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NYPD Fires Officer In Eric Garner Chokehold Death Case; Mayor de Blasio Holds Press Conference Regarding NYPD Decision To Fire Police Officer In Eric Garner's Death Case; Three Potential Mass Shootings Thwarted Across America. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: You can check it out in the current issue of "The New Yorker." Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of Trump. That is it for me. NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, Brianna, thank you very much. Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thanks for being here.

Breaking News: Any moment now, we will hear from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responding to the New York City Police Commissioner's decision to fire the officer involved in Eric Garner's chokehold death.

Commissioner James O'Neill just minutes ago describing his decision is painful and calling this a day of reckoning and reconciliation.


JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: A man with a family lost his life, and that is an irreversible tragedy. And a hard working police officer with a family, a man who took this job to do good, to make a difference in his home community has now lost his chosen career. And that is a different kind of tragedy. In this case, the unintended consequence of Mr. Garner's death must have a consequence of its own.

Therefore, I agree with the Deputy Commissioner of Trials legal findings and recommendations. It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as in New York City police officer.


BALDWIN: So you heard in there, Commissioner O'Neill agreed with the NYPD administrative judge's recommendation that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired and we're about to show you the disturbing video that was captured during Garner's arrest and in the video, you can see Pantaleo's chokehold grip on Garner who says over and over, "I can't breathe."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't touch me [bleep]. Don't touch me [bleep].


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hand behind your back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.


BALDWIN: You hear him over and over, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." That phrase became a national rallying cry from activists battling police brutality. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is following the developments for us here today.

And you know, I was listening to you earlier, and you're making this point, just watching Commissioner O'Neill stand up there answering question after question after question from members of the media.

You know, he -- your point was, you know, he was thinking of himself as a police officer in having to make this decision. One of the quotes from him was, "If I was still a cop, I would probably be mad at me." I mean, clearly, this was not an easy decision.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: This was not and, you know, there's this one line where he says when he is speaking, "that many of you will disagree with my decision -- with this decision." And the many that he is talking about is the rank and file at the Police Department and perhaps police officers all across the country who make split second decisions and sometimes are punished for those split second decision.

And I think that is what O'Neill here had a very hard time -- the Commissioner had a very hard time with. You know, he said, he looked at this video over and over again, it really is a matter of seconds here in the end what they found that the officer here did wrong in that chokehold. And it is that video, really. If it wasn't for that video, we may have a very different outcome here.

But you can see in this 30-minute plus press conference how painful it was for the Commissioner to stand there, go through this tick by tick. He went through -- he gave us a tick tock of the entire event. How he came to his decision. But he says he was confident in the end.

But I can tell you in talking to people over at the NYPD and even the rank and file, they're not happy with this decision. They're not happy that the officer was fired. They think that's unfair. The Union clearly thinks this is unfair.

The other big thing in all of this is that Pantaleo doesn't get a pension in the end. And I think that's going to be one of the sticking points for the Union. They did not want him fired. There was some talk of possibly allowing the officer to resign and therefore keeping his pension that it didn't work out. And then in the end, the Mayor, you know, the mayor did have a role in

all of this. He promised the family justice. He told the national audience during one of our debates that the family was going to get justice.

And so, you know, I wonder if in the coming days, we're going to see stories about some of the pressure that the Mayor put on the Police Department and O'Neill to make sure that he fired this officer.

BALDWIN: We're about to hear from the Mayor. So I want to grab Areva Martin. Stay with me. We're waiting for the Mayor to speak.

Areva Martin is a Civil Rights attorney, and so, Areva, I just wanted to get your reaction to the decision firing Pantaleo and not giving him his pension.

AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY, LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, Brooke, I'm not surprised by the Commissioner's decision. The administrative law judge was pretty clear with respect to her findings. She sat through this trial process where both sides had an opportunity to present their evidence. Witnesses were cross examined, and she came to this conclusion.

And look, what the commissioner did isn't easy. Let's face it, it's leadership and leadership is not about always doing what's popular, it is about doing what's right. And it's very clear to me that the Commissioner made the right choice.

Yes, the officer's life will be impacted by being fired without his pension. But we cannot, you know, underestimate the pain and the trauma that Eric Garner's family has felt and continues to feel.

[14:05:11] MARTIN: I watched his daughter give her press conference and talk about the pain that she continues to suffer. And when we watch that video, it's so painful even today, even though that happened five years ago. And this decision, I think, will go a long way in starting to mend some of the relationships that exists between police officers and African-American communities, not just in New York, but around the country.

Because African American communities feel as if justice has not been served, and so many of these cases were unarmed African-American men that are killed by police officers. There's typically no prosecution. When there is a prosecution, there's typically no conviction and officers in the eyes of many aren't held accountable.

So again, very tough decision by this Commissioner, but I think it was the right decision.

BALDWIN: We will be talking to Emerald Garner and Eric, Jr. next hour to get their reaction to all of this. But I do want to go now to the Police Union speaking now.

PATRICK LYNCH, PRESIDENT, POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK: With a decision that says guilty based on seven seconds, no, four seconds is just absolutely wrong. All we've ever asked for New York City Police officers is fairness in the process, we did not and have not gotten that. This was a tragedy, by all means.

The Garner family has been living with this death, and we truly understand that. And there is no such thing as closure for this family, their family member is not coming home.

But with that, what you do have to ask for --

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... so much fear over this last five years. The pain was because we all watched a human being die before our eyes on a video. Watched the man who should be still alive today. And it was so difficult for all of us to reconcile what we saw with what we must believe about law enforcement.

Our officers are here to protect us, to keep us safe, and yet we watched a man die, an unarmed that caused so many people to ask, what if that was my brother right there in that situation? What if that was my son? What if that was my father? What if that was me?

The fear was because for a long time, people wondered if we would be left without justice. The place that we had turned for generations to, a place that was synonymous with making things right, failed us.

The United States Department of Justice absent and unwilling to act even to come to any decision for five long years. But today, we have finally seen justice done. Today, we saw the NYPD's own disciplinary process, act fairly and impartially.

For years, people have questioned whether a Police Department can provide justice for all and we watched a fair and impartial trial. We watched an objective decision by a Deputy Commissioner of the NYPD affirmed by the First Deputy Commissioner and affirmed by the Police Commissioner. Justice has been done. And that decision has resulted in the termination of officer Pantaleo.

For the Garner family that has gone through so much agony for so long and has waited this long just to have one trial finally conclude with a decision, I hope today brings some small measure of closure.

Today will not bring Eric Garner back, but I hope it brings some small measure of closure and peace to the Garner family.

[14:10:08] DE BLASIO: Now we have to look beyond this tragedy, because our city is at a pivotal moment. And I'm reminded of what Dr. King taught us, paraphrasing him, in moments of suffering or difficulty, there are two ways we can respond. We can react with bitterness and division. And we can be trapped by the sins of our past. Or we can transform the suffering into progress, we can find redemption.

We can use a moment like this, to turn it into something better, to move ourselves forward. And that is for all of us to do.

We can't have the illusion that someone else creates a better society -- that is for all of us to do, and we have to do it. We have to all create something better. And I see this as a sacred mission we all must take on. We must

devote ourselves to this simple goal, that no person, no family, no community should ever go through the agony that we've all experienced here over these last years. It should never happen again in this city or this country. As the only goal that is acceptable, let this be the last tragedy.

To actually get there --

BALDWIN: All right, so those -- that's the first one we heard from the Mayor here talking about justice, citing Dr. King here and what ultimately was the Police Commissioner's decision to fire Daniel Pantaleo, and not only just fire him, but make sure he never received his police pension.

So I've got Areva Martin and Shimon Prokupecz and Shimon, just first to you, and again, I just want to remind everyone, we're going to have members of Eric Garner's family next hour, and I can just only hear them saying, "Where were you five years ago?" You know, but can you just talk to me about -- I know, he promised justice to the Garner family? How much pressure was he under?

PROKUPECZ: He was under an immense amount of pressure. He told the national audience, it was during one of our debates, the CNN debate, where he stood there and he said that justice -- the family was going to get justice after they all felt that they didn't get justice when the Department of Justice decided not to prosecute.

BALDWIN: Not to prosecute.

PROKUPECZ: So the Mayor said that the family soon enough would get justice. And there was an enormous amount of pressure by the Mayor placed even on the Police Commissioner, on the NYPD to make sure that this police officer was fired.

I know there were meetings, discussions back and forth. The Police Commissioner does work for the Mayor, but ultimately decision -- the decision obviously rests with the Police Commissioner.

But you know, I think it's important to look at de Blasio, the Mayor in all of this because he is running for office and what kind of implications did that have? His promises of justice. Those things are important to the --

BALDWIN: The politics.

PROKUPECZ: The politics of this. And I also think that's what the members of the NYPD are looking at. They're looking at the politics of this. Was this done because of political reasons? And that that I think, is the thing that also even troubled the Police Commissioner in all of this.

BALDWIN: Yes. Areva, what do you think of that? What do you think of seeing de Blasio?

MARTIN: Yes, clearly, whenever you're running for President, and you're trying to appeal to voters, particularly African-American voters, you would expect the Mayor to do what he is doing, which is to, you know, make good on the promise that he made to the Garner family.

But, you know, he'll have to deal with that in terms of you know, how voters perceive him as a candidate. But I don't think that should overshadow the importance of what has happened.

We have a major Police Department, a Commissioner in New York, taking steps to hold an officer who was found to have acted recklessly in the arrest of Eric Garner by an administrative law judge upholding that decision. I think that's a very significant development as we look at the relationships between African-Americans and police.

And yes, the police officer loses his pension, but the reality is, he can get another job. He can start another pension. Eric Garner's life will never -- he can't be -- you know, he's not coming back. His family will never have their father, their grandfather, their brother, their son in their lives.

So I don't think we should equate the loss of a job and the loss of a pension with the loss of life. Sorry, I just think we have to reflect on the significance of this and hope that this is a message going forward to other police officers, commissioners, that officers are not above the law and they must be held accountable.

[14:15:07] BALDWIN: Right. Commissioner O'Neill said there are no victors here. Areva Martin, thank you so much; and Shimon, as always, thank you very much as well.

Three young men, three different states. Police say they expressed interest in and threatened to carry out mass shootings. How police were able to stop them.

Plus, the Republican who says he may challenge President Trump in 2020 and says he will vote for President Trump over any Democrat. So we'll analyze that.

And the oil tanker at the center of a standoff in the Gulf is on the move. And President Trump says Iran is willing to talk.

You're watching CNN on this Monday afternoon. We will be right back.


[14:20:37] BALDWIN: With the tragedies in El Paso and Dayton still very much in the hearts and minds of people in those two cities and really across the country, a stunning announcement from officials at the F.B.I. and local police, tips from the public likely helped prevent three more mass shootings.

We will show you their faces. These three men, all in their 20s are now in custody. Officials say the men from Connecticut, Florida and Ohio allegedly expressed interest in or threatened to carry out mass shootings. One of them saying he was targeting a large crowd in the hopes that he would and this is a quote, "Break a world record for the longest confirmed kill ever."

CNN's Polo Sandoval is with me now, and obviously this is all just so chilling. How did this all unfold?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chilling and disturbing. Of course, we should remind viewers, these are allegations right now. So we don't know exactly whether or not these men would have turned these words into heinous actions.

However, for a moment, we need to consider this case out of Ohio right now. James Reardon, who we understand is in court right now for a bond hearing is this 20-year-old who police arrested recently and he had not only this white supremacist mentality, but also the means of carrying out an attack. I'll tell you why.

Investigators in the small town of new Middletown, Ohio, discovered rifles, ammunition, gas mask from his mother's home as we what is a bond hearing that's taking place at this hour.

Police believe that he is the same one who has seen on an Instagram video that shows him firing a weapon. However, in the caption of that video, he happens to tag the Jewish community center in Youngstown, Ohio, which is just a short drive from New Middletown.

And investigators also say that he essentially says that he would have been the shooter in this potential attack. So he certainly not only makes no qualms about the way he feels, particularly when you go back and look at an interview that he gave the "National Geographic" in a documentary that they prepared on that Charlottesville Nazi rally two years ago. I want you to hear directly from him. Why he considers himself a white supremacist.


JAMES REARDON, SELF-PROCLAIMED WHITE NATIONALIST: I want a homeland for white people and I think every race should have a homeland for their own race.


SANDOVAL: The F.B.I. is also investigating, however, they have not actually pressed any Federal charges and quickly, I want to give you the other two -- or at least, on the other two cases, another possible shooting that was thwarted last week. One of them in Daytona Beach, Florida. Police body camera video actually shows the arrest that went down on Friday as they took in 25-year-old Tristan Wix.

Investigators saying that he was texting with his, at the time, girlfriend and claimed that he planned to carry out a mass shooting. Investigators moving in on that after his girlfriend set up those red flags.

And then finally to Connecticut, where investigators also arrested another young man, Brandon Wagshol charging him with various weapons charges. Investigators also saying that he had this fascination about committing a mass shooting, Brooke. So these cases, I want you to keep in mind, these are all separate,

right? But they share one commonality and this is somebody sounded the alarm. They called investigators. And that's why as we sit here today, police are extremely confident that that is why we're not having this conversation right now in Connecticut or Florida. Or maybe you and I aren't back in Ohio again. So it really is a reminder, it's that age old advice, you see something, say something.

BALDWIN: You see something, say something. Thank goodness for that someone and these investigators. Polo Sandoval, thank you very much for laying that all out.

Lori Post is a sociologist and epidemiologist for Northwestern University Medicine. She has studied mass shooting trends in the 80s -- between the 80s and now here in the United States. So Lori, thank you so much for joining me.


BALDWIN: Now, your research shows that last year, there were eight mass shootings in the U.S. which you define as an event in which four or more people are killed during a single event in a public space. That is the most in a single recent year.

So far in 2019, we've had six including El Paso and Dayton, which have the tragic distinction of being the first time multiple mass shootings occurred within 24 hours in this country. So the question to you is, what have you learned about the gunman and what inspires this type of violence?

POST: Those are great questions. So the first thing that I learned about the profile of mass shooters when we look at it from the definition, which I use, which is four or more deaths in a public place, and that is that they are premeditated, they're organized, they're methodic, and the planning took place over, you know, weeks, months, even years.

BALDWIN: And why do they want to do this?

[14:25:06] POST: This is a hard one. Sometimes, I think we look too deep for some, you know, meaningful answer about why somebody wants to kill a lot of people. But I think the bottom line is that they're interested in killing a lot of, you know, several people at one time. They want to beat records. They want the highest kill count possible.

So in their planning, they are looking at things like, where can I find a crowd of people? What would be the best time to do it? What's the best place to do it? And that is a common denominator. And it's great that people are picking up on that, because we always can connect the dots after a mass shooting and it seems like these last three, we were able to connect the dots before the shooting.

BALDWIN: With regard to what to do with President Trump -- you've heard President Trump seeming to soften his tone on the demand for more extensive background checks. How do you respond to that? POST: Well, I think that both Democrats and Republicans are talking

about background checks as though it is some kind of a magic bullet here.

And what the reality is, background checks are only as good as the policy behind them. So to create a good background check that would actually put a dent in death by guns, we would have to look at the full spectrum of gun violence or gun deaths, which would be suicides, homicides, accidental shootings, and mass shootings and mass shootings actually only make up about a half a percent of the total shootings.

BALDWIN: But outside of guns, you know, we hear other things. I mean, you heard the President recently saying it's mental illness and hatred that pulls the trigger. We've heard people talk about mental health, video games, social media -- what should we be focusing on?

POST: We should be focusing on exactly what people were focusing on to prevent the last three shootings. It is people who are romanticizing killing, people who talk about it, people who pose with photographs.

Other things are people who are spewing hatred -- hate speech -- it goes along with it. I think that a lot of people have -- are full of hatred or they espouse white nationalism or other types of hatred.

However, it doesn't manifest always in a mass shooting. I think it's the planning, it's the forethought. And one of the other problems is mental health. It is definitely related to gun deaths, but more so in the suicide or killing of persons close to the shooter, somebody that they know. And mental health only is related in approximately five percent of the cases and mass shootings.

BALDWIN: All right, so there's a lot to it than that.

POST: And further evidence of -- I'm sorry, what?

BALDWIN: No, there's just a lot more to it than that. I hear you in saying five percent.

POST: Yes.

BALDWIN: So, yes.

POST: So there are mentally ill people all over the world and there are not mass shootings all over the world. This is very American. It's very rare for it to happen in other countries. And then the other thing that makes us special is the access to military style weapons.

So in 80 percent of the mass shootings since 1982, it involved semi- automatic weapons, either a pistol or semi-automatic rifle.


POST: And large magazines.

BALDWIN: No, and you saw the assault weapons ban. Was that in '94? Bipartisan and no longer.

POST: Yes.

BALDWIN: And that just seems like of all the things that they would possibly do in Washington that just seems absolutely impossible. I could -- I have so many questions for you, Lori POst, we will talk again.

POST: Sure.

BALDWIN: I appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much for coming on.

POST: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, we are live in Iran as a tanker at the center of a standoff heads home despite attempts by the U.S. to stop it. Clarissa Ward joins me live next.