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Authorities Update George Floyd Death Investigation; FBI Asking for More Video in Investigation Of George Floyd's Death; No Charges Yet in George Floyd's Death, Investigations Ongoing. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 28, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA MACDONALD, U.S. ATTORNEY: And that is what we are going to do.
This has been a rapidly evolving situation. We first learned of it in the early morning hours of Tuesday.
The FBI reached out directly to me, and we have been working on this case nonstop since we were notified.
We understand the severity of this situation unfolding. It breaks my heart to see what is going on in our streets in Minneapolis and in Saint Paul and in some of our suburbs.
And I am pleading, I am pleading with individuals to remain calm and to let us conduct this investigation.
Give it just a minute, before I blow over.
We share with the FBI, and we share with our state partners, who are conducting parallel, but independent investigation -- so that is clear. We have two different investigations and conclusions and recommendations that will come from those to each of our respective offices.
But we share an unwavering commitment to see that this investigation is done right, that it's sent forthwith, that we act with dispatch, and that we live up to the standards the community demands.
Our highest priority is that justice will be served.
With that, I am going to close my comments and turn it over to Special Agent in Charge Rainer Drolshagen from the FBI.
RAINER DROLSHAGEN, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Thank you, Erica.
Good afternoon. My name is Rainer Drolshagen. I'm the special agent in charge of the Minneapolis field office.
Echoing the U.S. attorney's comments, I'd like to say I express my complete condolences to the Floyd family. I'd also like to express my sympathy to the citizens of Minnesota, as there is extreme frustration, anger, and sadness. I also want to thank Chief Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police
Department. He reached out to me in the middle of the night and requested our assistance. His call enabled me to immediately reach out to the U.S. attorney's office to enlist their assistance.
And as such, we were able to open an investigation in a matter of a few hours after the incident.
Our role in this investigation is to investigate allegations of willful violations of federal civil rights. The FBI team is following the path where the facts will lead us. We are conducting a swift, yet meticulous investigation.
In less than 72 hours, much work has been done, but I assure you there's much more to be accomplished.
I want you to ensure that you understand we respond to cases like these as quickly as possible. We will follow the case to conclusion, in partnership with our state partner, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The FBI is a fact-gathering agency. We collect facts, and we need your help. We're asking everyone that was present before, during and after the incident to come forward to help us build the best picture of what occurred.
Each little piece of the puzzle helps us complete the big picture. If you have any information, or if you have any videos, or if you know of anyone who can help us with this, I encourage you to ask them to contact 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Again, I'm encouraging you to reach out to 1-800-CALL-FBI. No tip is too small.
MICHAEL FREEMAN, HENNEPIN COUNTY ATTORNEY: Good afternoon. I'm Mike Freeman, Hennepin County attorney.
We are the principal prosecuting agency for the state and the criminal side.
Initially, I want to say that my thoughts and those of my office continue to be with a family and the friends of George Floyd. They know they are hurting over the senseless death.
The manager of our Victim Services Division has been in touch with George Floyd's family on several occasions and is keeping them updated on what is happening in this case.
They're aware that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, better known as the BCA, the Hennepin County medical examiner and the Hennepin County attorney's office are moving as quickly and thoroughly as possible. I've also been in direct consultations with Governor Tim Walz, with
Attorney General Keith Ellison and others in the state, the city and the county discussions on this case.
As many of you know, the Hennepin County attorney's office is one of very few prosecution offices in the United States who have successfully charged and convicted and obtained a guilty verdict against a police officer for unreasonable use of deadly force.
We have developed a detailed plan for that prosecution and, with the BCA, a detailed plan for investigation.
Our office has been flooded with calls, as many as 1,00 a day, as well as e-mail and social media from people in this jurisdiction, in this state and throughout the country. The main question is, what are you going to do about the murder of George Floyd?
Well, I've just described what we're going to do. We are going to investigate it as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands. Sometimes, that takes a little time, and we ask people to be patient. We have to do this right, and that's what we'll do.
I also want to tell you that our office has led the nation in openness on these types of cases. When we decide to charge an officer, we put the criminal complaint on our Web site. If we decide that the evidence does not support a criminal charge, we put our report in all our evidence on the Web site for all to see.
When we make the decision in this case, we will do the same. What I can assure the citizens of Minnesota, we will do it as quickly as we can do it as possible. We'll do it as quickly as possible.
I think Drew Evans from the BCA is next.
DREW EVANS, SUPERINTENDENT, MINNESOTA BUREAU OF CRIMINAL APPREHENSION: Thank you, county attorney Freeman.
My name is Drew Evans. I am the superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
First, I'd like to share with my colleagues here in expressing my deepest thoughts and sympathies to the family of George Floyd, the heartbreak that they're going through and the community as a whole.
This is a difficult time for our entire community, as they mourn his death.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began this investigation immediately after this incident occurred, when we were contacted by the Minneapolis Police Department. Agents were deployed, including our crime scene, immediately began gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and then working immediately with the county attorney's office, discussing our findings and what we had at that time. Next, over the night, as was indicated, the FBI was contacted. I spoke
to Chief Arradondo. He informed me of his contacting them, and that was a contact we all welcome in this process. We're working very collaboratively together through this process.
Our agents are working closely together. We've deployed numerous resources. We brought in agents from all over the state, recognizing the importance of an expeditious, quick investigation that is still thorough, independent, and unbiased by all of our organizations.
Those findings will be turned over to the county attorney on the state side and on the federal side, as noted, to the United States attorney's office.
The same thing we share, as the FBI did, we want any citizen, anybody who was there that witnessed this event, that has information that would be helpful to our investigation to either call the FBI tips line or 651-793-7000, which is the BCA Operations Center.
My perspective is, we want citizens to go wherever they are most comfortable, whichever line they are, so that we get all of the information in this case, so we can conduct the most thorough investigation possible.
And with that, I think we'll turn it over to the U.S. attorney and county attorney for questions.
MACDONALD: And so, at this point, we're going to open it up for questions.
I can tell you, I will start by saying, we've got questions too, and we're getting answers to those. We're doing our best. We're digging in. But we do -- and I want to echo what my law enforcement partners said. We need the community's help.
There were folks there on the scene, not -- folks that we couldn't identify necessarily at the time. We need to know who they are. Come forward. If you have a video, please share it.
We want to do, as quickly as we can, a thorough investigation to get answers to those questions. And I know that I saw the first hand going up was in front of me.
Ma'am, you had a question?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Twitter is already saying what you guys are announcing today. They were hoping for maybe charges.
(OFF-MIKE) Are you worried that's going to ignite more riots?
MACDONALD: My hope is that, getting it out through you, that the community will understand that we are taking this seriously, that we're working as quickly as possible. So the community understands, we don't -- we don't announce
investigations typically. As you in the media knows, it's unusual for us to come forward and tell you about an investigation.
As a United States attorney, we're counseled that we are not to talk about that until the time of the conviction typically, or, in some cases, perhaps charges.
It was really -- it's really imperative that the community understands how seriously we're taking this and how quickly and swiftly we are moving on this. And so my hope with that is, is that people will understand, peaceful protests are always acceptable.
That is the cornerstone of our justice system, is that people have the right to say how they feel and to talk about their feelings, and to protest peacefully.
But the obstruction and the destruction of property and harm to individuals has got to stop. We are one Minnesota. We're at our best when we're at our worst. We've got to come together and stop the needless and unnecessary destruction of property and harm to human life.
MACDONALD: You may.
FREEMAN: Yes, this state is well known and it has a strong reputation for firm and thorough First Amendment advocation. We support peaceful demonstrations.
I had a long talk today with Reverend Jesse Jackson, who came at the request of Attorney General Keith Ellison and the governor. And I believe Reverend Jackson will be speaking and asking for peace -- peaceful protest today.
Peaceful protest is good. It advocates our rights. And it also calls forth the witnesses that the United States attorney wants us to come forward.
Violence is not. Violence hampers our case. It takes valuable police resources away from our investigation, and it also harms innocent people who had nothing to do with that. It gets in the way of our work.
So, we're asking, please, please, say what you need to say. Demonstrate how you need to do. That is in our Constitution. And all of us believe in that. But, please, don't destroy an innocent person's property who had nothing to do with it.
QUESTION: I think part of the problem is, sir, the video goes on for seven minutes.
He is clearly struggling to breathe during that time. And I think people will be hard-pressed to understand how you can't bring charges at least against the officer who had his knee on that man's neck.
FREEMAN: It's a violation of my ethics to talk and evaluate evidence before we announce our charging decision. And I will not do that.
I will say this, that that video is graphic and horrific and terrible, and no person should do that. But my job in the end is to prove that he violated a criminal statute. And there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.
We need to wade through all of that evidence and to come through with a meaningful determination. And we are doing that to the best of our ability.
QUESTION: When it comes to the African American community, and you guys -- and we're here. A lot of came down to actually call for peace.
But when you guys are asking for them to be patient, they're saying that there was no patience when it came to George Floyd when he begged and pleaded for his life.
What message would you give us to take back to the African American community to bring peace and to ensure them that justice is going to be served?
FREEMAN: I bring them the same message that African American Attorney General of the state of Minnesota Keith Ellison is bringing. I'm bringing the same message as the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
We have to do this right. We have to prove it in a court of law. And I will just point to you the comparison to what happened in -- in Baltimore in the Gray case. It was a rush to charge. It was a rush to justice. And all of those people were found not guilty.
I will not rush to justice. I'm going to do this right. And those folks who know me in the African community know I will do my very level best, but I will not rush justice, because justice cannot be rushed.
MACDONALD: Thank you for that.
It was wonderful to hear you say that you came down with other members of the community to ask for peace. And that is the most -- that's probably the most positive thing I've heard here all day. So, I cannot begin to thank you enough for that.
And to the extent you can share that, and you can share the integrity and honesty of what we're doing, and trying to tell you what's going on please do, because we need you. We need the community.
But it's really important that we emphasize that everybody, everybody in the United States is entitled to due process of law. And due process of law requires us, as prosecutors, as law enforcement officers, to make sure that we've done a careful investigation.
And it requires us -- as I told you, I have tried -- as a judge, I presided over hundreds of cases, including first-degree murder cases. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that all your ducks are in a row before you make that charging decision, because you can't undo what you've done if you rush.
But if you take that time, you're going to do it right the first time and you're going to get it done the first time.
QUESTION: Mike, I have a question about National Guard coming in now.
There is, it sound like, fear and worry that this is going to escalate. Thoughts on the Guard being called in?
FREEMAN: Well, first off, the decision to call the National Guard is the governor's decision. And I support his decision.
Second, I -- since I have Hennepin County attorney, I try to do -- be the best prosecutor I can be and run the best office. And I try to stay out of other people's business. OK?
So, the -- on the streets and the law enforcement is not my business directly. I do encourage people not to do dangerous things and to harm other people or property.
But I can say to you that we just can't rush this. I've been involved in a number of these investigations. The BCA has got their most veteran people. And they are good.
I have leading the prosecution team the two prosecutors that brought justice in the Justine Damond case. And, as I said to you earlier, it's one of the few successful murder convictions of a police officer overusing force in the country.
And I had a lot of pressure to hurry that and to do it quickly. You can't do that. These need to be done right. Please, give me and give United States attorney the time to do this right, and we will bring you justice, I promise.
QUESTION: Are the police officers cooperating?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) source of the anger and the frustration and the belief that there are two sides and two ways, two paths to justice here, the path for police officers and privileged people and the path for everyone else.
FREEMAN: Esme (ph), as you know from covering these kinds of cases for a long time, each of the facts are different and each of them have to be addressed differently.
I assure you that if the person who had committed the act -- and I do not condone or respect the act done by the police officer to Mr. Floyd. That was excessive, and that was wrong.
The question in my business is, is it criminal? That's what I have to prove. And if -- there are cases that you can quickly and easily evaluate.
Most of the cases, particularly cop use-of-force cases, are specifically more complex and have to be done right, and we're committed to doing it right.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) officers cooperating with your investigation?
MACDONALD: I want to answer that question as well, if I may.
FREEMAN: Yes, sure.
MACDONALD: You know, it's important for -- I 100 percent agree with you. That is the question, right? It is the question that people in my office are asking. It's a question. We were all feeling the pain of watching that.
But this is -- this is what needs to be understood is -- and I know you all understand this, but to the extent I'm speaking to the community.
Police officers, by the nature of their job, have the authority to use a certain amount of force when they're executing their duties faithfully and honestly and in accordance with their policies.
And so a lot of police officer, a law enforcement officer has within the latitude of their scope of duty the ability to use the right amount of force, but not excessive force, not excessive force as defined by the law.
And so that is what we are looking at with respect to any federal criminal violation of civil rights, is that issue of excessive force.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more question. One more.
QUESTION: Are the police officers -- thank you.
MACDONALD: I can tell you that every United States attorney of all the -- all of my colleagues that are out there, we are vested with doing what's right for our state at the time.
Of course, we're part of the Department of Justice, William Barr. I report to the DAG, who then reports to the deputy attorney general, who then reports to the attorney general.
But every United States attorney is given the discretion in their community to pursue the charges and to follow the leads where they are, and to pursue the case as they deem appropriate.
I am, however, keeping my boss in communication, in briefing, so that he understands the investigation that's going on here in the state of Minnesota.
MACDONALD: I should've made clear, too, one thing. And I know it was in our statement that we issued last night.
But on our team of experienced trial attorneys, which are the most experienced in my office, I can tell you, I've been in viewing the evidence with my criminal chief, with my first assistant, United States attorney Anders Folk, with my deputy criminal chiefs.
We're all in there together. But we're also partnering with the Civil Rights Division from Department of Justice. The Civil Rights Division has an experience of doing these cases nationally. They bring with that expertise of understanding the requirements of 18-USC-242, which is the violation of law that we're specifically addressing.
And so, yes, we are partnering with Department of Justice to use their expertise and their resources. But we are leading the investigation, and we are working collaboratively with our state and local partners and federal partners.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... the president about this?
MACDONALD: The president is actively monitoring the situation, but I have not spoken to the president directly, no.
QUESTION: Can you give us a timeline? Can you give us a timeline?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) before coming out here? Can you tell us what the -- the wait was about?
MACDONALD: I cannot. I can only ask you to trust me that it mattered, and that I hope that I can fill you in on that at the appropriate time, which I hope is soon.
QUESTION: I mean, you obviously didn't call us down here for this. You guys were hoping for something more. Can you detail what you were hoping for?
MACDONALD: I'm going to say the same thing again, but I appreciate the tenacity of asking the question again.
I would not have needlessly wasted your time. It was important that the community understand that we are actively involved in this investigation. We are working round the clock. We have been for the last 72 hours, and we'll continue to do so to see that justice is done.
Again, we're going to do right, but we will act with dispatch. And I will keep all of you informed as soon as there's another development, and I will make sure that you, I promise, do not have to wait again. We'll have it timed right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, thanks, everybody. Appreciate you coming. WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, so there you have it, an important
news conference, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Erica MacDonald, and Hennepin County attorney Michael Freeman, in addition to the FBI agent in charge, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation person in charge, Drew Evans.
Lots going on. Lots to discuss. No criminal charges were announced during the course of this news conference, only that there's a federal investigation and a state and local investigation under way, also an appeal by the FBI, as well as from Michael Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, for any assistance from the public, especially if there's more videotape available.
Lots of videotape already released, but they're looking for more videotape.
Laura Coates is with us, our CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, also from Minnesota. So she knows this area very well.
It was significant, I thought, Laura. At one point, we heard Michael Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, saying there is other evidence that doesn't support a criminal charge.
I assumed that was referring to the Minnesota -- Minneapolis police department guidelines for when a police officer could actually use a neck restraint or a choke hold in the course of an operation to subdue a suspect.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's one assumption.
However, I'm left with a lot of questions still, Wolf, as to what precisely he was indicating. Remember, we're talking about the fact pattern here of a man who's on his stomach, handcuffs behind his back, breathing and gasping for air, and being -- and asked to be able to breathe longer.
And so I'm not always referring to breathe.
But if you're talking about the police department's policy, one thing to point out is that there is an existing policy there, where it says, if there is an officer on scene who witnesses another officer using excessive force or force that no longer needs to be used to actually restrain the person or their movement, then they have a duty to intervene.
And what we're seeing here, which is quite compelling, is the idea that, even if there was some moment in time during the course of the interaction of Mr. Floyd and the officers where he would have been needed to be restrained, well, that time had lapsed, and the continued event was actually very telling to me.
Also, the U.S. attorney made a comment. Excuse me. The Hennepin County prosecutor kept referencing the success of this particular prosecutor's office in being able to prosecute effectively an attorney for excessive force.
I will note that one of the things that he seems to miss in this is the climate here. We're talking about the idea of racism in America and the idea of police getting a very different benefit of doubt, depending upon the race of the victim.
The case he's referring to involved a white Australian woman who was killed by a black officer. So ,there is a little bit of tone-deafness in understanding what the appeal is and about the concerns of the community all across this globe, but particularly in Minneapolis, about what's happening here.
But I note that he did -- he did, along with U.S. attorney, mention ad nauseum about the idea of trying to make sure they could get it right the first time, because of due process, and also considerations of double jeopardy, because, if they do not get it right, they won't have two bites at the apple.
BLITZER: Well, were you surprised, Laura, that there were no criminal charges filed against the police officer who had his knee on George Floyd's neck or the other three police officers who were just standing by and didn't stop it?
COATES: Yes, I am surprised that there have not been more of an urgency.
Remember, there's -- talking about probable cause. Am I my surprised that there's not yet a conviction? No, that does take time.
And as a former federal prosecutor, I'm well aware about the distinction between meeting a probable cause standard and one meeting beyond a reasonable doubt. There is an evolution of evidence there. It has to be swift and meticulous. We're talking about the thorough -- but if you're talking about whether you believe -- and he said himself -- whether the force was excessive, he actually said, I believe that it was excessive force.
Well, you're already in a different territory about probable cause. I suspect, however, Wolf, what the real calculation here is, knowing if there is an unlawful killing, which degree of crime are you going to talk about?
Are you talking about one involving manslaughter, one involving the reckless disregard for human life? Are you talking about somebody intentionally committing this act? Are you talking about premeditation?
And on that note, people often have the misconception that premeditation or first-degree murder involves a lengthy period of premeditation, the case, a prime example is a hit man being contracted, when, in reality, that premeditation,the intent to kill, can form quite rapidly, and does not require that long duration of time.
And because we see here, as you keep talking about and we're all talking about here, Wolf, the length of time that there was somebody's knee on another human being's neck, to deprive them of air, and essentially asphyxiate them in this way, says that there was a lengthy period of time.
But the fact that the FBI is involved and that the color of law is being mentioned is extraordinarily important. And to bring it full circle, color of law claims, Wolf, require only essentially that the officer is using his or her badge or his color of uniform to say, I'm going to be the sheriff in everyone's town, I can do what I want, I have carte blanche to harm anyone, I can murder or assault with impunity, because I'm the officer, I'm the law of the land.
Well, in reality, color of law says you cannot do that. And there is no requirement of there being a racial animus. So, if the FBI is looking at the color of law context, the racial atmosphere and undertones we're all seeing and evaluating right now and we saw evidently there will not even be a consideration.
BLITZER: Let me get Don Lemon.
Don Lemon is with us as well, our CNN anchor.
You have been covering this closely. You have been watching it very closely, Don.
What's your reaction to the fact that no charges are being announced, at least not today?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Well, I'm going to leave that up to my colleague Laura Coates, who I think explained that very well.
But I think there is a frustration out there. Yes, people want this investigation to be handled properly. They don't want another Freddie Gray situation, as they mentioned in the press conference there.
But I think people are frustrated at the urgency. If -- how much more video do they need? I kept saying, as I'm watching this, like, is this some sort of a joke? Like, how much more video do they need?
OK, great, get more evidence. But from the evidence they have, there appears to be no area on tape anywhere from any witness that Mr. Floyd was resisting arrest in any way.
So I think what people want to know is, these officers, one of them, with 18 complaints against him, I think 16 of them still open, another one has six, other one has had other complaints, I know that people complain and it's false sometimes, but 18 complaints. Are they going to be arrested or are they not? Is the justice system going to work with these officers the way it works with the general public?
Someone accuses you of something, the police, guess what they do, they come to get you, they arrest you and then you have to deal with the legal system. Are we going to have the same legal system for police officers that we have for the average adult? Now, for the attorney general, I watched. I know she has a tough job, but guess what, as long as we are being honest with right now, nobody wants to hear from the White House or the attorney general right now. No one wants to hear from the man who wanted the death penalty to come back from the Central Park Five. No one wants to hear from the man who says that the former president was not born in this country. No one wants to hear from the man who says there are very fine people on both sides.
Do you understand what I'm saying? No one wants to hear from the person that they perceive as contributing to this situations, situations like this in this society. Not directly, but allowing people like that to think that they can get away from this. No one wants to hear from the birther and chief from the sons of bitches- calling person who says that athletes who are kneeling for this very reason. No one wants to hear from that. The justice system should work for everyone.
The president of the United States, the attorney general of the United States should have the same system in place for everyone. That should be a given. You should not have to announce that at any press conference. And no one wants to hear that. Unless you're going to come out and say, I understand how African Americans feel in this country, I understand the mistakes that I have made with African Americans in this country, I understand that there is an election coming, but I don't just you're your vote, I want you to understand and I know where you coming from. We don't want to hear that. And that is the God's honest truth.
So, that was a misstep on her part. to come out and say, I want this investigated to the fullest extent of the law, we don't want to make any mistakes, amen sister, amen brother. But we don't want to hear all of that. Why don't you have the same urgency that you have for all these people who are out there, who most of them protesting, but there are some who are out there who are actually ravaging and pillaging, at least, burning down stores. I don't know if it's by accident or what. Or who are going in and raiding stores or what have you.
Okay, fine, that should not happen. But what about the urgency for telling those people to calm down and we need peace, that same urgency when it comes to people who are being abused by the system, who are being abused by police officers, who are experiencing racism in this country and people are denying it. Where is that urgency?
So I understand the anger of the people who are protesting, who are upset in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I don't -- I am not condoning their actions. I don't understand the actions, but I do understand their anger. When you feel you have nothing else, when you don't have a platform like a Don Lemon, or a Wolf Blitzer, or a Laura Coates or anyone to protest, then what do you do? You act out in a way that you act out. Those people are upset, they are sick of it and I would imagine people around the country are sick of it as well.
Have that same urgency when you are telling people to calm down and don't be violent and don't go out in a loot stores for racism and bigotry. Take the mask off. BLITZER: You know, Don, what she did say, the U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald, is a -- and I know this is what you are reacting to and I'm looking at my note, she said, this is in her work a top priority for the Department of Justice in Washington, and she said the president of the United States and the attorney general of the United States, in her words, are directly and actively monitoring the investigation to determine whether any federal criminal laws were violated, including civil rights violations. That's was she specifically said.
LEMON: Where is the news in that? The president should always be involved, the Justice Department should always be involved in this situations. That is not a headline. That is not something I felt that she even had to announce there. I don't understand why she announced it. But you should believe that the White House should be sending out a press release saying that, not just a tweet. If he wants to conduct business by tweet, then let the president tweet that out.
But why does she need to say that? Is she his proxy? Does she speak for him? No. The president should send out a press release and say, I am monitoring what's happening here, I am dealing with it. This is a top priority. He doesn't need the U.S. attorney to do that.
And again, I said what I said about this president and the environment that he has contributed to in this country, and that is the God's honest truth.
That's how black people feel. The person who said from Klansmen, and racist, and Nazis, and anti Semites that there were fine people on both sides, no one wants to hear that.
BLITZER: On standby, Sara Sidner, our reporter on the scene over there. The governor of Minnesota, Sara, has activated the National Guard to deal with the protests that are emerging. We saw them last night. I assume there's going to be more. Give us the latest on what you are seeing right now?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, there are going to be more. They have not stopped protesting at this point in time. There has been an incident that has brought police here. Somebody was injured. There is a lot of activity here that has people. You can hear the flash bangs going off right now. It looks like there may be some tear gas being fired as well just down the street. Now, we, if I turn this camera around we're, right here on the other side of the police department.
But I can tell you right now, the gentleman here is going to tell me what he thinks exactly. We don't have to pontificate about people feel about the county attorney saying, and I'm going to quote him here, the video is graphic and horrific, but there is other evidence that this not support a criminal charge. This gentlemen here, I asked him about it.
Tell me what you think about the statement from the county attorney that the video is graphic and horrific. Everyone is saying their condolences for the family, the Floyd Family, but there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge and that he will not be rush into putting charges against the officer who had his knee on George Floyd's neck?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, honestly, they should treat him like they treat everybody else, tell me and you and such as (ph) same situation.
SIDNER: You feel like, If you would done something like that, you would have been charged or at least arrested right then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
SIDNER: And what do you see going forward? What do you see happening around you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all this mayhem and what's going around me, I think they come and they see it's a sooner or later, I think that it will get better, hopefully. You know that's all you can hope. But they've got to understand why these people are out here doing what they are doing in the first place.
SIDNER: This is borne out of pain, and I think you said early. This is borne out pain and frustration for things not just George Floyd but for other things. But the general reaction to hearing specifically what the county attorney said who is the person they expect to do the first charge and a criminal charge and who the mayor has asked to go forward and prosecute, to hear him say that there are other bits of evidence, after everyone has seen the video. It's very hard for folks here to take.
I'm going to turn the camera around again here. There is more smoke, more flash bangs. And now, the crowd are going toward the police officers who have coraled this area right next to the R.V. and the Target that was looted last night, as well as the (INAUDIBLE) that was looted last night. You now have folks out here with their hands up saying, hands up, don't shoot.
There is somebody that has been injured here. We are trying to get more information on exactly what that was, but the police did come in to try and deal with that. Now, you are seeing the reaction from the folks here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara, be careful over there. We're going to get back to you.
I quickly want to go back to Don Lemon. Don, when you see the angry demonstrators, they're obviously very concerned about what's going on. You heard the law enforcement authority's appeal for a peaceful protests. They keep saying peaceful protests are good. They don't want to see the violent protests going on. It looks like it could get pretty ugly in the course of the next few hours.
LEMON: As these situations always do, Wolf. And, again, we hate to see that. But the focus here should be that there is a man who is dead, whose knee -- a police officer's knee was on his neck for eight to nine minutes. That should be the focus. I am sorry that that is happening in that community. It should not happen. Again, I will say it again, I'm not condoning violent actions, I'm not condoning looting, but I understand the frustration of those people. They don't have anywhere else to turn.
I'm sure many of them have complained to their local police officers, to their local officials about the condition, about these officers, probably some of the same officers. Probably some -- if you go through the records, I'm sure that some of these people have complained about some of these same officers.
So what would you have them do? Scream at the top of their lungs? Stand at the edge of the ocean of the Atlantic or Pacific and scream and have no one hear them? That's how they feel, that they are screaming, they are telling people, we need help, we're being mistreated, we're being abused and no one is listening. It is the -- people are turn a blind eye.
And listen, this is -- I am not condemning anyone, I'm not shaming anyone. But -- and every day racism is maybe more insidious than these incidents that we see on our cameras because they affect many more people.
This affects Mr. Floyd and his family and now the whole world is seeing that.
But in everyday life, African Americans are mistreated, whether it be by police officers, whether it be by people who are in authority, whether it be a system, whether it be a president of the United States, whether it's an attorney general, whether -- anyone, whether it is a boss at work, whether it is being looked over for a promotion, or not seeing as being as good as your white counterpart. It happens all the time.
As I said in the --- with Ahmaud Arbery, people are crying out, us too, when it comes to injustice, meaning African American, as women were crying out with the Me Too movement. People are crying out, us too, with everyday racism. It chokes you. It cuts off your livelihood in many ways. It affects you mentally, spiritually, physically. African Americans are dying from COVID far higher in this country, percentage-wise, than any other ethnicity. There is a reason for that.
The pictures that you see coming across you television screens, of African Americans being abused by police officers, how often do you see that happening to white people? Not a lot. You don't see those kinds of picture. And so we need to do something. We need to realize. And meaning we, I mean, we as a culture, we as an Americans.
And that means I am speaking to white people. It is incumbent upon white people to deal with racism in this culture. You cannot have the people who are abused get rid of the problem because it is not their problem. It is the problem of the person who is abusing them, who can't even see it. They are blinded by it. Yes, it is our problem in the sense that we are abused and that we are suffering from racism, but we're not the ones doing it to ourselves. We know it is happening because it is happening to us. The person who is doing the abuse is not aware of it in many cases. And if they are, guess what? They think that it's okay because that's the way that they have been raised, that is what they have been shown and taught in society, that it is okay.
This is how society is supposed to treat me and this is how society is supposed to treat you. And as long as you don't get out of your box, then we are all fine. But once you get out of your box in the way that I deem that you should be, in the way that society is supposed to be, then we have a problem. Then I am going to call police falsely on you, then I'm going to do some sort of legal action against you, because you have stepped out of your role.
Well, these people who are out here now with the pictures up, they have stepped out of their role just like the people on the state house saying, on the state house are saying, I want to get a haircut, I want to open up my business, I want to be able to carry a gun to the state house loaded weapon. It is my right as an American. I'm fighting for my liberty. These people are fighting for their liberty.
So if you can understand wanting a haircut, not wanting to wear a mask, wanting to go in a store and cough on anyone, wanting to wear in one instance, a Klan hood to a grocery store because you thought that was your mask, to protect people from the coronavirus because you are so upset that you couldn't go to the store without a mask, then you should understand these people who are frustration and who are protesting on the street of Minneapolis Minnesota and in other parts of this country, because they are fighting as an American, just like you, for their liberty.
Liberty is not just for white people, it is for black people, it is for Asian people, it is for all Americans, Hispanic, black, white, brown, yellow, all of us. It is for all Americans. So if you're going to fight for your liberty, fight for these people's liberty as well.
BLITZER: I don't know, Don, if you can see what's going on in Minneapolis right now, but the demonstrators, the protesters, clearly, some is tear gas and some of the folks are suffering from that tear gas. And you see some other folks trying to help them, pour some water on their faces. These demonstrators are obviously very, very angry at that video that we've all see in seven, eight, nine minutes of that police officer with his knee on George Floyd's neck. And in the end, unfortunately sadly, George Floyd is now dead.
I want to go back to Laura Coates for a moment. Miguel Marquez, our other reporter who's on the scene there in Minneapolis, Laura, he's reporting now that all four of these police officer, the police officer who had his knee on George Floyd's neck as well as the three others who were just standing by and not doing anything, they are all invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, that according to Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney.
[18:45:17] He said this to reporters after the news conference.
I guess that's understandable under these circumstances, Laura.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of course, the idea of not -- anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. It's not odd that they're doing so, because normally, the wall of silence they would have if they were officer, how often do you hear about the blue code of silence that acts as an immunizing function for police officers.
They are no longer police officers. They have no longer the ability of the fraternization, that sort of blue wall of silence. So, the idea here, though, they need not say a word. That's the beauty of the video footage, the camera footage, because a picture says 1,000 words. A moving picture as we've seen and the words of Mr. Floyd in and of itself do convey and share the story that their own words will not say.
But I do want to make sure everyone is aware of the context here and I think Don -- his passion is so palpable in justifying what he is saying. But remember, also in Minnesota, specifically, the reason why there is an aversion perhaps to the Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman is because people remember in real recent times about cases like Jamar Clark, about cases involving Mr. Blevins, people who have been gunned down by officers and he chose not to bring charges.
Now, one of the things he said in those cases, where he chose to pursue charges against officers what he said, those officers had no opportunity to withdraw from a conflict. He has already boxed himself in in terms of a precedential value here, Wolf. If the officer had some time to withdraw from the interaction, then perhaps there would have been charges.
But we hear the amount of time this man was laying on the ground begging, the amount of time the officer had to withdraw from the actual conflict. And I want to just point out that there are -- there is a reason there are two different attorneys there, two different attorneys there, because the state and local prosecution is the Hennepin County attorney, it can bring charges or anything else. The federal aspect of it is a separate and distinct, actual trial. They often function to be there at the same time, one serves as backup for another.
I have to look at this. I am a hometown kid of Minnesota. I grew up in St. Paul, across the river. I bought my first home four blocks from this happened. I had an apartment that was up the street from where people are now looting and rioting.
And I go back to the icon of the nonviolence movement, Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. And even he acknowledged that riot is a language of those who are unheard. And what you are seeing here are people who are exhausted by deaf ears, that are not responding.
And one entity we are not hearing from is comprised of nine people, the Supreme Court of the United States of America. They have a judicially creative thing called qualified immunity. They have created it in spite of what Congress decided to have back in 1871 with the Civil Rights Act of 1983 that said no person who is an officer or somebody who is a public official can use or undermine or deprive your constitutional rights from you.
Well, the Supreme Court then said, with qualified immunity, you know what, we're going to make it almost impossible for you to have actual police accountability. Even if you can prove your rights have been violated, we are going to make you prove that the same factual pattern happened before, not analogous, but the same factual pattern. That has emboldened officers, to disincentivize jurisdictions and departments from making real change in their training or even to have officers like what we were talking about feel as though it is appropriate to stand idly by.
When you hear about Philando Castile in Minnesota, remember that three years before he was gunned down by an officer in a car, he wasn't even driving. He had been stopped nearly 50 times in traffic stops. Nearly 50 times in his life he had been stopped. I asked people out there who had a license since age of 16, how many times have you been stopped by an officer? I guarantee you, you could ask 50 people around you and they probably not get to that same number.
So, what you are seeing is a palpable culmination of so much systemic bias, systemic problems and emboldening actions about why people are frustrated right now, why there is a fundamental mistrust, and why every single branch of our government, from the executive to legislative to judicial, to state and local, has a role to play.
And what you're seeing right now from Los Angeles to the East Coast and particularly Minneapolis is that fourth branch of government, the people, the government of, for and by them are saying, we're not being heard. And there are ways to do so.
BLITZER: Significant statement. A very important statement. Laura, stand by for a moment.
Bakari Sellers is with us as well.
Bakari, you've been watching very, very closely, and I want to get your thoughts because obviously this is so emotional, it's emotional for you, it's emotional for me, it's emotional for everyone who saw that videotape, that horrendous videotape of that police officer with his knee on George Floyd's neck for 7, 8, 9 minutes and unfortunately, sadly, George Floyd is dead.
We heard the U.S. attorney say it's an incredibly disturbing loss of life. She said we are all grieving. The same came from the Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman. But he also went to say, went on to say this: Yes, there may have been excessive force. The question is, was a criminal and then he uttered these words and I'm looking at my notes. There is other evidence that doesn't support a criminal charge right now.
So, go ahead and give us your reaction.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, my reaction is simple. I mean, that was week sauce on both of their parts. I mean, they could have kept that to themselves.
You have people that are hurting. I mean, the lack of nuance, the lack of sophistication, the lack of intellectual honesty that both of those, won an elected official, one and appointed official had, and the wherewithal. I mean, you have people that are hurting.
I harken back to King's "I have a dream" speech. But not -- not the rhythmic cadence of I have dream that one day we shall. The most important part of that speech is when he talked about the fierce urgency of now.
Look, I heard Don and I heard Laura. My point is the same, like we don't condone the rioting, but you can't condemn the rioting and looters if you don't condemn the systemic injustice and oppression that leads them to cry out. I mean, you can't sit here and say, oh my God, why are you doing this in this neighborhood, when you don't even ask the question of why.
You know, you talk about communities in this country where you don't have access to clean water, where you don't have access to health care, where you are inhaling polluted air, when you're drinking dirty water, when your schools are falling apart, when you don't have access to the same means and resources that your peers have in terms of starting small business, those things called economic justice. And you look at these systems of oppression, these institutions of racism, and then you overlaid with the fact that we are in a pandemic, and down South, Wolf, we have a saying that when the United States of America gets a cold, black folk get the flu. What we are seeing is when America gets COVID, black folks die.
And so, you overlay the epidemic we are going through with these systemic injustices, and then you have the audacity to layer it with that weak sauce that just came from those two individuals, one elected and one appointed, and you expect us to be calm. You expect us to be calm and not lash out. You expect us not to raise our voices when our brother was on the ground with a knee in his neck for eight minutes, treated like a dog.
In fact, somebody correct me earlier today on social media and said, you know what, Bakari, there would be more outrage if it was a dog there and not a black man. So, you cannot tell me to quell my anger. So, no, I do not condone the rioting and the looting, but I understand the rioting and the looting, because I understand the systemic injustice that underlines it.
And until we have people, like you have two choices in this country. You only have to. You can either be a racist or you can be anti- racist. It doesn't make sense for you to stand in the middle and just say I'm not, no, you have to be an anti-racist and we need people who are within systems to have courage.
Today, what we saw from both of those people at that press conference was weak sauce. We saw intellectual dishonesty and we saw a lack of courage. So, I am speaking as a lawyer, I'm speaking as a black man, and I'm speaking as someone who lives and dedicates their life to the premise that we are all free that we all have access to liberty, we all have access to life, and to have someone deprived of that, and then you get up there and deliver me that utter weak sauce is a tragedy, and I hate the fact that family had to go through this again.
BLITZER: Bakari, standby.
Joey Jackson is with us, our legal analyst, a criminal defense attorney as well.
I'm really anxious to get your thoughts on the Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman saying there is utter evidence that doesn't support criminal charges. I can only assume that other evidence might be the Minneapolis police departments guidelines, regarding when a police officer can use neck restraints or chokehold. I have been going through what is in their guidelines and it says they can use, they can apply direct pressure on aversions trachea or airway, the front of the, neck blocking or obstructing the airway. That's a direct quote.
The Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that the restraint being placed on George Floyd, in the mayor's words, this particular technique is not authorized in any form. It is not a part of the training.
What do you think? What was your reaction as a criminal defense attorney when you heard what the Hennepin County attorney had to say?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there are a lot of disingenuous things that came out of that press conference, and we should start addressing them.
Now, to your first point, Wolf, with regard to any type of training or procedure, you can have whatever training you have on the books. You can use a chokehold.
Show me a policy that says you can. Show me a policy that says you can't obstruct breathing to get a suspect under control. I don't think any policy, no matter what it is will tell you that you can literally obstruct someone's breathing for several minutes and that would be appropriate.
So, let's talk about what's disingenuous and what's not. The fact is, and I'm calm but I think we need to be concerned and here is why. The fact is this is not a close question. It's not a close question.
So, for a person who represent people in state court and federal court, let me tell you what happens. What a murder is witnessed, manslaughter is witness, classified as you will, there is an arrest made. Why, Wolf? Because there is probable cause.
What does that mean in English? There is reason to believe that a crime occurred. So, you make an arrest.
What did we hear today? We need evidence. We need all the information. Federal courts, state court, I can tell you, arrests are made. And once the arrests are made because it's based on a reason to believe that a crime occurred, they don't stop investigating. They continue to investigate.
And guess what, Wolf. Whether it is state court or federal court, if they come up with other information, having witnessed a crime, they upgrade the charges. They modify the charges. They amend the charges. They supersede the indictment.
What that means is if they indict you for one thing and they find something else, they go back and indict you again. The fact that they say we have to wait for evidence, I wish I had clients that had the benefit of it, right? The fact that the police say, oh, we're going to wait for every shred of information, I think police need to be treated like everyone else.
If you witness a crime, there is reason to believe there is a crime, you make an arrest, which gets me to another point. The U.S. attorney pointed out the issue of, we have to establish willfulness. Willfulness in English means intent. It means intentionality. It means you did what you did on purpose. If you can't establish willfulness when you have a video with a knee on a neck for several minutes, I don't know when you will ever be able to establish willfulness.
Which brings me to another point. There was a press conference that was scheduled to be held. The U.S. attorney said that we don't have discussions about investigations, so why hold the press conference? Why delay the press conference for an hour and a half? Why talk about Trump and Barr at the press conference?
I don't want to speculate. Did they have something else to provide? Was it halted? I just hope and pray that politics doesn't get in the way of this.
When we look at Eric Garner and I can't breathe in Staten Island, it took 5 years for the Department of Justice to make a decision. One needs to be made early (AUDIO GAP) in state court.
BLITZER: I want to go back to Don Lemon.
Don, it was totally outrageous. It was awful we saw in that videotape. And the police obviously did the wrong thing and they should have never gone ahead and allowed the George Floyd to die as a result of that apprehension.
But go ahead and give us your thoughts on what you are hearing and what you're seeing and what you're feeling.
LEMON: This is not about bad police training. This is not about incidents that happened that occur occasionally. This is about what happens in America every single day.
This is the tough part, the bold part, the big part that you are seeing, that everyone cringes at seeing a knee on someone's neck. But the knee is on our neck, as black people, and I mean our, it doesn't matter what socioeconomic stratosphere, whatever you get in, it is always on your neck. And so I want all people out there, I don't care if you are good or
bad, white people, I am speaking directly to you. Help us stop this. Stop judging. Stop looking for other reasons. Stop making excuses.
Stop ignoring racism in your own life. Teach your children to be, as Bakari said, anti-racist, and not racist. Examine yourself so that you can help us. Help me help you. Help us. Please.
That's my message. And we are not going to stop reporting this story. I think my friends and my colleagues, Joey and Laura and Bakari, because as long as we have breath, we are going to be here. As long as we have this platform, we are going to be here, Wolf.
And thank you for giving us this platform in this moment.
BLITZER: Thank you, Don, for everything you're doing. Thanks to all of our analysts, all of our reporters for what they are doing.
And Don is going to be hosting a special Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, "I CAN'T BREATHE: BLACK MEN LIVING AND DYING IN AMERICA". We'll be watching that Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Don, thanks for everything you're doing. We'll see you also later tonight.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.