut instinct, there's a gut instinct this guy just didn't come here. I would venture to say, and this is not attributed to anybody else, that this guy probably has somebody here he was in contact with. BERMAN: That's your gut instinct?
HOLDEN: That's my gut instinct.
BERMAN: What does this tell you about the community coming together to move forward now?
HOLDEN: We've come together in many circumstances, you know, over the course of my professional years. I've also been public information for the city of police. This community's very resilient. We've gone through the first year I've had Katrina, other disasters, but something special about the people here, their hearts, their minds, their bodies, their souls. We will not be defeated. All the spirit I'm trying to put into all the officers in the community, it's basically based upon job. Ye though you slay me, I will rise again.
BERMAN: Officers around the country feel like they're being targeted.
HOLDEN: Not only that, I received calls from many mayors just this morning and last night. We're all speaking with one voice. We're all together. Many of those mayors are saying we're going to be there, or send representatives there, because we want you to know we stand by you. All across the country, even the mayor, Mayor Rawlings, of Dallas, called this morning. He said last week, Mr. Mayor, I this week, you're going through this. We're standing by, whatever you need for us to do, we're willing to do.
BERMAN: Thank you for being with us. You do a great job.
HOLDEN: Thank you.
BERMAN: Keep the city moving forward.
HOLDEN: Yes, sir. Thank you.
BERMAN: Kate, let's go back to you in Cleveland.
BOLDUAN: All right, John, thanks so much.
We'll get back to John in Baton Rouge throughout the hour.
Any minute now, Hillary Clinton will be giving her first remarks since the deadly police ambush in Baton Rouge. She's expected to talk about race and talk about policing. We'll bring that to you live as soon as it happens.
Plus this, "There's something going on." Those are Donald Trump's words talking about President Obama's response to deadly police shootings in America. What is Trump suggesting here? We're live in Cleveland. We got a lot to discuss. The Republican National Convention kicks off just a short time from now.
Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:13:22] BOLDUAN: Here we are at last, folks, the Republican National Convention. We're live in Cleveland, Ohio. You're taking a look inside the convention hall right now. It all gets under way in less than two hours from now. Donald Trump's wife, Melania, will be one of the headlining speakers tonight. There will be different themes for every night. Tonight's focus is security and immigration. That's about where the conventional convention ends when it comes to Donald Trump.
Phil Mattingly joining us live from the Q, which you'll be hearing a lot about tonight.
What are we expecting today and tonight?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think today is going to be a good jump off point from what you'll see for much of this week. They really have two primary goals. One, give a fuller picture of Donald Trump. That's why you're going to see Trump speaking every single night of the convention. Tonight, it's Melania Trump. You haven't heard from her much throughout the course of this campaign. Donald Trump is going to introduce his wife, his campaign announced today, something we don't normally see. The other aspect of this is trying to highlight insecurity within the country.
Now, you note today's theme is make America safe again, and the speakers are going to be rolled out, whether they're Senators, Congressmen, even actors. Talking about how the United States is heading in the wrong direction on domestic and international security. Donald Trump's thought process, according to advisers is this, he believes there's growing unease in the country. If you look at the racially driven attacks we've seen. That is a segment of society he believes we can tap into. He believes it is an indictment to the Obama administration and as such an indictment to Hillary Clinton as well.
So, Kate, what we'll see is a two-pronged approach. Trying to humanize Donald Trump, make him a different person than what you see on the campaign trail. Also continue to hammer hard the idea that what is happening now is a problem, it's a problem that Democrats are making, it's a problem that Donald Trump and his administration will go a long way to assuage -- Kate?
[11:15:27] BOLDUAN: Thank you, Phil.
Guys, stand by.
We're going to go to the White House where President Obama will be awarding the Medal of Honor to retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kettles. The ceremony is just getting under way. Charles Kettles will be receiving this Award for Conspicuous Gallantry for his fighting in Vietnam in 1967. He saved the lives of 40 soldiers, four of his own flight crew in Vietnam. The ceremony is getting under way right now.
Let's listen in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For those who face the perils of terror and danger as they serve their brothers and sisters. Lord, bless this ceremony, the acts we honor, that they may strengthen the values that we hold dear in this nation, in our military, in our families, and our way of life.
And we ask all this in Your Holy Name. Amen.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDNET OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat. Welcome to the White House.
Of all the privileges of this office, none is greater than serving as the commander-in-chief of the finest military that the world has ever known. And of all the military decorations that our nation can bestow, we have none higher than the Medal of Honor. As many who know him have said, nobody deserves it more than Charles Kettles of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Many believe that, except for Chuck.
As he says, this seems like a hell of a fuss over something that happened 50 years ago.
Even now, all these years later, Chuck is still defined by the humility that shaped him as a soldier. At 86 years old, he still looks sharp as a tack in that uniform. I pointed out he obviously has not gained any weight.
And his life is as American as they come. He's the son of an immigrant. His father signed up to fly for the United States the day after Pearl Harbor and filled his five boys with a deep sense of duty to their country. For a time, he even served in the Army Reserve. For a time, even as he served in the Army Reserve, Chuck ran a Ford dealership with his brother.
And to families who drove a new car off that lot, he's the salesman who helped put an American icon in their driveway. To the aviation students at Eastern Michigan University, Chuck is the professor who taught them about the wonder of flight in the country that invented it. To the constituents he's served as a rare Republican in his home town's mostly Democratic city council, Chuck is the public servant who made sure that their voices were heard.
And to Ann, his beautiful bride, who grew up literally as the girl next door, Chuck is a devoted husband. Next March, they will celebrate their 40th anniversary. So happy early anniversary.
So in a lot of ways, Chuck Kettles is America. And to the dozens of American soldiers that he saved in Vietnam half a century ago, Chuck is the reason they lived and came home and had children and grandchildren, entire family trees made possible by the actions of this one man. We are honored to be joined not only by Ann, but also eight of Chuck and Ann's 10 children and three of their grandchildren. It's the Kettles family reunion here in the White House.
We're also honored to be joined by Chuck's brothers in arms from Vietnam and some of Chuck's newest comrades, members of the Medal of Honor Society.
OBAMA: May 15, 1967 started as a hot Monday morning. Soldiers from the 101st Airborne were battling hundreds of heavily armed North Vietnamese in a rural river bed.
[11:20:04] Our men were outnumbered. They needed support fast; helicopters to get the wounded out and bring more soldiers into the fight. Chuck Kettles was a helo pilot and just as he'd volunteered for active duty, on this morning, he volunteered his Hueys, even though he knew the danger. They call this place Chump Valley for a reason.
Above the river bed rose a 1500-foot-tall hill, and the enemy was dug into an extensive series of tunnels and bunkers, the ideal spot for an ambush.
But Chuck jumped into the cockpit and took off. Around 9:00 a.m., his company of Hueys approached the landing zone and looked down. They should have seen a stand of green trees. Instead, they saw a solid wall of green enemy tracers coming right at them.
None of them had ever seen fire that intense. Soldiers in the helos were hit and killed before they could even leap off, but under withering fire, Chuck landed his chopper and kept it there exposed, so the wounded could get on and so he could fly them back to base.
A second time, Chuck went back into the valley. He dropped off more soldiers and supplies, picked up more wounded. Once more, machine gun bullets and mortar rounds came screaming after them. As he took off a second time, rounds pierced the arm and leg of Chuck's door gunner, Roland Shane (ph). Chuck's Huey was hit. Fuel was pouring out as he flew away.
But Chuck had wounded men aboard and decided to take his chances. He landed, found another helicopter and flew Roland (ph) to the field hospital.
By now, it was near evening. Back in the river bed, 44 American soldiers were still pinned down. The air was thick with gun powder, smelled of burning metal, and then they heard a faint sound. And as the sun started to set, they saw something rise over the horizon -- six American helicopters, as one of them said, "As beautiful as could be."
For a third time, Chuck and his unit headed into that hell on Earth. "Death or injury was all but certain," a fellow pilot said later, "and a lesser person would not return."
Once again, the enemy unloaded everything they had on Chuck as he landed -- small arms, automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenades. Soldiers ran to the helicopters. When Chuck was told all were accounted for, he took off. And then, midair, his radio told him something else. Eight men had not made it aboard. They had been providing cover for the others.
Those eight soldiers had run for the choppers, but could only watch as they floated away. "We all figured we were done for," they said. Chuck came to the same conclusion. "If we left them for ten minutes," he said, "they would be Plows or dead."
A soldier woo was there said, "That day, Major Kettles became our John Wayne." With all due respect to John Wayne.
He couldn't do what Chuck Kettles did. He broke off from formation, took a steep, sharp, descending turn back toward the valley, this time, with no aerial or artillery support, a lone helicopter heading back in.
Chuck's Huey was the only target for the enemy to attack, and they did. Tracers lit up the sky once more. Chuck became -- Chuck came in so hot that his chopper bounced for several hundred feet before coming to a stop. As soon as he landed, a mortar round shattered his windshield, another hit the main rotor blade. Shrapnel tore through the cockpit and Chuck's chair.
And still, those eight soldiers started to sprint to the Huey, running through the firestorm, chased by bullets. Chuck's helo, now badly damaged, was carrying 13 souls and was 600 pounds over limit. It felt, he said, like flying a 2.5 ton truck.
He couldn't hover long enough to take off, but cool customer that he is, he says he saw his shattered windshield and thought, "That's pretty good air conditioning."
OBAMA: The cabin filled with black smoke as Chuck hopped and skipped the helo across the ground to pick up enough speed to take off. "Like a jack rabbit," he said, "bouncing across the river bed."
[11:25:00] The instant he got airborne, another mortar ripped into the tail, and the Huey fishtailed violent, and a soldier was thrown out of the helicopter, hanging onto a skid as Chuck flew them to safety.
Couldn't make this up.
(LAUGHTER) This is like a bad "Rambo" movie.
Right? You're listening to this, you can't believe it. So the Army's warrior ethos is paced on a simple principle. A soldier never leaves his comrades behind. Chuck Kettles honored that creed. Not with a single act of heroism, but over and over and over.
And because of that heroism, 44 American soldiers made it out that day. 44. We are honored today to be joined by some of them. Chuck's door gunner who was hit, Rowland Shank (ph). The last soldier Chuck rescued that day, the one who figured he was done for, Dewey Smith (ph). And a number of soldiers or Vietnam veterans who fought in that battle.
Gentlemen, I would ask you to either stand if you can or wave so that we can thank you for your service.
Now, Chuck's heroism was recognized at the time by the army's second highest award for gallantry. The distinguished Service Cross. But Bill Velano (ph) decided Chuck deserved an upgrade.
Bill is a retired social worker who went to Chuck's house to interview him for a veterans history project sponsored by the local rotary club. Ann (ph) overheard the interview from the other room and reminded Chuck to tell Bill the story I just told all of you.
So this is something Chuck and I have in common. We do what our wives tell us to do.
Chuck told the story, and with his trademark humility, finished it by saying it was a piece of cake.
Bill, hearing the story, knew it was something more. He started a five-year mission along with Chuck's son, Mike, a retired Navy pilot, to award Chuck the medal of honor.
Bill and Mike are here, as is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who along with her legendary husband, John Dingell, went above and beyond to pass a law to make sure that even all these years later, we could still fully recognize Chuck Kettles' heroism as we do today. So we thank them for their outstanding efforts.
And that's one more reason this story is quintessentially American. Looking out for one another. The belief that nobody should be left behind. This is - this shouldn't just be a creed for our soldiers. This should be a creed for all of us.
This is a country that's never finished in its mission to improve, to do better, to learn from our history, to work to form a more perfect union. And at a time when, let's face it, we've had a couple of tough weeks, for us to remember the goodness and decency of the American people and the way that we can all look out for each other, even when times are tough, even when the odds are against us, what a wonderful inspiration. What a great gift for us to be able to celebrate something like this.
It might take time, but having failed to give our veterans who fought in Vietnam the full measure of thanks and respect that they had earned. We acknowledge that our failure to do so was a shame. We resolve that it will never happen again.
It can take time, but old adversaries can find peace. Thanks to the leadership of so many Vietnam vets who had the courage to rebuild ties, I was able to go to Vietnam recently and see a people as enthusiastic about America as probably any place in the world. Crowds lining the streets. And we were able to say that on a whole lot of issues, Vietnam and the United States are now partners.
[11:30:01] Here at home, it might take time, but we have to remember everyone on our team, just like Chuck Kettles, sometimes we have to turn around and head back and help those who need a lift.