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At This Hour

Five Fmr. Memphis Officers Plead Not Guilty In Tyre Nichols Death; Louisiana Police Officer Arrested In Shooting Death Of Alonzo Bagley; Ukraine Burning Through Ammo Faster Than U.S., NATO Can Produce It. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 17, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KRISTIN FISHER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At This Hour, five Memphis police officers plead not guilty to murder charges in the beating death of Tyre Nichols. Ukraine's president urging world leaders to hurry up to quickly deliver the tools that he needs to win the war with Russia. And the head of the EPA talks to CNN after that toxic train disaster in Ohio. This is what we're watching At This Hour.

And thank you for joining us. I'm Kristin Fisher in for Kate Bolduan. And we begin in Memphis, where the five former police officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols have just entered not guilty pleas in court to charges including second degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. Police video captured these officers brutally beating Nichols during a traffic stop last month. Nichols died three days later. Now, CNN did speak briefly with Tyre's mother as she walked into court this morning. Listen to what she had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important for you to be here today. Why? Why is that?

ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOTHER: Because they need to see my face.


FISHER: And we expect to hear more from Nichols' as parents soon, and we will bring it to you live as soon as it happens. But until then, Shimon Prokupecz live at the courthouse in Memphis. Shimon, you've been there all morning. Walk us through what exactly happened in court today.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, so this was the officers, the five former officers. It was their initial appearance before the judge here in Memphis. Behind me in the courtroom here, they walked in, you know, they have all been out on bond, and they walked in, and it was essentially a scheduling matter. They waived the reading of the charges against them and then they set some schedules.

But the day was really about the community and obviously the Nichols' family to have their opportunity to see these officers, to face these officers, really as this case will now continue for months, as this investigation continues. Keep in mind some seven additional officers are under disciplinary review. Other officers could potentially face charges, the district attorney saying that they're continuing their investigation and potentially others could face charges.

The other thing that we learned that's significant today is that the D.A. as part of this review into cases that these five officers were involved in, you know, they were part of this Scorpion Unit. There's been some controversy after some of their actions, and some people have come forward saying that they were -- that the actions of this unit were abusive.

The D.A. is now saying that he's going to review up to 100 cases, some of which involve these five officers, but then an additional officer who's been terminated. So 100 cases that could potentially be dismissed if the D.A. finds that there's some kind of problem with the way the arrests were conducted. So there's still so much more to come, obviously, here.

But this today really, you know, is for these five officers to have their day in court and obviously for the family and the community to be able to face these officers.

FISHER: OK. And we wait to hear if we hear from Tyre Nichols's family any minute now. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you. So joining me now, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, he's a criminal defense attorney. And Marq Claxton, he's the director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance and a retired NYPD detective. Gentlemen, thank you both so much for joining us.

I'd like to start by asking both of you to just give us your reaction to what Shimon just reported and to what we saw happen in court today. Joey, I'll start with you.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Kristin, good morning to you. I think it's a significant development, why? First, let's address the review of the officers' cases. In order for the process to work, there has to be trust. We have to know and understand that police are out there policing appropriately, not brutalizing or humiliating communities, and that what they've written in any affidavit or reports in prior cases are actually accurate. And so I think it's a significant and important step, Kristin, for the district attorney to look at, evaluate, review, and do everything they can to ensure that any arrests involving these officers should stand.

With respect to the question as today, pretty standard appearance, an arraignment is for the purpose of the defendants being apprised of the charges. We know that each attorney waived a public reading of those charges. We know what the indictment contains, entered a plea of not guilty. And of course, the case, Kristin, was set over for May 1st.

And in the interim process, there will be discovery that's records, documents, surveillance, information such the attorneys could evaluate that and make any motions or challenges to any of the discovery provided. So, pretty standard appearance in terms of that today.


FISHER: So, Marq, Joey says a pretty standard appearance. What did you think? Any big surprises out of today's arraignment?

MARQ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, I agree with Joey, especially in regards to the pending criminal cases and the impact that this arraignment, this case will have on the individual officers cases that they may have been involved in the past, but the entire department becomes, you know, under the magnifying glass, if you will. But I think what the arraignment also did was to bring to the forefront some issues that will have to be dealt with or addressed moving forward.

You know the impact on the public perception of police is now of course a hot topic. It continues to be a hot topic. It's very relevant and important, the impact on the effectiveness of the current crime, initiatives that they may have in the Memphis Police Department and police departments across the nation. There is a residual effect or impact in law enforcement agencies across the nation, especially in regards to these, quote unquote, specialized or elite units.

And that moving forward, there's going to have to be continued analysis and discussion. But I think most importantly, the disarraignment process brings to the forefront the discussion about the long term. Can there be an effective collaborative community policing in black and brown communities? Let's not lose the focus on the race issue here. Can there be some significant collaborative community policing effort in black and brown communities under the current enforcement models and police agencies across the nation? So significant conversation will be had over the next several months, I'm sure.

FISHER: Joey, looking ahead to what comes next, you know, some people have said that it's going to be pretty hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers engaged in a knowing killing of another which is necessary for a second degree murder conviction. Do you think that the second degree murder charges are too aggressive in this case?

JACKSON: So I do not, Kristin and I don't share that view that others have expressed. I think that the charges are appropriate, here's why. When we look at the issue of intent, I understand why the prosecutor didn't really charge that. Why? As we look at the charge, one second degree murder, right? Another charge aggravated assault, two charges aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

But to your question Kristin, I think there's a major distinction between proving intentional murder, which would have been first degree, which would have been premeditated, which would have been it was there really aim and objective and the second degree, not to get too technical. But what is a knowing killing? A knowing killing is that you have to appreciate that the nature of your conduct can bring about the result that it did. I'll further go on to say that the statute speaks to the issue of multiple instances of domestic assault.

What does that mean? If you engage in multiple instances of strikes and you're doing that collaboratively with other officers, you can't tell me that you cannot otherwise appreciate that punches and kicks and spray, et cetera, could lead to that end result, which is Mr. Nichols death. And so I think it's an appropriate prosecution. I think prosecutors charge what they believe they could prove.

And I think if established correctly, I think that's a charge that could be sustained and ultimately a guilty verdict leveled against the defendants. A long way to go, but I think certainly that charge is in keeping with what we saw on that brutal and gross videotape.

FISHER: Yes. Well, speaking of videotapes, Joey, we know that there are hours of additional body camera footage that the public hasn't seen yet. How pivotal do you think that this footage is going to be for those prosecutors as they try to make their case here?

JACKSON: I think it'll be very pivotal, but I think that we've learned in the past that you just cannot rely upon that, right? The tape alone, just not to show the tape and say, there's nothing else to see here conviction. I think prosecutors will really go to task with each of the defendants, will go to task with establishing that if one's punching, if the other is kicking, if another's pulling, if another's tugging, if another's spraying, that the collective nature of that conduct could bring about the death of Mr. Nichols, which is exactly what happened.

And so I think the prosecutors will certainly show that tape, will certainly give which it speaks for itself, will certainly give the indication that there was no justification, no excuse, and certainly nothing to establish that Mr. Nichols was doing anything which would otherwise indicate that that proportion of really disproportionate conduct should have been leveled against him. So I think it'll be very powerful, Kristin, in the prosecution that will stick.

FISHER: OK. Joey Jackson, Marq Claxton, thank you both so much. And we'll see if the family, the Nichols' family, speaks to reporters after facing these officers in court for the first time. Thank you both so much.


So now to the death of another black man at the hands of police, Shreveport, Louisiana, police officer Alexander Tyler is under arrest, charged with negligent homicide. He's accused of fatally shooting Alonzo Bagley on February 3rd after officers responded to a domestic disturbance call. Bagley's family is now suing the officer. Ryan Young, live in Shreveport. So, Ryan, once again, we're talking about the importance of body camera footage. It's been released from the incident. What does it show?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very difficult to watch. And we talked to family members yesterday who said they couldn't believe the detail that was in this video and the fact that they could hear their loved one taking his last breath. I have to warn our viewers that the video that you're about to see is disturbing.


YOUNG (voice-over): Two officers arrived at the home of Alonzo Bagley responding to a 911 call regarding a domestic disturbance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what's your name?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, can you step out for me?

BAGLEY: No. My dog, I got dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he's going to come out, sir, you disturb the beast.

BAGLEY: Be careful, let me dogs --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sit down. Sit down. Let the -- let her -- hey come here. Come here.

BAGLEY: I'm putting my dogs up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She can put the dog up.

YOUNG (voice-over): The first officer follows Bagley down the hallway as his wife continues to yell in the background.


YOUNG (voice-over): The officer realizes Bagley is heading out the door of a balcony and sees him jump from the second floor to the ground below. He then turns back to run through and out of the apartment downstairs to chase after Bagley. Once outside, you hear one officer yell to the other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went that way, Tom (ph).

YOUNG (voice-over): About five seconds later, you hear a single gunshot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been one minute and 25 seconds since officers first knocked on the door.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, send our mesh (ph) right now. Shots fired, shots fired.

YOUNG (voice-over): For the next two minutes, you hear the officers distraught and administrating CPR.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, are you good? Hey, keep breathing. Keep breathing. Keep breathing. Keep breathing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay with me man. Stay with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- breathing. Here you bud. Keep breathing. Keep breathing, dude. Keep breathing. Keep breathing. Keep breathing. Hey, go to the front of the building. Go to the front of the building. Wave them down. Wave them down with their flashlight. Come on. Run. Run. Run. Run. Hey, dude, hey, you're going to be all right. You're going to be all right. Look at me. Hey, look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Hey, wake up. Wake up. Look at me. Look at me. Hey, respond. Come on. Come on. Come on. Wake up. Respond.

YOUNG (voice-over): Bagley was unarmed during the encounter, according to Louisiana State Police. The officer who fired the shot, Alexander Tyler, has been charged with negligent homicide. In court Thursday, a Louisiana State Police investigator told the judge, in the split second after the shot is fired, you can see in the body camera footage Bagley's hands are up.

On cross examination, the investigator acknowledged the view from the body camera is obstructed by the way the officers turn in the moment the shot is fired.

DHU THOMPSON, ATTORNEY FOR OFFICER ALEXANDER TYLER: Officers are always faced on a day to day basis with dangerous situations like that. And at times where they have to make split second decisions where they're in a potential life threatening situation. The mere fact that an argument is being made by the investigator in court that he was unarmed does not necessarily mean he's not a threat to the officer.


YOUNG: Yes, Kristin in court, we weren't able to bring a camera inside, so you won't see the officer in his orange jumpsuit, and he has that first appearance when he was granted a $25,000 bond. There's also laws in the state that stopped the sheriff's department from sharing his mug shot as well. As far as the Bagley family, they're going to have a funeral on Saturday, and obviously, that family is torn up. But the lawyer for the family and the family are thanking LSP for quickly getting this video out and opening up this investigation and pressing charges.

So there is some positive movement in terms of the community, but so many questions about how they move forward now, especially with another unarmed black man killed in a community by a police officer.

FISHER: Yes, you aren't kidding. That video is so tough to watch. Ryan Young thank you so much.


Overseas now, Ukraine's president urging world leaders to hurry with weapons deliveries, his military is burning through ammunition faster than the U.S. and NATO can produce it. We'll have details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FISHER: The parents of Tyre Nichols are speaking right now following five police officers pleading not guilty to the beating death of their son. Let's listen in.

WELLS: So that they can know that we're here. They need to, I don't know, I feel -- it's funny because I feel very numb right now. I feel very numb. And I'm waiting for this nightmare, basically, that I'm going through right now. I'm waiting for somebody to wake me up, right? And I'm really waiting for somebody to wake me up.


But I also know that's not going to happen. OK? I know my son is gone. I know I'll never see him again. But we have to start this process of justice right now. And I want each and every one of those police officers to be able to look me in the face. They haven't done that yet. They couldn't even do that today. They didn't even have the courage to look at me in my face after what they did to my son. So they're going to see me at every court date, everyone, and until we get justice for my son.


WELLS: And so. yes.

BEN CRUMP, NICHOLS' FAMILY ATTORNEY: Note the choice of words that RowVaughn used as she told Judge Jones and us, they didn't have the courage to look me in my face. Not dignity to look me in my face, because when you look at the video, there was no dignity there. But they didn't even have the courage to look at her in her face. And that's what she came to the courtroom to see today. Them look her and her face, eye to eye. How could you do this to my son?

WELLS: And they didn't.

CRUMP: OK. Hold on, no, wait. Are you finished?


CRUMP: OK. All right, we're taking few questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think when you had the words?

FISHER: OK. You've been listening to Tyre Nichols's mother saying that after this court appearance today, she wants the officers to look her in the face. She says they did not do that today and that she's going to be there in court for every court appearance. She wants them to look her in the eyes. Tyre nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells wrapping up that press conference now.

Turning now to the war in Ukraine, President Zelenskyy telling world leaders to, quote, hurry up with agreements and decisions on weapons deliveries. He made the urgent plea to the Munich Security Conference. And it comes as the Ukrainian military is burning through ammunition faster than the U.S. and NATO can produce it. Oren Liebermann, live at the Pentagon. Oren, what are you learning about the Pentagon's efforts to keep up and ramp up these supplies?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So the pentagon, and specifically the army saw this coming as it was happening. There was already an effort from the army to modernize, basically, the defense industrial base, and the war only increased that effort and certainly increased that demand. The plant we visited in Scranton, Pennsylvania, could produce about 11,000 155 millimeter artillery shells a month.

To put that in perspective, Ukraine can burn through that in a handful of days. And that is part of what has created such a great demand on the army, demand that comes from the U.S., allies, and, of course, Ukraine. So take a look at the numbers here that they're trying to meet as we look across the different kinds of artillery.

On the -- at the beginning there, they're looking to multiply by five times, a 500 percent increase in their ability to produce artillery shells up to 70,000 a month. They're looking to double the number of javelin antitank shells they can produce up to 4,000 a month in the coming years, up to 30 percent more HIMARS rocket shells. That's a crucial ammunition that Ukraine has used to target Ukraine -- Russian command depots and ammo depots, as well as disrupt command and controls.

They're trying to increase that to about 850 a month. And then 60 stinger anti-aircraft shells a month. That is the goal. Some of that has already been met on the stinger side. And it's one of the great challenges here, one they're looking to meet. Kristin?

FISHER: Yes, 500 percent increase in artillery shells. That's wild. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much.

So President Biden trying to ease concerns over the recent shutdown of several unidentified objects in U.S. airspace by the U.S. military, reassuring Americans that they were likely not tied to Chinese spying.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to China's spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country.


FISHER: So Priscilla Alvarez is live at the White House. Priscilla, the President saying it's not likely some kind of Chinese spy operation, but he still didn't say what exactly it is, though he had some theories.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They are still trying to look at intelligence and then assess exactly what these were in addition to collecting those remnants in some of the remote areas. Now, as you heard there. This was President Biden's most extensive remarks on the issue amid speculation and concerns over the transparency that the administration was providing on this.


And while he did ease some concerns by saying that there's no indications that they are connected to the Chinese surveillance program, he said instead that this is likely connected to private companies, institutions, and research institutions.

Now, looking forward, Biden did set some effort that his administration is going to embark on, for example, devising sharper rules on how we deal with these objects, tapping National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to lead an effort on how to address this, as well as establishing improved inventory of unmanned airborne objects.

Now, of course, Kristin, another part of this is diffusing tensions with China. And President Biden tried to make clear that he is not expecting a Cold War here. He is trying to, again, sort of make the point that he is not upending relations between the U.S. and China. Take a listen.


BIDEN: We seek competition, not conflict with China. We're not looking for a new Cold War. But I make no apologize. I make no apologies, and we will compete. And we'll responsibly manage that competition so that it doesn't veer into conflict.


ALVAREZ: Now, Biden also said that he plans to talk to the Chinese President, but we have not yet heard from the White House when that will be. Kristin?

FISHER: Thank you, Priscilla Alvarez.

So joining me now, Jamil Jaffer, he's the founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University. Jamil, thank you so much for being with us. And you've said that you found it concerning that the President said that the three objects shot down last weekend were likely private company balloons meant for recreational or research purposes. Why does that concern you?

JAMIL JAFFER, FOUNDER & EXEC. DIRECTOR, NATL. SECURITY INSTITUTE: Well, Kristin, I do worry that the President, you know, will be mocked for shooting down these targets if they were just private balloons or, you know, projects by research companies or the like. And it's -- I think it's an unfair mocking. I think that look, we're under significant pressure to make sure our airspace was safe. The Chinese spy balloon had to be taken down as it was. Perhaps it took too long. There are debates about that.

But at the end of the day, when we see these objects from our airspace, the right thing for the U.S. government to do is to try and identify what they are. And if there's any threat to civil aviation or American national security or Canadian national security to take action, that's what the President and the military did here. But I do worry that there's going to be some concern that, well, we took these shots, these balloons, and they weren't these -- they weren't of Chinese or Russian variety.

FISHER: Yes. And there's an amateur balloonist group, hobbyist group out in Illinois that says one of its balloons went missing in action around the same time in that same area of Alaska. They're not pointing any fingers yet, but they say, hey, one of our balloons is missing in action. It would be fascinating if that does indeed turn out to be one of the objects that was shut down, though. NORAD and the National Security Council aren't commenting on that right now.

Jamil, President Biden says that he's called on his team to lay out new protocols to monitor objects in U.S. airspace. Do you agree that that's the answer here, that that's what he is -- what should be doing?

JAFFER: Well, look, I think having a plan and a plan in place for what we're going to do makes a lot of sense. But the bigger question is, why weren't we detecting these Chinese spy balloons along ago? Why were three allowed to come over to Trump administration? Why did one flower during the Biden administration? Why are we only now finding out about it? Why haven't the American people been told about it if were following this thing from Hainan Island all the way over Alaska, through Canada, all the way to Montana before it came out.

And ultimately, why isn't congressman informed? And why aren't we spending the money it takes to upgrade our radar systems and our missile defense systems to identify these things, differentiate between hobbyist balloons, one hand, Chinese spy balloons on the other, and take action the right ones? That's a bigger question than the rules of engagement, specifically, which the President, I think, rightfully so, is going to set out and keep classified so our adversaries don't know what to evade.

FISHER: When you listen to President Biden's remarks yesterday, he said he does not seek competition or he doesn't seek another Cold War with China. He said that he expects to speak to President Xi. How do you think that this balloon shoot down, that first one, is going to affect U.S. relations with China?

JAFFER: Well, look, I think there's no question it's going to make relations with China tougher. I think the President needs to be realistic about the fact that while he may want competition and not conflict with China, China may very well be teeing up conflict. They're very aggressive against our friends and partners in Taiwan. They continue to send spy balloons and the like over our airspace. They have not demonstrated that they're a good actor in the international realm or at home where they're oppressing and interning over a million Muslim Uighurs.

So the reality is, even though we may not want conflict with China, it may be in the offing, we need to be prepared for that and make clear the Chinese we will not accept any of these incursions, whether it's against Taiwan or into the United States. FISHER: Jamil quickly, before we go, I just love to get your thoughts on Ukraine. President Zelenskyy this morning pleading for more weapons, more ammunition, as the war with Russia enters a second year. What more could world leaders do? What more would you like to see from world leaders?


JAFFER: Well, look, to be honest with you, Kristin, we should have provided tanks much earlier in this conflict. They want jet fighters. They want more long reach missiles. We should provide those. We should give Ukraine what it takes to win this war, not what it takes to fight to a stalemate. That stalemate is only bad for civilians and ultimately bad for all of us who have to pay for the cost of rebuilding Ukraine. The right thing to do is to back a strong force in Ukraine to win.

FISHER: Jamil, you covered a lot of ground for us very quickly. Thank you so much.

JAFFER: Well Thanks, Kristin.

FISHER: So, coming up, CNN has just learned that a key Biden aid is going to talk to congressional investigators in their classified documents investigation. We'll have the new developments, next.