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THE SITUATION ROOM
Protests Grow In Atlanta Over Police Shooting; Protesters Trying To Shut Down Interstate In Atlanta; Man Fatally Shot By Police At Fast Food Drive-Thru In Atlanta; Atlanta Police Chief Stepping Down After Deadly Officer-Involved Shooting. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired June 13, 2020 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN MILLER, ATTORNEY FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS: There could be a thousand reasons for just running from the police, right? So just imagine that if you're sleeping in your car because you're trying to drink something off and you get officers knocking on your window, right?
The current comment of police officer and black male interaction is not the best, right? So that might scare you at that time of night so yes, you stand up and you're talking to him and then they're telling you, they want you to do something.
That might not be what you want to do at that time. And so yes, he tried to get away. That's what it looks like. We don't know because we can't talk to him, right? But it looked like he tried to get away and they would not let him get away. They were hellbent on stopping him and they stopped him, right?
So - so yes, getting away from a situation that could be detrimental to you also turned into another situation that was detrimental to you. It was a no-win situation. You can't get out of it and so that's probably what happened but like I said, we can't speak to him.
L. CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS: And I always try and to look at from these situations. To look at how it was justified for the officer because I don't ever want to look at something just totally unfairly.
And there's just no excuse in this one. If they had maybe shot while the tussle was going on and you know they said, oh, he reached for my gun and that's normally how these happen. They're rolling around on the ground or there's a fight for the gun and then they shoot right then.
That's not what happened. If this would have happened while they were all rolling on the ground and you hear someone say gun and he's reaching for my gun, OK, maybe.
That didn't happen. They didn't feel like their life was in danger while they were tussling on the ground or rolling around and grabbing things. No, they waited until he ran off. So their justification went out the door after they let him run.
MILLER: We also got to check on the emotional state of these officers. I mean because it gets personal you know and this is a thing, when you're in the field and we understand this that it is a personal thing, it gets personal to them but as a professional in the situation, they have to divorce themselves from that emotional aspect of that job because if you don't, someone can die like we saw today, like we saw with that officer and George Floyd.
It is - it can get personal, we understand, there's combat. They are big guys wrestling and fighting. But at a certain point, the professional in you have to come out and you have to calm down and be the professional and show that you have training which hasn't happened and definitely didn't happen last night.
REPORTER: What would you tell about Mr. Brooks? Who he was? Where did he work? What was his background?
STEWART: Father. He was working at a tortilla place actually. Family loved him to death. We had more family members at that house today than I could count. A ton of brothers and sisters that love him more than life.
MILLER: He was supposed to take his daughter today for her birthday.
STEWART: Yes. It's just and I'm sick of sitting in somebody's house and their little kid is playing with us. And we're sitting there trying to laugh with a one-year old or two-year old or an eight-year old knowing you know, that they will never see their - their dad again and I'm literally sick of it.
MILLER: She had on - we were there today, she had her birthday dress on because she was waiting for her dad to come, pick her up, to take her to go skating. Yesterday, her and her dad went. She got her nails done, her toes done. They got something to eat.
And today she was waiting on that so while we were over there, they had a birthday party for her you know, today, there was a birthday today with cupcakes while we were sitting there, talking to her mom about why her dad's not coming home.
That's the part of it that we see every day that everybody doesn't see and that's the part of this issue - issue right here. It's terrible.
REPORTER: Chris, when you think of Walter Scott and you think of five years ago. Over five years ago.
STEWART: That's what this is.
REPORTER: Or even 20 years. 20 years to kill a man. What do you say to that?
STEWART: I mean that's - that's - that's literally the case that popped in my mind, the whole time I was sitting there today and just and I talked about it, it's just like Walter Scott. You know, people who forgot about that case because it's been so long
and it was so horrific is, they said the same thing, oh, he took my taser and I shot him while we were wrestling for the taser. And then once we got our hands on the video, we saw that he shot him in the back, you know, 30 yards away.
And in that case they tried the whole taser, he could have killed me with the taser argument and it didn't work so it literally brings back memories of Walter Scott, even watching him get shot in the back, just like Walter Scott.
And then it was really horrible hearing the witnesses say that they were picking up shell casings or tampering with the scene, whatever they were doing because that happened in Walter Scott.
The officer went and threw the taser close to the dead body. So it's just horrible to be reliving the Walter Scott case again.
MILLER: And - and one thing, we - we want to make sure people know. We don't think this is you know, these are one offs. We know they're not. We're seeing them more and more and that's not because society is getting worse, just because technology is getting better, right?
There are more cameras everywhere so we're seeing more of this stuff but it's the same stuff, it's been happening. The difference is you can't lie in your report because there's a camera that's going to get you, right?
You can't make up some story because there's a camera that's going to get you, you can't throw a taser close to somebody because there's a camera that's going to come, get you. We - we saw today what happened last night. We saw it and - and while Mr. Brooks was not perfect, he didn't - I mean, he could have done a couple of things too.
And we're not saying he couldn't have but the officer had the last best chance to stop that from happening. He had the most training to stop that from happening and he didn't do that and that resulted in our client's death.
REPORTER: Is there anything that witnesses are telling about what led to the struggle? And what was said in the car or what -
STEWART: No, they're confused because they thought that the conversation appeared civil or decent. They didn't you know, see him screaming at the cops or doing anything and then out the blue, they said, they just try to arrest him and of course, he got upset and pulled away like wild.
What - you know, what are you doing? And then it went from there and that's - I see it too many times. If you're not going to explain why you're going to arrest somebody, I'm going not - Why am I getting arrested? I can ask what's going on.
Why can't you have a conversation with them about why he's being arrested.
REPORTER: Did you say the witness told you he was dragged out of the car?
STEWART: No, they were speaking outside of the vehicle from what they said so he willingly got out but like I said, this just happened yesterday, we're still talking to people but every witness, white, black, they're just blown away because they said it's not - like it should not happen and that there was no reason for him to shoot him while he was running off.
This wasn't a violent crime. They had his ID. They knew where he lived. They knew what kind of car he was - they have the car. You know, like where's he going? That is just because you know the value of life is gone somewhere.
It's like a video game where you just think you shoot somebody and it's not an actual father or a human being. I'm just starting to lose faith.
REPORTER: I've known you for years, I've never seen you like this. You're tired, you're sad, you're mad. I don't speak for you but you're still ready to fight?
STEWART: yes, oh no, let me - that's - that's never - that's not going to change. I mean we'll keep fighting these as long as we have to and make sure people get fired or resign or whatever or get put in jail because I mean, we have to do our part to try to make it stop.
But the one thing that Justin and I really realized in this, it's a national effort. Black, white, male, female, like the only way this is going to change this is if everybody keeps coming together. People who are conservative or didn't want to speak up or say anything. You've got to speak up. You just got to speak up.
REPORTER: You mentioned training or Mr. Miller, is it time to overhaul training all together? I mean, it seem in all these cases, usually the officers actually do that training. Is it the nature of training or -
STEWART: Yes. It's - we've covered a million of these. What - what is - we know there are so many loopholes. There is no clear time of when to shoot, when not to shoot. It's always in the mind of that officer. Well, sometimes that mental state of that officer is not OK. They're not well. They're not - you know, they're too angry, they're too upset. It should be - this wouldn't have happened if there's, you cannot shoot someone unless they're pointing a gun at you or unless they're brandishing a gun, you just can't shoot him.
You can't shoot him if they have a taser. You can't shoot him if they have a knife and they're 50 feet away or you go to jail. There's just there aren't definite rules like that. Lawyers have rules. Doctors have definite rules.
You can't leave something in somebody's body but with police officers there's so much gray area. When being a police officer is the most powerful job in this country. There's no other job where you could take someone's life, liberty or freedom. You just - there's no job that is as powerful as a police officer. They should be up on the standard of doctors and lawyers and looked at like that but they're not. And that's got to change.
MILLER: To that training question you just asked. It does need to be overhauled. We need to focus more on de-escalation and less on militarization. The police officers, they walk around these neighborhoods. They have flag jackets on. Some of them have ARs and other assault type rifles.
They are armed to the T and then they're walking around people, intimidating and inciting of fear. There used to be a time when police officers would walk around and you know their names. They know your name. They know where you went to school and your mom and all that kind of stuff.
That time is over especially in the black community. I mean, I don't really remember a time that that has been the case in the black community and now that time is completely over so we need to focus the police department more on de-escalation and if officers are going to be in the community, check and see how - how close these two offices live to that community that they were policing.
I guarantee you they live nowhere near there, right? And if they did, check to see what kind of contacts they had in the community. Did they go to church there? Did their kids go to school in that community? I guarantee you the answer's going to no because if they did, they would understand that hey, these are people too and maybe I can deal with them the same way I deal with the people who live close to me and that had a lot to do with empathy like I said before and training for de- scalation and not militarization.
STEWART: And that's where we cut it in you know, the system trying to solve this policing issue. We'll be releasing our thoughts and ideas over what changes we think could in this from having handled so many of these because something's got to happen other than just lawsuits and asking for arrests but thank you all.
As for the family, it will be speaking on Monday. They need to see what time. Thank you all.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, there you have it. Very strong words from these two lawyers representing Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year old African-American man who was shot and killed by police last night at a Wendy's drive-thru restaurant.
I want to show our viewers what's going on in the streets of Atlanta right now. Large crowds are gathering right now. They are clearly seeking to shut down Interstate 75. Natasha Chen, before we get some analysis of what we just heard from these two lawyers, very strong words from Chris Stewart and Justin Miller. Tell us what you're seeing right now. You're on the scene for us. What is this? Interstate 75?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes exactly. So the protesters have tried to get onto the freeway. They were going up the hill, up the ramp, obviously with officers trying to stop that from happening and then you have another group of people, crowds that are still gathered on the street below.
So they're sort of scattered throughout the area, all along the street close to the Wendy's where this incident first happened and you know, that there are - it's really urging people to join them on the interstate which of course police are trying to discourage.
Now about I would say 30 minutes ago, on the ground, on the street closer to the Wendy's, there was a group gathered around a squad car, sort of blocking it in and at that point, there was some tear gas deployed. There was a flash bang and people really dispersed and ran in different directions but they - they sort of regrouped and started walking towards the freeway ramps at that point. Wolf.
BLITZER: Very - the crowd seems to be getting bigger and bigger so I guess the police are just allowing these folks to stand on this freeway Interstate 75. Right now there doesn't seem to be any effort to remove them, right?
CHEN: At this moment, it looks like they're sort of - I don't know what the right term would be, not a stalemate but they're sort of staring at each other. I will say that there are police squad cars and other law enforcement.
I think I saw state troopers you know, helping to block the freeway ramps with their vehicles but of course that has not stopped people from just running up the hill side up to the Interstate.
So they had made an attempt to stop people using their squad cars at the base of the ramps and of course at this another freeway ramp on the other side, we were seeing a line of troopers and officers forming - forming a line themselves to try and stop people from entering the ramp.
But again like I said, that didn't stop people from going around and just going up the grassy hill up to the Interstate, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we saw them as we were watching the news conference with the two lawyers representing Rayshard Brooks. We saw people beginning to climb that little hill up to Interstate 75. There you see the live pictures coming in right now and Natasha, tell us what happened earlier.
You were telling us briefly, there was a real standoff between police outside that Wendy's restaurant. They were trying to get their car removed and some of the protesters were blocking them. It was a very, very tense moment. We were watching.
CHEN: Yes, actually that wasn't in front of the Wendy's directly. It was across the street at a liquor store. It looks like there's some movement now. Looks like people are coming down the hill. I guess police are trying to disperse this group as well. BLITZER: Yes, looks like police cars beginning to - to make a move to remove these folks from Interstate 75, a major Interstate, a major freeway in the Atlanta era - area but go ahead.
CHEN: Yes, and so earlier it was a group that was surrounding a squad car by a liquor store across the street from the Wendy's and I believe it's because that squad car was sort of locked in and you know, we were trying to observe what was happening but from a safe distance and so I don't know exactly what happened right up in front.
What we saw next was tear gas and people running in all directions and a flash bang after that.
BLITZER: Stand by because I don't want you to go too far away, Natasha. I want to bring in Cedric Alexander, the former President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, a former Public Safety Director of DeKalb county near the - in the Atlanta area in Georgia.
Cedric, what do you think about this situation. You heard those two lawyers representing Rayshard Brooks but now you see the standoff, a very tense situation in Atlanta.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER DEPUTY MAYOR, ROCHESTER, NY: Well, what we're looking at Wolf, is kind of reminiscent of where we were a week, two weeks ago unfortunately. I just hope in all this that the protesters that are out there, that they remain peaceful because if their response is in response to the loss of the life of this young man that happened last night then the only way their voice is going to be heard is they can you know, that they can peacefully protest and carry out that mission.
But it's important that they do so but you know Wolf, you and I have been here before. We were here back in 2014, doing Michael Brown in subsequent cases that occurred and here we are again, back here tonight and something is going on in this country that we're going to truly have to address.
And at this point for me and someone who's been in law enforcement, had been in law enforcement, a very long time and someone who has practiced as a psychologist, I would tell you this country is hurting. People are afraid, people are frightened. People are sad, people are angry and people don't like feeling that way anymore.
And I'll tell you Wolf, for someone like myself who spent all my life pretty much in public safety, it really hurts me as I'm quite sure it does many other chiefs and sheriffs across this country, when we hear that people don't trust us anymore and then we have situations to arise and whether they were justified or not, at this very moment, in the eyes of people across this country, there are only thing that they have in their mind are the images that they saw, a week ago, two weeks ago, three weeks ago.
So it's hard for many people to move from this place but we do have to give the investigative body there in Georgia, the GBI, an opportunity to do their investigation, to complete it and to afford whatever they're able to reveal to the public but people - it is hard for people to have any patience, it's very hard for people at this very moment to feel that they can trust.
But I encourage them. we've seen the work of the GBI. They have always been fair and balanced. I worked with them when I was there in DeKalb county as Public Safety Director.
They responded to a number of officer-involved shootings I was involved in. They are thorough. They are fair and if you go back to Arbery case just a couple of weeks ago, they were able to come in, do an investigation and come to some resolve about what needs to be done.
So I'm just hoping in light of what's going on in this country today, that we allow all evidence to present itself because we still have not seen and heard from other people such as you've heard the attorneys even spoke tonight. There's, I think statements there based on what we've heard so far.
So I'm - my concern right now is that that community in Atlanta and across this country is that people march peacefully and because I don't want them to lose focus of their concern because I want people in America and around the world to hear them.
But they can't hear anything when it turns to violence.
BLITZER: Stand by Cedric, I want to bring back Marc Morial, the President, CEO of the National Urban League, a former Mayor of New Orleans. Marc, you - you were watching the two lawyers representing Rayshard Brooks, L. Chris Stewart, Justin Miller. They were very, very strong, very powerful words they were uttering.
And now you see these protesters, they've climbed up that hill, they've shut down Interstate 75 in Atlanta. I'm sure you know the area well. I know the area well myself and so there's no traffic on the Interstate right now so give us your analysis Marc, what's happening in Atlanta right now in the aftermath of this police shooting of Rayshard Brooks at that Wendy's.
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT & CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: I think the two lawyers could not have been clearer in indicating what in fact, this case is all about. This man was shot in the back while fleeing and he was using a taser which is not a deadly weapon.
I think importantly Wolf, that part of this matter, that part of this case and then at the beginning, what in fact calls the tussle between the police officers and the gentleman. What caused that at the beginning of the case? Did the officers act in a provocative way, in a way that escalated the conversation?
It would be very troubling to me if they sought to arrest him without conducting a field sobriety test or calling out for the breath analyser truck to come out and - and and determine whether or not, he in fact broke the law. In any material or substantial way, whether he was feeling bad or he
was sick so the lawyers, I think laid this matter out and enough is enough, Wolf. See, this is an accumulation of cases which seem to just get a pattern. An unarmed black man is shot by the police either fleeing or not doing anything threatening or provocative.
It was unnecessary use of force in this instance. Look, what is changing our perspective is the availability of videos. The availability of tapes, our ability to see it with our own eyes, Make our own judgment and make our own determination so what I say to people if they say, it's more happening now than before.
I don't think so. I just think there's more transparency, more visibility. We can see and the old lies and stories and cover ups are much, much more difficult and advance now. If these officers picked up those shell cases, they were determined to tamper with the scene of a crime, that alone is causation for not only a prosecution but also for them to lose their jobs.
So the protesters in Atlanta as I mentioned, this is accumulating, it's the George Floyd, it's the Ahmaud Arbery situation on the situation, it's a Breonna Taylor situation and it's also in Atlanta, the two prior cases, one with the two college students, the other with the woman who was thrown to the ground and broke her clavicle that has certainly got the community in a protest mindset.
And that protest mindset, I think it's going to continue. One thing I'll say is it's one thing and I think everyone agrees that the protesters should be peaceful but also the police can't be provocative and escalate. I have a big problem with the use of tear gas which creates chaos, creates confusion and sometimes can escalate the situation beyond where it ought to be.
Final thing I'll say Wolf, just in this commentary is the Justice in Policing Act now pending before the Congress, I think people understand why there needs to be a powerful federal response.
The Justice in Policing Act is that federal response. It doesn't solve the problem by itself but it would be the most powerful statement of the Congress of the United States to make at this time on this issue.
BLITZER: Yes, All right Marc, I want you to stand by. Cedric, everybody, Natasha is with us. Joey Jackson is still with us. Cornell William Brooks is going to be joining us. We're staying on top of the breaking news right now. You saw what was going on Interstate 75.
Protesters shutting it down effectively and now it looks like they're moving to under that Interstate 75. Elsewhere in the area, Natasha Chen is still with us. She's going to update all of our viewers on these late breaking developments, this in the aftermath of the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, 27-years old at a Wendy's drive-thru. Much more of our special coverage right here in the Situation Room after a quick break.
BLITZER: All right, once again I want to update our viewers on what's going on in Atlanta right now and we'll show our viewers some live pictures once we can reconnect with our photo journalist and Natasha Chen, our journalist on the scene.
Right now, we got some aerial shots coming in, angry protesters, very angry protesters shutting down Interstate 75 in Atlanta, a major freeway in Atlanta right now as a result of the killing of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year old African-American man who was at a Wendy's drive- thru.
He was in his car, he apparently fell asleep. Police showed up, others were driving around him in the drive-thru and then the situation got very tense and awful lasers were shot. He had a laser and in the end the police shot and killed him as he was trying to run away and we just heard from the two lawyers representing Rayshard Brooks' family.
L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller make very passionate very intense statements about why this was certainly wrong and you can see the protesters still there. Interstate 75, that whole area has now been shut down. It's a tense situation. We're waiting to see if the police try to clear that Interstate.
I assume at some point they will but right now who knows what's going to happen. It's 9:30 PM in Atlanta here on the east coast of the United States. You can see the cars backed up. You can see police on the scene. This is not a very good situation right now.
We've been getting analysis from all of our guests and our analysts. I want to bring in Cornell William Brooks, the former President, CEO of the NAACP who's with us as well. Cornell, you and I have been on these situations many times over the years but you know Atlanta, you see what's going on.
The mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance bottoms. She basically accepted the resignation of the Atlanta police chief Erika Shields who will get another job apparently in the police department. There's an interim Police Chief in Atlanta right now but this situation Cornell, is very tense.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: It's for a reason. The lightning speed or seemingly lightning speed resignation of the Atlanta police chief is compared in the hearts and minds of people to the glacial speed that we made with respect to police brutality over the years.
So Rayshard Brooks looks a lot like Walter Scott back in 2015. That is to say shot in the back. Wolf, how many of us have been in a drive- thru in a parking lot as a consequence of overwork, sleep deprivation, falling asleep in a - in a parked vehicle?
Many of us. How do we go from that to a 27-year old man being shot in the back. This is a metaphor for the state of policing in this country, where you have 1000 people killed by the police every year in Georgia. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating - has been called from that state 48 police-involved homicides this year.
The point being is we have altogether too much killing, way too much killing of black people but certainly other people so much so that police homicide is the 6th leading cause of death of people Rayshard Brooks' age.
That is to say young black men. This is a tense situation and this is a tense situation not as a consequence of the anger and the reaction of the protesters but the inaction of police departments across this country. That's where we are.
BLITZER: What does it say to you Cornell, that we've been about almost three weeks, we've been seeing protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 46- years old and then all of a sudden, we see another incident along these lines and we see the video.
We're showing our viewers the video that has been obtained by CNN, very disturbing video I must say indeed. What does it say to you that we see another example along these lines that it's - it's still happening?
WILLIAMS BROOKS: What it says is for every police officer, every police chief, every mayor, every governor, every president who says that police homicide, police brutality, this pandemic of police misconduct is a matter of a few bad apples.
It says that they are tragically, sadly, obviously mistaken. This is a top to bottom problem in policing. Be clear about this. In 2015 when Walter Scott was killed, that was like the Great Recession of policing in terms of trust. We are now in the Great Depression in terms of distrust of the police.
This means we have to call for the whole scale transformation of policing in this country, not just from the bottom up, police department by police department, hash tag by hash tag, human being by human being but from the top down as well.
Calling the police unions to the table. They have got to take responsibility. Congress is beginning to take action but Wolf, I'll tell you this. One thing I'd like to see is a national summit on police brutality convened by former presidents, have them convene. Clinton, President - Former President Bush, or Carter, Obama, calling the nation together, calling activists together, calling police unions, police chiefs, academics, philanthropists, business leaders to the table to
talk about transforming policing from the bottom up as well as from the top down.
There's not a moment to waste. How many more -
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment Cornell. Marc Morial, the President, CEO of the National Urban League is still with us and I want to set the scene, what we're seeing right now. Marc, I don't know if you can you can see this, these are aerial shots.
Interstate 75, huge Interstate in around the Atlanta area. There's a standoff right now on the one side are protesters, they're blocking Interstate 75 and you see a lot of cars backed up. There's police on the scene. The protesters are not moving.
Many of them ran away but many of them are still there blocking Interstate 75. You see more police, I assume on the scene there. They want to reopen this major interstate but there's angry protesters, they're very upset about what happened last - late last night at this Wendy's in Atlanta. What do you think?
MORIAL: Wolf, the protests are going to continue and I think what you see in Atlanta will continue, it will continue into tomorrow, into next week and into next month all across this nation, people using their first amendment rights, their right to freedom of speech, their right to peacefully assemble, their right to petition the government for the redress of grievances.
This is in a time in our American tradition and while it may be uncomfortable to see the Interstate blocked, it's in the tradition of the civil disobedience of Dr. King. It's a message being sent to those high and mighty. It's a message being sent to police leadership across the nation. It's a message being sent to the Congress that change is necessary and change must come now.
We don't need any more commissions. We don't need any more studies. We don't need any more think tanks. The ideas are on the table and I think at this point the rebuilding of police departments from top to bottom is essential. What we saw here was a comedy of mistakes.
Well, I shouldn't say comedy of mistakes, a tragedy of mistakes in Atlanta from the very beginning, all the way until this man lost his life and we see this all too often. Too many black people, over 1000 in the last five years alone have been killed by the police.
125 of them unarmed. These numbers are alarming. It's taking the lives of our kids, our children. It's taking the lives of our young, young, our little brothers, our fathers, uncles. These are human beings whose lives are being taken by those who have a badge and who hold a gun so I expect the protest to continue and I think look, it is inconvenient but police should not use aggressive tactics to clear that highway at this instance.
It will make a difficult situation worse. That's what's important. How do you de-escalate the situation? People are upset and I understand that it is an Interstate highway but the use of force on essentially peaceful protesters does no good at this point in this situation.
So I think it's a balancing act in terms of what the police should and should not do and certainly the protesters are rightfully angry and upset all across the nation but what Atlanta should do is what every other city should do.
They need to start right now in terms of how they rebuild their department and it's from top to bottom, from hiring to training to discipline, etcetera.
BLITZER: And we're showing our viewers, aerial shot - aerial shots from the Wendy's where this incident occurred last night after 10:00 PM. All of a sudden Rayshard Brooks, he fell asleep in his car in the drive-thru.
Other cars were going around. The police showed up and then the situation deteriorated, resulting in the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks. Natasha Chen is joining us on the phone right now. Natasha, I understand you were there on Interstate 75 and then something happened.
Update our viewers on what you and our photo journalist with you saw and what happened to you guys.
CHEN: Right. So after you saw the people gathered on the freeway, there was a much larger group so we moved everyone back to the Wendy's on the ground level of course that is where this incident happened last night and so a very large group started walking down the street down University Avenue toward that Wendy's and there were maybe two or three individuals that began throwing objects at the Wendy's windows and broke the glass and couple of them went inside and I saw another person trying to set fire to one of the umbrellas in the patio area outside the Wendy's.
Our photojournalist, our producer and I, we were trying to get video of what was happening and there were protesters very angry that we were recording this and tried to block our cameras, to block those, also the journalist's camera and also my cell phone while I was taking video.
And at that time, they got aggressive and our camera, our CNN camera was broken and so we, as it turns decided to drop out of that area so right now you know, we've left the immediate area but that - that scene has deteriorated there and I could see that there are other people in the crowd you know, asking me why are they doing this or they doing those while others were egging them on.
So a lot of different reactions as to whether that is the right choice to go after the Wendy's building.
BLITZER: So I just want to be clear Natasha. You were there. You had a photo journalist, you also had a producer. There were three of you. Did you have any security with you?
CHEN: One, yes. One security person who was helping us out as just another set of eyes to keep a look out for us and you know I think and actually I should back up a little bit, I think we had two photojournalist actually. One with the camera and another person who was operating live view that would help us to all of you, to broadcast the images to you.
So there were four - five of us and it just got a bit chaotic and in the moment, I was trying to record cell phone video while the photojournalist was trying to record a video on his camera, the next thing I know, I'm turning around, I see these two protesters really going after the camera and that's when I was told that we should get out of there.
BLITZER: And they broke your camera which is obviously very disturbing. First of all, Natasha, you and our CNN colleagues and friends, are you OK? I believe that we are. I've heard from our producer. I think we in the immediate moment had to leave and of course because of the various road blockages we had to go in slightly different directions.
But I believe we all are doing fine.
BLITZER: I want you to be very careful Natasha. This is obviously a tense situation there near that Wendy's and we saw the windows now have been broken at that Wendy's. We saw some actually going inside and so just to be up precise, they were threatening you and your photojournalist, your producer and as a result you did you did the right thing and tried to get away.
That's not the kind of situation you want to stay in, a very tense situation unfolding. These are live pictures. We're showing our viewers, this Interstate 75 in Atlanta which has not been blocked by protesters and the police would like to reopen this whole area.
There you see the aerial shot from Wendy's and you see some actually getting close to that Wendy's right now. Stand by Natasha. I want you to catch your breath. Be careful out there and fortunately, I hope all of you, our CNN crew and you are OK. It's a very, very tough situation.
Joey Jackson is with us, our CNN legal analyst, a criminal defense attorney and Joey, as we're watching these pictures, you heard the two lawyers, L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller make the case why the killing by a police - by police of Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year old man at that Wendy's.
We're showing you pictures - we're showing our viewers pictures of that Wendy's right now, was totally without justice without justification and all. What was your reaction when you heard the powerful words from those two attorneys?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They made a very compelling case, Wolf and here we go again. We are in such a difficult state of affairs in this country and when you look at the protesters, when you look at them there in Atlanta, when you look at them in LA and New York and around the country, you'll notice that they're multi-cultural.
And I think that means that people are getting to understand that something is wrong, something is amiss as it relates to the treatment of people of color by you know, African-Americans and other people of color by law enforcement.
What is happening? We're in the midst of a fundamental debate. That debate is even gone so far as to speak to the issue of defunding the police which means different things to different people. Does it mean taking away all the resources or the redirection of the resources and so that's a conversation we have to have. Why?
Because we look at instances like this and people ask the fundamental question and that is did the person have to die? Are there other reasonable alternative measures that could have been employed such that a life is preserved? Are people being seen of color as less men? Are they not looked at as fathers, as sons, as brothers, as uncles, as people like anyone else.
And if you look at people in that way perhaps, your interactions with them Wolf, are more fair, are more appropriate and it doesn't lead to that and so to the legal issues briefly Wolf, we want to look and we want to examine what led to that. Why did it get there?
Was there not an interaction and a discussion that took place such that the matter could have been tamped and ramped down. Could have been de-escalated, could have been dealt with like anybody else. How are you today? Tell me what's going on? Are you sleeping here? What's the story? Why did it get to a tussle in the first instance?
And then when we move from there to see him running away, OK, you're running away. Do you need to shoot the person? We could talk about the legal structures. Yes, number one, was there the immediate threat that the officer felt to their life or were they in threat of serious physical injury. They knew he had a taser.
Was it necessary to fire, to shoot and kill? Then you look Number 2, Wolf, that was that proportionate to the threat that the person posed at the time and Number 3, was that a reasonable response and so that is what's upsetting so many people.
Why does it end in death as opposed to something else and until we can get to the core of that question and have a dialogue with communities and have officers interacting with people in a way where they're from the community, can relate to the community and don't have to shoot and kill a person in the community, we're going to be talking about this day and night and that is a very sad state of affairs.
BLITZER: It is a sad state of affairs. Joey, you heard L. Chris Stewart, one of the attorneys representing Rayshard Brooks, the man who was shot by police last night and at one point and he's been doing this for many years he said, I don't know. I don't know what justice is anymore. He got so frustrated and angry when he saw what was going on there.
He made the point as you're making, there was really no need to shoot and kill this 27-year old man and then we heard from Justin Miller, the other attorney representing Rayshard Brooks saying the police instead of trying to de-escalate what was a very tense situation, they were engaged in confrontation and intimidation.
This is going to be a long process that we're about to go through right now and you see what's still going on Joey, on Interstate 75. Protesters have blocked off this major interstate in the Atlanta area right now. Cars are backed up now presumably for miles and miles. Police are not moving yet to try to disperse this crowd but I can only
imagine, what is about to unfold, Joey.
JACKSON: Listen, we have a very fundamental first amendment right in this country that has been exercised over the course of years. Based upon those first amendment freedoms where people spoke up when and didn't sit down. That gives me the ability to have this conversation with you tonight and so I think the fact is, is that people are taking a stand and they're saying enough is enough. Back to the lawyers and what they did.
Yes, I'm very familiar. I know Chris - Chris Stewart and I think the family will be very well served but you know what he mentioned, he's losing faith and it's very easy to understand why he would be. Look, I'm hopeful that we can get this together but the hope does begin to wane when you see interaction after interaction Wolf, when you see death after death, when you see instances which could potentially be avoided that are not avoided.
Is it a training issue? Is it an issue where the police needs to come from the communities they're serving. is it an issue where people need to respect and understand that people are human beings, no matter the color, no matter the shade.
I don't know what the critical core matter is but the core matter here has to be fixed and it has to be fixed by the collective and I think again, what impresses me is that these crowds are multi-cultural. It is a movement that is joined by any person of good will who understands that enough is enough and until we take the measures to get police on the same page as their communities, we're going to see these protests but the critical point Wolf, and I'll end here is what these protests lead to.
And if they could lead to meaningful change then I think that's appropriate and I will tell you here in New York, our legislature - I spoke to our speaker just last week before they passed that measure. They looked to pass legislation that protects communities, that makes officers records public with regard to their disciplinary records, which bans chokehold, which does other things to reform policing and make people feel safe.
So when you call the police, they're going to help and protect you and serve you which is their core mission and ultimately hopefully, we'll have less deaths.
BLITZER: Joey, stand by. Cornell William Brooks is with us, the former President and CEO of the NAACP. Cornell, this is clearly you can see it. Now we can see some smoke coming up. I don't know if there's a fire or what's going on but this is a very tense situation on I-75 in the Atlanta area right now.
That Wendy's, we can see that, the windows have been smashed in and people have been breaking into that Wendy's where the incident occurred last night. Rayshard Brooks, 27-years old was shot and killed by police. They discovered him in his car. He had fallen asleep in the drive-thru lane and then all of a sudden that situation deteriorated. Cornell, how are we going to get out of this tense situation right now?
WILLIAM BROOKS: Wolf, here one thing I'll note Wolf. My mother lives in Atlanta. She marched with Congressman Clyburn back in the 1960s peacefully and non-violently where they and many other protesters in the civil rights movement were confronted by violent police. We condemned the violence then in Birmingham and Selma.
We have to condemn the violence now in Atlanta DN and - and in New York and cities across the country. The way we get out of this situation is not merely calling upon the protesters to be non-violent, to call upon the police to be non-violent and that means passing national legislation, enacting a local policy across the 18,000 police departments around the country.
But we got to be clear about this. We know what to do. We simply need to generate the local and national will and a sense of urgency. We got to be clear about this. The fact that we really have people around the world protesting in the midst of a pandemic says a couple things.
It says yes, people are outraged. Yes, the people are angry but it also says that people have frustrated hope. That is to say, they're frustrated that their hope that reform and transformation can come about, that it has not come about.
I believe that it can and this is the moment. We've been here before. Wolf, we - Ferguson, Charleston, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we've been here time and time and time again but the moment has arrived. We are in midnight out in our democracy. The people are calling for transformation of these police departments.
Congress must act. City councils must act. Police departments must act and I honestly believe, deeply believe, we need a national summit to call the people together, to bring these police union, all the partners to the table and - and take advantage of this tragic moment to bring about an end to 21st century lynching.
BLITZER: All right, stand by. Our legal analyst Areva Martin is watching all of this unfold. I want her to give us her thoughts so this is just a reset Areva. You're looking fire now that has been set in that area. These are the protesters obviously very angry, over the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks last night at that Wendy's.
The standoff there continues. Interstate 75 is not open. They would like to reopen it, the police I'm sure, there are miles and miles of cars that are backed up on both lanes, both sides of that interstate. The protesters are standing firm though and we're seeing the situation, the tension Areva, clearly escalate. what do you think?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, this is just such a tragic day in the midst of fighting for police reform and seeing people come together all over the world to demand change, we now have yet another death of an unarmed African-American man at the hands of a white police officer. I think what's so tragic about this case, it reminds me of so many
cases where we've seen black men running away from the police and clearly, there were things that could have been done from a police standpoint to de-escalate the situation yet a simple interaction with the police turns into a deadly encounter.
And I know there are lots of experts who say we need to have more meetings, we have to have to bring people to the table but I guess for me at this point, the frustration is so high amongst advocates and protesters and-and people of good conscience and black mothers like myself that for me this is about reimagining public safety in this country.
We can't keep doing the same thing, accepting you know - expecting that there's going to be a different result. That's you know the definition of insanity here and that's what this feels like to me as big as this moment is, as much as we hear people say it's big.
I mean conversations with the police and with the elected officials in the city of Los Angeles and I don't really sense that at that level, we are really moving towards those kind of systemic changes that's going to ever put an end to the kind of death that we witnessed on the videotape with Mr. Brooks, with Mr. Floyd and the list is just so long.
We - we can't keep asking for incremental change. That's why we're hearing about disbanding and dismantling and although some people get really nervous about that, I think those big bold ideas have to be on the table if we're ever going to address the systemic issues that treat police who treat African-Americans as suspects and criminals, rather than as citizens.
And that's what I think I saw on this videotape. Two white police officers who were down right angry at this black man who took their taser, who's running to get away, rather than de-escalate, wait for back up, try to box him in, they then shoot him as he's running away. Just absolutely no justification for that but yet until we start thinking about reimagining public safety in this country, we will continue see that kind of lawlessness by police officers.
BLITZER: And you can see on the left part of your screen, aerial shots, a lot of police cars now coming to that area, the Interstate which is totally blocked off by protesters and you can see - you don't see the protesters right now but you see a you see a lot of back up, a lot of police officers showing up over there.
They clearly want to clear up this interstate. If we lose that banner, I think we'll - we'll see, there are the protesters right there. They're not budging, at least not yet and they're standing firm in this area. They - they don't want to give up their protesting at least not yet.
We'll see if that changes. You know Marc Morial is still with us as well, the President and CEO of the National Urban League, the former mayor of New Orleans. Marc, how do they are resolve this? How do they get the protesters to move peacefully away, continue their protesting and stop blocking this - this interstate which is causing a major back up, not very far from the Wendy's, there you see an aerial shot of that Wendy's where that incident occurred last night and you see a fire that's still blazing over there not too far away from that Wendy's.
MORIAL: - Communities in a mood to easily cooperate police when the anger and the outrage is as directed after police in the aftermath of the death of this man. Wolf. I think that this is not going to be easy situation to defuse, to de-escalate but I did want to add this because I think when we think about de-escalation at the very end, when this gentleman was stopped, when this gentleman first encountered the police.
They had an option. If he was sleeping in his car. One option would have been to call EMS. To call for a wellness check and when we talk about a re-imagination of policing, part of their skill is to find different ways to respond to situations in communities as opposed to the police responding.
And in this instance, in this instance, this gentleman may have needed medical attention. In this instance as one earlier commentator offered an observation, he could have been asked to pull his car to the side. The officers could have assisted him in finding his way home.
If they did not conduct the field sobriety test as some of the witnesses indicated, then what probable cause did they have to detain him or to arrest him. So we need to make sure we look at the front of this case because obviously the escalation of the incident appears to have been caused by the actions of the officers.
But this reimagination of policing which I strongly support, this rethinking of policing has to take place at the local level. And I think mayors particularly have to take the leadership to begin to do this and we can't leave the elephant out.
And the elephant in the room in many communities are police shootings that have entirely too much power, entirely too much say and who take the position that they're going to defend their officers when they're absolutely wrong.
So there's a lot to do and I think the protests are simply going to continue for the foreseeable future Wolf, because people are finding their voice, they're finding a way to express themselves on a very difficult issue and they're standing up to racism, they're standing up to hatred and the police and police brutality and police misconduct is the linchpin in this country.
Those protests and I went to the one in Washington DC earlier today, are like a community gathering with young people, older people, people from all backgrounds. It was a powerful sight, it was a positive sight as people rallied for positive cause.
Sometimes the pictures which may focus on the conflict don't capture the essence of what most people out there are protesting for. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, everybody stand by. We're looking at these live pictures coming from in from Atlanta right now. We want to once again welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. This is the special edition of The Situation Room and we've been following the breaking news in Atlanta.
It's been the site of protest for 19 straight days following the killing of George Floyd but tonight a new name being chanted there. That name being Rayshard Brooks. Right now protesters, they've shut down an entire interstate in the Atlanta area. Interstate 75.
They also have appeared to have a set a fire, they're looting where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed last night during a police altercation that too2k place at that Wendy's drive-thru, that restaurant that occurred last night. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says police were called around 10.