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THE SITUATION ROOM
Protests Grow in Atlanta over Deadly Police Shooting; Protesters Shut Down Interstate in Atlanta. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired June 13, 2020 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: They also have appeared to have set a fire. They're looting where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed last night during a police altercation. That's at that - that Wendy's drive-thru, that restaurant, that occurred last night. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations says police were called around 10:30 p.m. last night about a man sleeping in a car in a Wendy's drive-thru.
Police say Brooks failed a field sobriety test. His lawyers now, they deny that. Then they - then they say he resisted arrest. We have videos of what ensued and I'm going to walk you through the videos right now, but I want to warn our viewers here in the United States and around the world, the videos are disturbing.
Look at this one. In this video taken by a bystander, you can see a struggle. The yellow object in the officer's hand is a taser. Eventually, Brooks appears to swing at an officer before taking off with his taser. Watch this.
Surveillance video released by the GBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, picks up where that video ends. What you're about to see is Brooks running from the police. At one point, he appears to turn back towards the police officers and discharge the taser before turning back around and continuing to run. You then see him fall to the ground and once again this video is disturbing.
There's the moment Rayshard Brooks appears to discharge the taser. The officer fires once more in slow motion.
Here's what the attorneys representing the Brooks family say happened next. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
L. CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS' FAMILY: We talked to some witnesses today who said that the officers went and put on plastic gloves and picked up their shell casings after they killed him, before rendering aid. We counted 2 minutes and 16 seconds before they even checked his pulse. And people wonder why everyone's mad.
Just watch the video as he lays there dying, the officers stand around. One kicks him and flips him over. And then the witnesses tell us that, which we can't see on camera, but they filmed it. They went and picked up the shell casings. I wonder why.
So that all of you can't know how far away he was when they shot. So that you can't find their positions when they used that weapon? But they appeared to be carrying more about covering their tracks than providing aid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Chris Stewart, one of the attorneys representing the Brooks family right now.
CNN's Natasha Chen, she's been following the story all day. She's there for us right on the scene.
Natasha, first of all, I know you were -- you were - I guess confronted by some of the protesters, you and our crew. First of all, are you OK? Is the crew, is the photojournalists, the producers, our security guy, everybody OK right now? I just want to update our viewers.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, thank you for asking, Wolf. We all kind of regrouped back at CNN Center. So, I think we're meeting back here to continue covering this story.
As we discussed with you earlier, the protesters were very angry. Some of them were very angry about us filming the people who were destroying the Wendy's building. We saw that people were throwing things at the windows, breaking the glass and setting fire to one of the patio umbrellas. And I was trying to record some of that on my cell phone while our photojournalists were recording that with our CNN camera. And that's when a few of them got very aggressive with them and our camera broke.
And I do want to say that I have been in touch with Rayshard Brooks family in the last 15 minutes or so. I saw them this evening in the crowd right after tear gas was deployed, and that's when his cousin who spoke with us on camera earlier today told me he really wanted the protesters to know -- he wanted this to be peaceful tonight. And when I was at the Wendy's you know trying to record some of this. I spotted him you know in the crowd.
And so, I texted him just now to say, you know, are you OK? And he said, yes, I left, because I didn't want any part of that. So that's at least how the cousins are reacting right now.
BLITZER: And it looks like something's going on Interstate 75 right there. You see police, you see some of the protesters, clearly the police want to clear that Interstate 75 to allow traffic to resume. But that stand-off clearly is continuing right now. Natasha, one thing -- explain what you know, and you've spoken to the family, you've spoken to others there on the scene. How this escalated to the degree that it has?
CHEN: Yes. You know, that's when it - when it was earlier in the evening, I even saw families out there with their babies. They have brought their children to protest peacefully. And I would say up until 8:00, 8:30 we were still seeing just a large crowd standing in the middle of the intersection chanting the names of people who had been killed at the hands of police and you know peacefully standing there.
With -- I would say it was maybe closer to 9:00 when people started really gathering at a liquor store on that corner, in the parking lot of it, which is just you know half a block from the Wendy's. And there were folks gathering around a police squad car and blocking that car in.
That's when things started to get a little bit more aggressive. And we could tell from a safe distance that police were trying to get that vehicle out of there. And shortly after that is when the tear gas was deployed. And I think it just escalated from there.
From that point on, we saw people trying to get on to the ramp of the freeways. On different ramps, and you saw the people actually getting around the police line who had blocked the ramps, going up the grassy hill, up to the interstate. And when people felt that you know not the direction they wanted to go in, a group started directing everyone back to the Wendy's, and you know we could tell that there were some people very eager to you know destroy property and others in the crowd kind of asking, why are you doing this.
So, it started to have reactions. And by that point, of course, I no longer saw any of the family. But I had seen earlier with children, those people had all left.
BLITZER: Yes, because it was becoming very tense and potentially very dangerous as well. We saw the fires. We saw the windows broken at that Wendy's clearly. Some looting was beginning to go on at the same time.
And we're looking at these live pictures coming in from the interstate. I assume, police are trying to clear this area to get rid of the remaining protesters and let traffic resume. You can see huge - a huge number of police cars and a lot of traffic in that area right now. It's a very still, very, very tense situation.
I know, Natasha, that you heard the lawyers representing Rayshard Brooks' family say that this incident in the words of the attorneys have destroyed the image of policing once again. According to people you spoke to on the scene, did any of them actually have any positive image of the police going back nearly three weeks following the death of George Floyd?
CHEN: You know, a lot of these people I spoke to have been consistently protesting over the last 2 plus weeks. And you know the only hesitation I heard today was when I asked one of the protesters her reaction to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms calling for the termination of the officer involved in last night's incident. And she's the only one who said to me, I don't know about that. I don't have a comment about that. Because you know this was shortly after GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, have released the video, the surveillance video showing that. It seems as if Mr. Brooks had turned around in the last minute to point the taser at the officers.
And so, you know, you are looking at someone who pointed a taser at an officer, then the officer fired with a gun. And so, that's the only person who hesitated (INAUDIBLE). Everybody else who was out there on the streets, have been out there over the last couple of weeks, they are saying that this is an example of why more resources need to be redirected to other types of services. Who could have helped deal with this situation of a person sleeping in a vehicle in a drive-thru. And not have this escalate to the point where someone is shot in that drive-thru. So, when I ask people about what they view have rather seeing police do if a taser was pointed at them. Their answer to me often times has been, it should have never gotten to that point.
BLITZER: And very quickly, before I let you go, Natasha, and you're not going to be anywhere too -- for too long. What part of Atlanta are we -- is all of this unfolding in?
CHEN: Yes. This is south of Downtown at the Wendy's that we're talking about is on University Avenue and right by the interstate - Interstate 75.
BLITZER: I know Interstate 75 was a major, major interstate in the Atlanta and the Georgia area.
Stand by, Natasha, the attorney for the family of the man killed Rayshard Brooks, delivered a very emotional press conference just a little while ago. We had it live here on CNN. That attorney Chris Stewart is joining me now.
Chris, thank you so much for joining us. I watched all of your statement. I heard what Justin Miller, the other attorney, had to say. Both of you very, very strong, very, very powerful. You were visibly frustrated by what has happened in Atlanta over the past 24 hours.
Tell us why you're so frustrated over what has happened. Do you still have faith that the Atlanta Mayor, that the Atlanta police department will act quickly, decisively to investigate the killing of Rayshard Brooks?
L. CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: It's frustration and hurt. I mean, think about how long you and I have been talking about these cases and covering them. You covered Walter Scott five years ago. And we're right back in Walter Scott part two.
It's frustration, because I don't want to lose hope or faith in the police department. But at a certain point enough is enough. You know I'm one of those people as you know that I respect law enforcement, but I'm not respecting how it is affecting African Americans. It's going on too long, and it has to change. Everybody has to get off the sidelines. This isn't about being cop. This is anti-loss of life, loss of fathers and enough is enough.
BLITZER: Give us the context of what you're learning about how this shooting unfolded. We've heard that Rayshard Brooks was simply in his car, he fell asleep in the drive-thru, cars were going around him in this Wendy's, and then pick up what happened based on everything you've learned over the past 24 hours. Chris, pick up what happened next?
STEWART: Yes. We've been talking to witnesses and we've went to the scene. It was a nonviolent, noncriminal situation. I mean, he fell asleep in the drive-thru, which happens to people all across this country all the time. Witnesses said that he did not get a field sobriety test, there was a discussion with him and the officers, and suddenly they decided to try and put his hands behind his back. And, of course, like any person. He's wondering why, and he you know turned around like, why are you all trying to arrest me. And then it went from there.
And that's the problem, Wolf, where young African American males always end up dead from nonviolent situations where a discussion could have ended this. Why not talk to him as a human being and say, hey, buddy, maybe you had too much to drink. Leave your car here, take Uber.
I've seen it happen before. But that didn't happen, instead they got physical. He ran. He did have the taser. But according to law, a taser is not a lethal weapon. So, he didn't have a lethal weapon. He was running with the taser. And then they shot him. It's just it didn't need to happen. It didn't need to happen.
BLITZER: Yes. I mean, it's -- you know he - when you see the video, we're just showing our viewers, Chris, the video. He seems to turn around and fire that taser. Did he actually fire it because we do see a little flash there?
STEWART: No, we don't have any information on that. We actually don't know if that was the first shot where the glare of the taser, which has a light caught him getting shot the first time. But either way it goes, a taser is not a deadly weapon according to law enforcement.
I've had cases where officers have used tasers on my clients and their defense is, it's not a lethal weapon. So, you can't have it both ways. You did not have to kill him. You could have tracked him down, you had his license, you had his information, you had backup coming. Why kill him? That's just what hurts. Why kill him?
BLITZER: When I was watching your news conference, Chris, I really was moved when you said, and I'm paraphrasing you now. I don't know what justice is anymore. Just elaborate for our viewers what you meant by that.
STEWART: It's just Wolf - I mean, we just got back, you know, we also represent Gianna Floyd, George Floyd's daughter, we represent Ahmaud Arbery, as George council. I don't know what to tell the world any more about justice. We keep saying we want justice.
I don't even know what it is anymore. Do we want people fired? Do we want someone arrested?
We're losing hope. And when you lose hope, you have this chaos. I mean, of course, I don't want people burning down their own communities and burning down anything, but you lose hope and what's the answer.
There has to be a total reform of policing. The first thing that has to be drilled into officer's mind is de-escalation. Community. Community above a gun. It has to be that way, maybe if we start over from scratch, whatever it has to be, change the standards, the requirements. Police officers are the only job in this country where they can take your life, liberty and freedom. It's the most powerful job in this country.
BLITZER: Yes, and I was really moved. I'm sure our viewers were as well, Chris. When we heard you speak about Rayshard Brooks family, one of his daughters actually celebrating her eighth birthday this weekend. You spent time with the family. Tell us about that.
STEWART: Well, Wolf, just imagine, you know let's take color out of it. A human being is sitting in a living room with a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old climbing on them, an 8-year-old in her birthday dress waiting on her dad to come and pick her up and finish the birthday party they started yesterday. And knowing that he's not coming in that door. And that he died from a nonviolent offense. Yes, he shouldn't have hit the officer. Yes, they tussled. But he ran away and should have just been arrested for whatever it may be. But not murdered. You cannot be a judge, jury and executioner because you lost a scuffle.
We've seen too many videos where if he was white, that wouldn't have happened. And it's frustrating playing with someone's children again, in a situation where their dad should simply be alive. But for the decision of someone who pulled a trigger instead of having a conversation in the beginning.
So, I don't want to hear anything about what he shouldn't have fought them. He shouldn't have done this. They should have had a conversation with him in the beginning. And they should have let him run and catch him. And we didn't need Walter Scott part two.
BLITZER: Did that little 8-year-old girl celebrating her birthday this weekend, did she know her dad is dead?
STEWART: No, she doesn't understand. She thought that he was going to show up at any moment. Her mother who you will hear from Monday tried to you know generally explain. But children don't understand that concept fully. And it's just sad that all his children, the three girls and his little boy are going to have watch their dad be shot while running away when they get older. Just like Gianna is going to have to watch her father have a knee put on his neck. Just like Deaundre Phillips in Atlanta is going to - his child is going to have to watch her father be killed when he tried to run. Just like Desmond Marrow in Georgia, he's going to have to watch over and over again, him being slammed while handcuffed for no reason. And I could go on and on, but there's no need to list names because most people don't even care anymore.
BLITZER: So heartbreaking when we see these little kids who lose a father, Gianna, George Floyd's daughter. We saw her sweet little 6- year-old, and now we're seeing more kids who are going to be suffering without a father as a result of what happened late last night. How big -- and I know you've studied this for a long time, Chris. How serious is the problem in the Atlanta police department right now?
STEWART: Well, it's just not Atlanta, Wolf. It's everywhere. There has to be fundamental changes, not just to the policies and different things, but to the mentality. The mentality that of course officers have a tough job. I have great friends that are officers, but yes you have to carry a spear and a shield. And often you have to use the spear, but you're the shield of the community. You wear the shield on you, you're the shield, you protect the community above everything. You use the shield when someone has a gun and is running into school. Not when someone's sleeping at Wendy's. Too often that concept, the mentality has been lost. And I think that's just because of the divide of -- officers need to live in the community where they police. It's hard to kill a black body when you interact with it every day.
BLITZER: A really, really sad development indeed. We're showing our viewers, Chris, these live pictures coming in from Atlanta. You know the area, obviously, very, very well at that Wendy's, the interstate and some of the streets below. Protesters clearly still very, very angry, and they're still on the street. Police have a tough job to deal with all of this tonight. So, what's your message if you -- if they're watching right now, folks in Atlanta. Folks all over the country. What's your message to the protesters who continue to be outraged?
STEWART: Well, it's more to the people watching the outrage. People have been silent for years. They watched Walter Scott. They watched Alton Sterling. There were no violent protests like this. Understand the sense of helplessness, of, OK, if we're quiet and we're docile, that didn't work, they're still killing for no reason. If we're out rioting and the violence and protesting, that didn't work.
What are people supposed to do? Nobody condones violence because I just don't want more people arrested. That will ruin their lives. So, of course, that's not the answer, burning down your own community. But you have to give them some type of answer. Some type of definite change.
Not we're just going to institute a new taser policy. I did that in East Point. We got a policy changed, but you have to give them something concrete. We are changing the culture of policing. We're going to have officers from your community policing your community. We're going to have officers living there. We're going to change the mentality, where the first thing someone thinks is, I'm about to kill another human being who is not threatening my life. So, let me stop myself. Let him get away. And we'll find him later, because this wasn't a felony.
BLITZER: We've been showing our viewers, Chris. I don't know if you see it, but we've been showing pictures of the interstate. Looks like some cars are beginning to move over there. I'm not sure if these are just regular vehicles or police vehicles.
We've been showing pictures of what's happening below at that Wendy's. And I don't know if we can that picture. But Wendy's now seems to be on fire right now, looks like looters went in -- it looks like traffic is beginning to move on that Interstate 75, an area, Chris, you know, very, very well. But the fact that it is deteriorated. It was a peaceful protest that all of a sudden not so peaceful anymore, it -- and it -- that's a disturbing development.
STEWART: Yes. I mean, the family does not want his memory or name to end in flames and destruction. What they do want to end in is change fundamentally. And for this officer to be held accountable for using lethal force when that wasn't necessary. But you have to understand where --
BLITZER: By the way, we're showing Chris - excuse me for interrupting. This is the Wendy's, where the incident occurred last night. And you can see it's been torched and it's burning up right now. I don't see any you know any effort by the fire department to get to the scene. Maybe they can't get to the scene because the roads are all blocked. But this is the Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks was simply in that drive-thru. He was in his car. He fell asleep. And clearly, Wendy's had nothing to do with any of this, but the anger is clearly visible right there. You see this Wendy's now torched and burning up.
STEWART: It's frustration, Wolf. It is anger and pain of living this cycle over and over again. And, of course, that's not -- burning down a Wendy's is not going to fix anything, it's not going to change the situation. But what it is we've all got to come together. White, black, conservative, liberal, we've got to fix this, or this is what society will be.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a really sad situation. And give me your thought while I still have you, Chris. It happens less than three weeks after George Floyd was killed, 46 years old, in Minneapolis. And we saw - obviously, all of us saw that 8 minutes and 46 second video with that police officer, his knee on his neck and he died in the process. People were protesting. They filled 19 days, 20 days later they're still protesting right now. And then all of a sudden we see this incident involving Rayshard Brooks at this Wendy's. you know it's so doubly, triply, quadruple sad that this is unfolding here in the United States of America.
STEWART: It is. And 2020 has been something, but you have to look at the message. God is trying to tell the United States of America something in 2020.
You know normally these happen once a year, a couple times where some big cases -- they're happening back to back to back. He's trying to open our eyes to wake up, change this, and get to what you're supposed to be as a country.
BLITZER: Are you hopeful as you look down the road, you see this potentially, Chris, as a turning point or are we simply five years from now, you and I are going to have the same conversation?
STEWART: No. I'm hopeful. Because when we were in Minnesota marching for George Floyd's family, the diversity, I had never seen that before. When I look around the world and there's protests in different countries for George Floyd, just like there will be for this case. I've never seen so many people unifying for change for once. And that's the true power, when it's all of the people coming together to change. And that's why I won't lose hope and I'll keep fighting these cases. And I'll keep going against officers that do something like this. And I'll keep saying and acknowledging officers that do the right thing. But I have hope, and you can't lose hope. So -- you know.
BLITZER: Before I let you go, one final question, Chris. Walk us through the next steps, you're the attorney representing the Rayshard Brooks family right now. So, what happens in the coming days?
Keep getting more information. You know, in one day of investigating this, like we said, we found witnesses who said that the officers picked up their shell casings before rendering him aid. If you watch the video that was released by the GBI, 2 minutes and 16 seconds before they even touched him. They could have saved his life. Some more information will keep coming out. And we'll get down to the bottom of it. And we'll await the word from the district attorney on if charges are coming.
BLITZER: It looks like that traffic is beginning to move on that interstate over there. You can see the Wendy's. It's still blazing. It's still on fire right now. I don't see any firefighters on the scene at all. Very disturbing development.
Chris Stewart, I know you've got a lot going on, it was kind of you to join us, our viewers here in the United States and around the world --
STEWART: Yes, just don't lose hope.
BLITZER: -- are grateful to you. Thank you so much. You want to make a final point before I let you go?
STEWART: Just don't lose faith, anybody. Just don't lose faith. And that answers and change will come, as long as we keep demanding it.
BLITZER: We're not going to lose faith. We're going to demand change and we're with you. Thank you so much, L. Chris Stewart. He's representing the family of Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year-old who was killed by police last night in Atlanta.
These are live pictures we're seeing right now. We're watching all of this unfold. Still very, very tense situation unfolding in Atlanta.
Let's take a quick break and resume our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. These are live pictures coming in from Atlanta. You see that Wendy's where the incident occurred last night, Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by police at that Wendy's. He was simply waiting at that drive-thru. He fell asleep in his car. And then the situation unfolded.
The protesters are still there. They're also still up on I-75. Part of it is being cleared.
Natasha Chen is with us. Natasha, update our viewers on what we know right now because clearly this remains an extremely tense situation in Atlanta.
CHEN: Yes, so tense, Wolf, that the fire department here tells me that they're not going in right now. I just got off the phone with Sergeant Cortez Stafford of the Atlanta Fire Department. He tells me that the fire is in the dining room, is spreading through the drive-thru window. But right now, there are protesters in the streets, so it's not easy for them to access the building right now without backup assistance.
And right now, they're watching this situation to make sure that the fire doesn't jump to another structure, and because they have no reports of anyone inside, and right now it looks to be contained to the one building. They are observing at the moment, because they cannot access the building, Wolf.
So, right now, they're hoping that it just stays contained to the Wendy's with no one getting near it. And they will stand by and make sure it doesn't get worse, because they said they would need backup assistance because there are people in the street.
BLITZER: All right, Natasha, standby. We're going to get back to you shortly, but we're watching all of this unfold. Charles Ramsey is with us. Our law enforcement analyst, former D.C. police chief, former Philadelphia police commissioner.
Chief Ramsey, what do they do right now in Atlanta? You see the fire is blazing at that Wendy's. I-75 a major interstate still blocked, some of it moving. Firefighters can't even get to that, to deal with that fire right now. Because so many streets around there are simply blocked off. So, what do they do?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, the fire department is not going to come in as long as they don't feel it's a safe situation. You've got a situation where you got streets blocked. You got people out in the street. I guess they're a little uncomfortable as to whether or not the people in the street might attack them or whatever. I don't think that's going to happen. But there is some concern.
There's just so much confusion going on right now. And it's a shame. I mean, fires don't solve a problem. And I'm sure that the vast majority of the people there to demonstrate are not happy to see that sort of thing taking place right now in Atlanta.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a difficult situation. Cheryl Dorsey is with us as well, a retired LAPD sergeant. When you see what's going on in Atlanta, Cheryl, right now, what do you think?
CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: It saddens me because it takes away from the message. Clearly the family is asking people to protest peacefully. They don't want destruction, property damage and the like, associated with their loved ones' name. And listen, let's be clear, there's a segment of society out there who are not going to feel any sympathy for this family because of the actions of others. They're going to dirty up this young man's name because of the actions of others.
And so, it saddens me having lived through this in 1992 and watch areas of Los Angeles never recover because of destruction.
BLITZER: It's a sad situation, indeed. Cedric Alexander, I'm anxious to get your thoughts as well, the former president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. And you're there in Atlanta. You're the former Public Safety director at DeKalb County in the Atlanta are. What do you think?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, I am very hopeful, Wolf, that reform is going to come very quickly. And I think we've heard from a number of your guests tonight the importance now of beginning to have those conversations. But they got to move from conversations. And as you heard, the victim attorneys say we got to do more than just rewrite new policies.
We got to set up a whole different methodology in terms of how we deliver service to the communities in which we serve. And in doing that, how do we do it in a way in which the community can begin to trust the police again. Because in many parts of this country. And you're watching it tonight right there in Atlanta, you're seeing people who have totally lost trust in and I know the leadership are working very hard to maintain their trust. And I hope that the community's given them an opportunity to work diligently and restart and regain that trust.
It's going to take time. I think they have incredible leadership there in Atlanta. And I'm very hopeful, and I love the mayor's leadership there and her decision making because she has to make decisions in very tough periods of time whether people agree with it or not. But she's a leader of that city.
But here equally as important, reform needs to take place quickly, and it's going to have to happen at a local level. And it's great there's federal legislation that is being pushed forward by the Congressional Black Caucus who get an outstanding job this week. And I think some reform is going to be seen at a federal level. But at a local level. Some things clearly have to change. And they have to change now because we can't continue to have nights like this in our country. And what people have to feel like, somebody's paying attention to them. Something different is going to happen.
BLITZER: And by the way, you know Cedric, we're seeing on the right, pictures from Atlanta, you see the flames there, the smoke continuing. On the left, this is Washington, D.C., where protesters have gathered as well. They're clearly angry about what's going on in Atlanta. They're on the streets of D.C. They're blocking traffic right now at the same time.
So, we're watching what's happening in the nation's capital. We're watching what's happening in Atlanta. And we're checking our affiliates around the country to see if these protests are going to expand to other cities as well. This is a tense moment indeed. Cornell William Brooks, the former president and CEO of the NAACP. He's with us. He's professor at the Harvard Kennedy School right now. Give us your thoughts, Cornell.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, as I look at a restaurant being burned in Atlanta. One of the things that comes to mind is we have a building burning. We also have the patience of the people across the country and around the world also burning.
And so, in other words, when we're in this moment where we clearly appreciate the danger of violence. But the problem has been here to for, we talk about the violence of the protesters, not the violence of the police. And we are at a moment where we need nonviolence. Those wearing blue uniforms and gold badges. Not merely calling for nonviolence from those who are in protests and demonstrations.
And as a Christian minister, as a former president of the NAACP, I deeply, deeply believe not only the moral efficacy of nonviolence. But the legal and positive efficay of nonviolence. But let us know this, Wolf. We really have to be clear. If we can use diplomacy and de- escalation with respect to the North Koreans who had nuclear arms, why can't we teach police departments to use de-escalation with respect to unarmed civilians.
We've heard guests talk about this being a local problem. It is a local problem. 18,000 police departments, 19,000 jurisdictions across 50 states. But we cannot wait for this problem to be solved, department by department, hash tag by hash tag, human being by human being. We need a national will. In other words, we need a sense of urgency,
Think about this, in our streets, we have deadlines on protests we call curfews. When it comes to police brutality, there is no deadline.
Where are the goals? Where are the metrics? Where is the sense of urgency? When do we put this on the calendar? We deployed national guardsmen because we want police in the stets. The president threatens to bring in the U.S. military, because we want piece on the streets. And we want it on a timetable.
When it comes to police brutality, be clear, time's up, we arrived at the deadline, we need police departments to now establish protocols, objectives, a whole scale transformation. And yes, we need to defund what doesn't work and invest and fund those things which do work. And this morally (AUDIO GAP) form of policing that we have today, which results in 1,000 people being killed a year, must change and has to change now. That's what millions of people are saying across the country and around the world.
BLITZER: And we're seeing you know, Cornell, more fires. That building that you see in the screen, on the left part of your screen, that used to be the Wendy's, the drive-thru, the restaurant where this incident occurred last night. That whole building is now being destroyed, the flames continue to go through it, and clearly, no firefighters on the scene. It's too dangerous apparently for them to get there. So many of the streets are simply blocked off.
We're watching all of this unfold. Everybody, standby. We're going to continue our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after a quick break.
BLITZER: Very awful situation has unfolded in Atlanta. You're looking at live pictures coming in from that Wendy's over there, where the incident occurred last night. Look at that building, it's now totally engulfed in flames. That's where Rayshard Brooks, he was in his car, simply going through the drive-thru. He fell asleep. Cars were going around him. The police showed up and then that situation deteriorated big time, resulting in Rayshard Brooks, 27 years old being shot and killed by police. And there are a lot of angry folks in Atlanta. They blocked off Interstate 75, a major interstate in the Atlanta area. Firefighters can't even get to the Wendy's and other places in the area, to deal with that fire. So that fire continues right now with no firefighters on the scene.
Areva Martin is still with us, our legal analyst. She's a civil rights attorney at the same time. Areva, as you see this situation, it was a very peaceful demonstration, but then things quickly deteriorated.
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, we've seen that happen, Wolf, really throughout the country as we watch these protests erupt following the brutal murder of George Floyd. And I think we minimized the pain of the protesters when we only focus on the fires or the looting because we -- I don't think we can even understand the pain that the African American community and communities really all over the world are feeling as we watch these deaths play out.
When being killed by the police is the sixth leading cause of death for black men. We are way beyond policy changes. We're way beyond body cams or policies as it relates to tasers. We have to have that incredibly uncomfortable conversation on this country that focuses on systemic racism. And we get really close often to having that conversation.
We teeter around the edges of it, but then we retreat from it. But until we have that conversation, we can enact policies at the local level. We can enact policies at the federal level, but they're not going to be carried out in anyway, that respects the dignity and humanity of African American men. And we keep seeing that over and over again.
We have been at this point on so many occasions. Walter Scott as Chris Stewart talked about, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin. We can do a rollcall of all of the African American men that have been killed by police.
And what happens in the aftermath, there's intense media scrutiny of the death. There's protest, there's call for change, and then we go back. We retreat back into that place that's safe without pushing through and having this conversation about systemic racism and how it permeates police departments around this country. And we have to have that conversation at this moment, or we'll be right back here -- not in five years, as Chris suggested. But we'll be back probably next week and definitely next month.
BLITZER: I want to bring in Elie Honig our CNN legal analyst, a former assistant U.S. attorney in southern district of New York. But Elie, I want to read to you a statement that we just got from the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp. He issued the statement via Twitter on the death of Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year-old man who was shot and killed by Atlanta police.
This is from the governor. At the Atlanta police department's request, the GBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the GA launched an investigation into the conduct of two Atlanta police department officers that led to the death of Rayshard Brooks. I am confident GBI Director Vic Reynolds and his team will follow the facts to ensure justice is served. As always, we stand ready to provide resources and support to protect Georgians who are peacefully protesting.
That statement from the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp. Elie, let me get your reaction to that and let me get your thoughts on what's happening. You see this Wendy's where this incident occurred late last night. It's totally emblazed right now.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf. So, that's an important statement by the Georgia governor because the first thing that has to happen is a thorough and clean investigation. They need to get all the facts here. They're going to have some very difficult decisions to make at the prosecutorial level. The first question is, was this shooting legally justified?
Now, police are allowed to use lethal force but only as a last resort. Only if there is an imminent threat of death or serious body injury to the police officer or another person. And if this shooting was found to be unjustified then prosecutors are going to have to consider which charge is appropriate here. Under Georgia law there's a murder statute for murders with malice aforethought. There's a voluntary manslaughter statute for murders that happened in a heated moment. And I thought it was really interesting when Mr. Stewart, the attorney for the family, mentioned that he has talked to witnesses who said the police --
[22:50:00] BLITZER: I think we just lost our connection with Elie Honig. We'll
try to reconnect with him as well.
Charles Ramsey the former D.C. police chief, former police commissioner for Philadelphia is still with us as well. So, you see these images. You see what is going on in Atlanta, Chief Ramsey, right now. You see that Wendy's engulfed. And those flames could quickly spread to other parts. There's been several fires and you saw Interstate 75 blocked off as well for quite a while. They're trying to slowly reopen it. But this is clearly a very tense situation for the protesters as well as for the police.
RAMSEY: Yes. It's not good at all and that looks like a gas station right across the street there. And so, I hope they are able to secure that area and get the fire department in there because that is not good no matter how you look at it. They got to get that fire under control.
BLITZER: Yes. That fire could quickly spread elsewhere in that area and there is no sight of firefighters anywhere. And we are told by our Natasha Chen, our reporter who is there on the scene, that the fire department basically says they can't get there. The streets are blocked off. And it is impossible to get there. What do you think the police can do right now, Chief Ramsey?
RAMSEY: Well, unblock the streets. I mean, you know you got to coordinate with the fire department and figure out a route to get in and clear the road for them. You know it is not just a Wendy's. I don't know if there is another building adjacent to it but certainly if that is a gas station and it looks like it because the overhang kind of looks like it would be a gas station if the wind shifts and you get embers going over in that direction, then you have got an even larger problem there.
But again, you know it takes away from the reason why people are demonstrating to begin with. I mean there is a legitimate issue that is taking place across the country around police use of force and that has to be dealt with but when we have things like this occur, it does take away from it. But I don't think it is going to slow things down. At least I hope it doesn't.
These demonstrations are important. They really are. You know change happens as a result of a crisis. And this is definitely a crisis. And hopefully, this will force police, it will force legislators, it will force everyone to really take a real hard look at what is going on and make substantive changes. One of your guests earlier said the violence has to stop and that is true, but all violence needs to stop.
I mean, you know, this is just not a good situation whether we're talking about police use of force, whether we're talking about violence that takes place in our communities. I mean we have just got to find a way to end it all because it is just lives are being lost and it is senseless.
BLITZER: Yes. And we can see those flames continuing. Let's hope that they don't spread. There is a gas station right there. There are other shops very close by if the wind comes those flames could easily pick up elsewhere. This is an extremely dangerous situation unfolding in Atlanta following the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, 27 years old, last night at that Wendy's. That Wendy's is now totally destroyed. Those are flames coming in from the Wendy's.
Our special coverage will continue right after a quick break.
BLITZER: We're watching what's happening in Atlanta. You see the flames there. That's where the Wendy's drive-thru restaurant, where the incident occurred last night involving Rayshard Brooks where he was shot and killed by police. They are hoping that those flames will not spread. There is a gas station, other shops right nearby. Firefighters have not been able to even get close. A lot of the streets are blocked off by protesters right now.
Juliette Kayyem is with us, our national security analyst. Julie, when you see what is going on in Atlanta right now and clearly the protesters are very angry over the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. What do you think?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, I think we have to separate the issues. And I think it is the justified protest over another police shooting and what needs to be dealt with tonight which is to de-escalate the situation so there's going to be three approaches. The first is of course life matters more than a Wendy's. So, the buildings can burn. Essentially, I know that is hard for people to see but you don't want to put firefighters in harm's way. You also don't want to harm members of the community and the neighborhoods.
So, you're just going to focus on protecting life at this stage. So, while the building fires look bad, they are secondary to protecting life. The second is you want to contain the situation. There are peaceful protesters who probably far outnumber or we know far outnumber what is going on with a small group that is either setting things on fire or finally protesting so you just want to be able to contain them.
And then you need political and community leadership to de-escalate the situation tonight. It is still - I'm looking at the clock, it's still relatively early, 11:00 p.m. So, you just want to try to de- escalate the situation.
And those three things together hopefully will then lead to a conversation and even protests over what may have been an unjustified killing. And I think that that is just important to focus on because you want to protect the community tonight which is essentially in harm's way as well with some of this violence.
BLITZER: And it must be so frustrating to folks in Atlanta who are watching this. They see this building in flames potentially spreading and firefighters can't even get close to the scene. KAYYEM: It is - I mean, it's hard - it's like - it's hard to watch that. I recognize that. But you're just making tactical decisions at this stage which is you need to - first of all, you need to protect your first responders in particular the firefighters who are not armed. So, you don't want to escalate a situation in which police have to come in to save firefighters if situations get out of hand. So these decisions are made all the time.
And then you want to try to minimize the impact of what the fire - you know of the fire spreading. We can't see it but just the way firefighter incident command works is there is likely firefighters prepared to ensure that it does not spread past the Wendy's.
The Wendy's is essentially gone. We see that now. You just want to make sure it doesn't spread. So, it is frustrating to see. But there is just a prioritization at this stage which is to protect the community and to protect the free expression of protests against another police shooting.