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Rayshard Brooks Charges Expected Soon; COVID-19 Cases Rise as Montgomery, Alabama Rejects Mask Mandate; House and Senate Debate Chokeholds in Police Reform Bills. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 14:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- we should say regular Coronavirus Task Force meetings, they don't have them on a daily basis any more. There's one today, but they don't have them as often any more.

And one of the things that just shows you as to how this task force is not really relevant to what's happening over here at the White House any more, Brianna, we understand that the task force hasn't even been asked about whether or not it is a good idea for the president to hold this rally in Tulsa this weekend.

I talked to an official about this and he said, Listen, the White House knows better than that, to ask members of the task force, the health experts on the task force, whether this is a good idea because, quite frankly, it's not a good idea. And there are officials in the administration who understand that -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes. Don't ask if you know what the answer will be and you don't like it. Jim Acosta --

ACOSTA: Yes, that's right.

KEILAR: -- thank you so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

KEILAR: Top of the hour now, I'm Brianna Keilar and Atlanta is bracing for an announcement, expected in just an hour, on whether criminal charges will be filed in the deadly police shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

The 27-year-old husband and father of four was shot twice in the back after he took a taser from police and fired it at one of the officers as he was running away, following a scuffle at a Wendy's restaurant last Friday night.

Both of the officers involved in the shooting are white. Garrett Rolfe, there on the right, is the man who shot Brooks; he has been fired from the police force. Devon Brosnan, the officer there on the left, has been placed on administrative duty.

And the Fulton County District Attorney has said he is weighing murder, felony murder and voluntary manslaughter charges.

CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher is there outside of the Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks was killed in Atlanta. What are you hearing, Dianne?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, I can tell you, there is intense interest in what's going to happen within about an hour here in Atlanta -- I'm going to step out of the way so you can just take a peek real quick at what's happening at this Wendy's. As you see, people kind of coming here, not just to pay their respects but also to be with other people in the community as they wait for this decision to come down from the district attorney.

Now, you mentioned the three charges that he said he is weighing here against those officers. And Paul Howard, the district attorney, has said that he does intend to look at both officers here, it's what the family has asked to happen as well. Not just officer Rolfe -- now- former officer Rolfe -- who shot the weapon, but also the other officer there, Brosnan, who was not fired, who was placed on administrative duty.

But the reality is, it could be a different charge. It may not be murder, felony murder, or voluntary manslaughter, and there may be no charges at all.

Now, I have asked people here what that would mean, if there were no charges determined to be filed against those officers. People have said that you're doing to see it explode, you're going to see anger if that is the case, Brianna, that they are hoping to hear, at least the people who have shown back up at this Wendy's, they are hoping to hear that the district attorney will announce some kind of charges.

And, look, we're going to hear from the Brooks family afterwards. They're going to be at their attorney's law firm, speaking about an hour and a half after the district attorney announces his decision.

And you know, we should also mention, there's a totally separate investigation going on as well, so this is the D.A.'s investigation. And whether or not he's going to present those charges, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, also looking into this as well right now.

And, you know, again, for the people who are out here, they want to hear Paul Howard announce charges. Most of them that I talked to, they say they want to hear that murder charge announced at 3:00 p.m. today.

KEILAR: Dianna Gallagher, thank you so much, live from Atlanta.

I want to bring in Civil Rights attorney Shavar Jeffries to talk with us. Shavar, thank you for joining us. I wonder what, as we look here at the potential charges in this case, as Dianne mentioned in her report, there could be lesser charges. So tell us what we're possibly going to see here.

SHAVAR JEFFRIES, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, we could see a range of decisions made by the prosecutor here, everything from murder charges, which are obviously more serious, to manslaughter charges. We could see a kind of -- which is basically a type of negligent homicide here, which is when an officer thinks that they can defend themselves using deadly force, but the law wouldn't support that.

Again, I think the broader issue here is just we see officers in too many situations that are entirely too quick to use force, including deadly force, with black individuals when a whole variety of other options that are nonviolent are available to them. This is why this country is on fire right now.

And at minimum, there should be some manslaughter charges against this officer, at the very least.

KEILAR: Do you expect charges against the second officer involved here, Devon Brosnan, who did not fire his weapon?

JEFFRIES: I would hope there would be charges against that officer. You know, that officer was on the scene, he could have intervened in a way to avoid Mr. Brooks being murdered. Again, I don't have all of the evidence but based upon what I've seen there, and at least there should be some lesser charges for that second officer in terms of what he did not do that could have avoided this situation.


KEILAR: You know what -- you know, we spoke with some experts who are on the side of law enforcement in this, and they will say that there is a difference, for instance, between having officers intervene in the George Floyd case, where you had something that wasn't an instantaneous decision, it was playing out over the course of several minutes.

And then this case, where people would be expecting the second officer, who was running after the first officer who shot Brooks and Brooks, how -- I guess they would ask how would it be possible for that second officer to intervene -- how would it physically be possible?

JEFFRIES: Well, I mean, again, I mean, we don't have all of the facts. Obviously, video speaks -- you know, provides significant evidence of what happened here.

There are a whole series of things that happened before we got to the point where the individuals running away, where there could have been different decisions that had been made.

Obviously, the shooting officer's primarily responsible. I mean, the second officer can't get in the mind of that officer, so that shooting officer's primarily responsible for what happened here. But the prosecutor had the entire record before him in making this decision, and so we'll see what's to come.

KEILAR: All right, Shavar Jeffries, thank you so much.

JEFFRIES: Thank you.

KEILAR: Now, to the coronavirus and an alarming surge in cases, particularly in the west and southeast, 21 states in total on the rise. And in Florida, 2,600 new cases today. It's the highest number in a single day since this pandemic began.

So why, then, is the White House pretending like this is actually going away right now? Not just ignoring the facts and their own guidelines to wear masks and social distance, but actively misleading Americans on the severity of this crisis.

Vice President Pence, writing an op-ed, trying to declare victory, blaming the media for pushing a second wave. When right now, the country is not even out of the first wave and doctors and scientists who say that also say yes, a second wave is very possible. A senior CDC official, telling CNN that the vice president is cherry-picking data to fit his narrative instead of reality.

CNN's Nick Watt, joining us live from Los Angeles. Give us sort of the big picture here, when we're looking at the country and coronavirus -- Nick.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Big picture is, right now, we have 10 states, all in the south and west, that are seeing their highest average daily case count since all of this began.

We've got also -- Florida is now, a month after opening, is seeing four times as many cases on average as mid-May; Tulsa, where they're going to have that MAGA rally on Saturday had its highest day; in Texas, they have set a record, five days straight, for the most number of people in hospital with COVID; and one Arizona hospital just told us that they have now run out of COVID ICU beds.


WATT (voice-over): Arizona just smashed its record, nearly 2,500 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. So did Florida --

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We're not shutting down. You know, we're going to go forward, we're going to continue to protect --

WATT (voice-over): -- and Texas.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: The reality is, COVID-19 still exists in Texas.

WATT (voice-over): Case counts, now climbing in 21 states.

ZEKE EMANUEL, HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: And then a few days or a week later, you'll see a spike in the hospitalizations, and then a few days later, you'll see a spike in the deaths. And unless you actually implement these public health measures, you are going to have it. It is inevitable, despite all the happy talk coming out of the White House.

WATT (voice-over): Public health measures aren't even implemented in the Rose Garden. And those medical members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force have, one source tells CNN, resorted to meeting among themselves on the phone before briefing their boss, the vice president.

"We've slowed the spread, we've cared for the most vulnerable, we've saved lives," Mike Pence just wrote in "The Wall Street Journal," "We've created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That's a cause for celebration, not the media's fearmongering."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We go to work every day to help those who need us.

WATT (voice-over): In Orange County, California, pro-mask protestors, drowned out by anti-maskers.

But yet another study just found they work, preventing up to 450,000 cases between early April and mid-May in the 15 states and D.C. where masks were mandatory.

In South Korea, everyone on public transport must now wear one. And with an aggressive test, trace and treat program, South Korea has kept its COVID death toll to 279. In the U.S., we're now over 117,000. And, carrying out about half a million tests a day.


EMANUEL: All of the experts -- myself included -- think we need, you know, three, four, five million at least per day. We're just not getting it.

WATT (voice-over): At least 26,000 of America's dead lived in nursing homes, but bars could be the next concern. Sixteen friends who went unmasked to a Florida bar have all now tested positive.

ERIKA CRISP, CONTRACTED COVID-19: Governor, mayor, everybody says it's fine, we go out, it's a friend's birthday. It was a mistake.

WATT (voice-over): Yes, they are now testing more young people in Florida, but the median age of those testing positive was over 65; it's now 37.


WATT: So, bad news from the south; better news from the northeast, 17 deaths reported in New York State, that is a record low. Still tragic, but a record low. And the governor has said that his daily COVID briefings, Friday will be his last, 111 days after his first -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Nick Watt, thank you for that.

The city council in Montgomery, Alabama just voted down a measure requiring people to wear masks, despite having the highest number of cases in the state. I'll be getting reaction from a man who spoke up at that meeting after losing five family members to the virus.

Plus, speaking of masks, we're now learning that a passenger has just deplaned a jet after refusing to wear one. We'll have details, ahead. This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: Right now in Alabama, Montgomery County leads the state in the number of coronavirus cases. Just take a look at these numbers: 2,922 cases and 70 deaths. And we know that wearing a mask cuts the risk of transmitting coronavirus significantly, a new study finding that masks have prevented as many as 450,000 new cases of COVID in the U.S.

Yet the Montgomery City Council voted down a mask mandate, even after local doctors pleaded with them to pass it, many doctors testifying, as you can see there. And I'm joined now by a Montgomery man who also spoke up at that meeting, asking the council to pass the mask ordinance. William Boyd is with me now.

William, you lost five family members to coronavirus. The -- I -- that is an unimaginable loss. I thank you for coming on, and I want you to know that I am so sorry it's under these circumstances. Your brother's in the hospital right now with COVID, tell me about the toll that this has taken on your family.

WILLIAM BOYD, LOST FIVE FAMILY MEMBERS TO CORONAVIRUS: Yes. You know, believe it or not, this will be a dream that he (INAUDIBLE) said that when you wake up, that it's a dream. But it's not a dream, it's reality. Yes, we have a brother right now who is on a ventilator at Baptist (ph) Hospital (ph) South (ph), one of the hospitals that have been (INAUDIBLE) there.

The units are full to the capacity. I had the opportunity to go up there, to see my brother, laying on his back, (INAUDIBLE) went there with another small issue, but happened to catch COVID-19 while he was in the hospital. Also within the process of burying my cousin this Saturday, and the list goes on and on and on.

And it's real in the city of Montgomery. I want to thank our mayor, Steven Reed, and the city council, for bringing to the table, to let the people know that there is action that needs to be required, right here in the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, which happened to be Montgomery, Alabama.

KEILAR: When you spoke up at the meeting last night, I mean, the undeniable facts of the toll this has taken on your family, how did councilmembers react to your story?

BOYD: Well, I was kind of surprised because one of the city councilpersons lost a daughter last year. And when I was telling her that my brother would have to be on a ventilator as we speak, and I told him that you out of all people knows what it feels like to lose a family member. And he got in an uproar due to the fact that I brought reality right there at city council.

But because of the way that they voted, and Montgomery's known for a lot of racist stuff (ph) (INAUDIBLE). They voted four-four. In my opinion, I think that it was a staged (ph) vote, just for the media. They did not listen to the concerns of the people.

Dr. William Saliski spoke, he gave out facts, he said that the hospital beds were full, he said that 90 percent of the patients was black. He also stated that wearing a simple mask would slow down the virus. We all know that the CDC here outlined three things that would slow down the virus: social distance, wearing a mask, and washing your hands, three simple things.

When medical experts went before the council, the councils are just regular people. When you have experts in the medical area that reach out to government and say, Hey, if you do these things, it will slow down the COVID-19. So I think that they turned a deaf ear to the experts.

And it kind of make me feel like, do they really have a concern whether or not black lives matter? Due to the fact that 90 percent, according to the doctor, 90 percent of the patients who are in the hospital here in Montgomery, Alabama, happen to be black and I have a cousin that they just rolled out last week, and I have a brother who they pretty much have given up hope on.


KEILAR: I wonder, William, when you mentioned the group of doctors who were speaking last night, they were so disgusted by the vote that they walked out. If the council isn't listening just to, you know, tell it like it is medical advice, what do you think it would take for the councilmembers who voted no on this to realize how important masks are?

BOYD: So I think it's going to take someone in their family to die. I think they -- death's got to knock on their door. If they don't understand the facts, when all the facts are in. It has been stated, there is no vaccine, there is no cure. So why not try to protect the lives of the citizens?

Montgomery must stand up like New York have done. We have to do something to let the people know that we are citizens here, and they are in charge of some of our lives and they've got to make life-and- death decisions when it comes down to the COVID-19.

I think they have dropped the ball, I think they have (INAUDIBLE) the facts over Donald Trump. I called it truth over the actual facts. The facts is that wearing a mask would slow down the COVID-19, and they are turning a deaf ear to the experts, and I could only imagine that the worst is yet to come.

KEILAR: William, thank you for coming on. I am so sorry for what your family is going through.

BOYD: Thank you for your condolences, thank you so much.

KEILAR: Next, the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks will join me live to talk about his role in the protests for racial equality. Hear what changes he's calling for. And you'll see the heated exchange on the House floor today as

lawmakers debate police reform measures.



KEILAR: The death of George Floyd at the hands of police has led to calls for police reform across the political spectrum, but now those changes are -- how those changes are implemented is really becoming a partisan fight. There were heated moments on Capitol Hill today as a proposal from House Democrats was being marked up on a committee floor.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Black lives matter, period. And so I would yield to any of my colleagues on the Republican side who can unequivocally say, as we calibrate where we are right now, that black lives matter.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I thank the gentleman for yielding. Does the gentleman believe that all lives matter as well? I think black lives matter, I think all lives matter --


SWALWELL: Reclaiming my time. Can anyone on the Republican side say, unequivocally, black lives matter?

GAETZ: Unequivocally, all lives matter. Why is that a problem to acknowledge?

SWALWELL: Reclaiming my time.

I think it's clear that my colleagues on the other side would like to put a straw man, to not have the uncomfortable conversation that we need to have about race.


KEILAR: Now, the bill from the Democrats provides federal mandates for policies like chokeholds. And Senate Republicans just launched their own proposal, which relies more on incentive programs for states to make these changes.

Matthew Horace is a former law enforcement executive and author, and he's with us now. So Matthew, the biggest discrepancy between these two plans here is about federal funding. For example with chokeholds, Democrats in their bill, they put an outright federal ban on it. But for Senator Scott, he says that withholding federal grants from departments who still allow chokeholds essentially is a ban on chokeholds. Will it work?

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVE: Well, I think both ideas have merit. The idea is that chokeholds need to be banned, and they need to be banned now. And this is not a political issue, this is a people issue.

And while we're talking about the Black Lives Matter issue, let's keep in mind, still, that black people are three times more likely to be killed by police, and the mentally ill are 16 times more likely to be killed by police. So let's dig our heels in and come up with some common-sense legislation that stops these police killings unnecessarily.

KEILAR: What do you think just about the idea of using federal funding as a carrot here, right? How influential would that be in getting police departments to implement policies that folks are calling for now?

HORACE: Well, as you know, police executives are largely driven by their ability to manage budgets. So to the extent that this is going to impact their budgets, I would hope that it would be a good carrot. Unfortunately, chiefs or sheriffs that decide that they don't want to play ball in that arena, can also say, Hey, we don't want the funding and we're not going to outlaw chokeholds.

So we want a situation where chokeholds are off the table for discussion. They're illegal, they should be banned and they never should be done again.


KEILAR: Is there anything in either of these proposals that you think would have prevented the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or Rayshard Brooks?