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Police Release Photos of Shooting Scene; Secret Service Agents Crash into White House Barrier

Aired March 12, 2015 - 10:30   ET


MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL (D), MISSOURI STATE SENATOR: Here is what I would have to say, a threat is when someone is shooting a police officer which is terrible. We don't want anymore lives to be taken, absolutely not. What we have to deal with, is the anger and the hurt that is still existing on both sides. We want to protect people who are peacefully protesting as well as protect officers who are abiding by the law.

So we're going to have to sit down and have this conversation, and anyone who is acting violently, they are going to have to come to terms that no one is going to accept them, not even the peaceful protesters as well as --

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, I will say this, and the chief alluded to this, that it's very difficult to determine who is a peaceful protester and who is not. It's impossible. Is it time to step back and don't protest for just a week or two and then sit down and talk about it instead? Wouldn't it be safer that way?

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Well, here is the other thing, it's also very hard to determine who is a legitimate police officer as well. And yes, we do need to take time to figure out a strategy so we can clear our minds and figure out a peaceful plan so that we can move ahead and not have these violent acts.

Yes, it is a wonderful thing to have the resignations of the chief as well as others, but that simply is not going to do. We have called for the disbandment of the police department in Ferguson. We still have injuries that are existing.

Three weeks ago police officers in Ferguson were still attacking people including Heather who is in a wheelchair who was struck by a police officer. She was in a wheelchair doing nothing, and police officers attacked her, arrested her and she ended up in a hospital.

So let's be fair here. Yes, we're concerned about police officers who are being attacked, but I'm also concerned about the African-Americans who are attacked every single day and have bullets through their heads by police officers.

COSTELLO: Commissioner, would you like to respond?

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER: You know what -- you know the senator makes this push -- she's making this point about African- Americans. I was just curious to know whether she knows in the past six days four black law enforcement also were killed in this country, three of which, the only three police officers top be shot and killed in this country this year are all black including a U.S. marshal.

I don't see people out there going crazy about the people that murdered these cops. These are black lives. Every life matters. Every life matters. It's just -- I don't know, it's upsetting.

COSTELLO: Senator, I think that people understand your concerns, but I think that the situation in Ferguson seems like it's chaotic right now and a tinderbox and something needs to happen.

What's the solution? Is it more protests in front of the police department until the Ferguson police department is disbanded or is it a conversation between city and county leaders to get more things done? Should the federal government come in? Should Eric Holder send some people from the civil rights division down to Ferguson?

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Let me tell you, I wrote a letter on August 18th last year saying that the federal government should intervene because I had no confidence in our state policing, nor do I have confidence in our St. Louis County policing at this point.

Yes, we have to be able to exercise our rights. And for anyone to suggest stopping protests, that would be against the First Amendment. Your own crew has been offended by losing their right in the First Amendment. Journalists have had their First Amendment taken from them. If you don't want it taken from your colleagues who are in the press, I'm pretty sure that my constituents who are peacefully protesting don't want the First Amendment taken away from them. There is no cause when it comes to the First Amendment or any other constitutional right.

COSTELLO: I'm not talking about violating their First Amendment rights. I think they have every right to protest. I would be the first to stand up for that. But I also believe in protecting people and keeping them safe. And if the peaceful protesters can't tell who is dangerous or not and gunfire is coming from a dark hill at midnight just shooting randomly into the crowd, that to me appears like it would be dangerous not only to police officers but to the peaceful protesters as well.

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Yes, you're so right. In fact, last night people were ducking down. They were scared, they were nervous. And what we have to enforce, this is what I'm calling out to all peaceful protesters, what we did in the early days, is that we self-policed. Any time we see someone who is an aggressor, an agitator, we need to communicate with police officers and let them know who they are because we want to out them.

They are misrepresenting this movement. We want justice and we want peace and certainly we do not want any officer or any other young black person to be six feet under ground. We don't want anymore lives to be lost, but we're going to have to start self-policing. It was quite useful when we did that in the early days last year, last summer. We're going to have to do that again. It is unacceptable to tolerate any type of violence in this day and age because right now is critical, the entire nation is in a chaotic moment. We're going to have to find a pathway that is peaceful and is protective of everyone's rights. Most of all we have to protect people, everyone.

COSTELLO: All right. I know Joe Johns just got a statement from Eric Holder. You said you wanted the federal government to intervene. Joe, what does Eric Holder say?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's a pretty lengthy statement as the statements go. It says This heinous assault on two brave law enforcement officers was inexcusable and repugnant. He says He condemns violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms. The department of justice will never accept any threats or violence directed at those who serve and protect our communities.

He went on to mention a couple of incidents involving other officers, including one in Philadelphia last week buying a game for his son, and a deputy U.S. Marshal shot in the line of duty earlier this week. He says Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that non-violent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working toward for the past several months. Wishing those officers a full and speedy recovery and also saying that the Justice Department stands ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department's full range of investigative resources.

So offering assistance from DOJ and condemning the shooting of these officers in the strongest possible terms -- Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. So help in the investigation. But Commissioner, I want to ask you this because the St. Louis police chief he also said that he'd appreciate some help.

So is it time that maybe the National Guard is called in? What's the answer? He also said it's very costly to cover Ferguson. It's cost him $5 million so far.

KERIK: Any time you have these incidents where you have protests and you have to bring in additional police officers, it's going to cost money. We see that in New York City all the time. We saw it as a result of Ferguson and the Garner incident in New York, enormous amounts of money.

The governor has the right to activate the National Guard if it's necessary. That call would basically from the police chief to the governor's office, a request, and the governor makes the decision whether it's necessary. They can do that.

You know, in towns like Ferguson, St. Louis, where they don't have the amount of staff that you would have in New York, that may be necessary.

COSTELLO: All right, I'm going to leave it there. Maria Chappelle Nadal, Joe Johns and Bernard Kerrick. Thanks to all of you. I appreciate it. I'll be back with much more in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Another Secret Service investigation: two top agents reassigned after crashing a government car into a White House barricade. The agents reportedly had been drinking. It's the latest blemish for the agency in charge of protecting the President of the United States.

In 2012, nearly a dozen agents were accused of bringing prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Colombia, and last year three members were sent home from Amsterdam after they went out drinking and one was found passed out in a hotel.

Six months ago this fence jumper making it all the way to the east room with a knife. The outcry led to the director's resignation.

Sunlen Serfaty is at the White House with more on this. Good morning.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning -- Carol. Well, this of course is the agency that's in charge of protecting the President. And these two agents, they were high profile. One was the number two on the President's personal security detail.

The incident took place last Wednesday evening. Apparently these two agents were drinking at a retirement party for a colleague nearby. They then got into a government vehicle and had an altercation near White House grounds, ended up crashing through one of the security barricades.

This is an important point, during that altercation, a uniformed officer, they wanted to conduct a sobriety test on these two agents, potentially even make arrests. That's when a supervisor stepped in and let these two go. Since the Secret Service has confirmed that these two have been reassigned to non-operational positions, and we know that the Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation. The Capitol Hill, the congressional committee in charge of overseeing this agency, they released a statement saying, quote, "The fact that this event involved senior level agents is not only embarrassing but exhibits a clear lack of judgment in a potentially dangerous situation."

Now this is the same congressional committee that late last year recommended to President Obama that he should choose a new director from someone outside of the agency, get some fresh new blood in there. Ultimately President Obama decided to choose someone from the inside, Joe Clancy, as the new director. He is just freshly in the job. He was the interim director since October of last year, but he's been formally in the job for about one month.

I want to play some sound of a former Secret Service agent who was an agent in the Obama administration and also served for 13 years, talk about the kind of pressure that this new director will now have on him.

JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT": All the critics before that said they needed to go outside for a director -- that's in the past. Joe Clancy is driving this bus right now. He needs to get in front of this issue and other issues that playing the Secret Service with management and really come up with a comprehensive program on how to right the ship of management at the Secret Service.

SERFATY: This is the first real test for Joe Clancy in his new position. There's a lot of scrutiny, of course, on the Secret Service. That was before he even came on, but certainly this latest incident proves that there still are questions about the organization and the management of this agency -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Sunlen Serfaty from the White House -- thanks so much.

The agency as Sunlen said, now under more scrutiny so let's talk about that. I'm joined by Michael Balboni. He's the former director of Homeland Security for the state of New York. Welcome sir --


COSTELLO: OK, so just throw this at you.

BALCONI: There's so many questions that get raised by this. First of all it happened March 4th. Why are we hearing about it now? First thing.

Secondly -- the White House is the most coveted post for any security detail in the world. You're not adopting a much higher bar of organizational discipline.

COSTELLO: The supervisor doesn't let the local cops conduct sobriety checks. He obviously did that for what reason?

BALBONI: If you or I did the same thing, we would be in a handcuffs sitting. They would have done the sobriety check. That doesn't happen here. They're all the wrong messages here. What's really is disturbing is that this is the President of the United States. What do we have to do, wait for a tragedy? Something to happen where someone really gets injured? But the person getting into the White House grounded for the knight. I mean you know, this is not kids' stuff.

And then there's Secret Service, by the way. It's one of the most elite services and there's so many terrific people that I've gotten the privilege to work with over the years. But right now there really is -- I wouldn't describe it as a real crisis of confidence in this agency.

COSTELLO: Wouldn't the director, the new director have to know about this incident?

BALBONI: I would imagine within minutes and certainly if he didn't --

COSTELLO: OK. So if he really wanted to send a message, that he's cleaning things up in the Secret Service, why wouldn't he just fire them? BALBONI: Obviously everybody wants to have a review, make sure the

facts are as they understand them. But so much information here, you're in a public place. You go talk to the bartender, how many drinks did they have? You don't necessarily have to get a sobriety test.

COSTELLO: But he's keeping it under wraps by doing that still -- right.

BALBONI: One of the things you can't do, you can't lie and you can't cover up. Right now it looks like this agency that's already had this tremendously difficult period of time, where there are real questions about their core competency, whether or not they're coming clean. And that's a terrible message for this.

COSTELLO: Everybody keeps saying it's the culture, the culture is bad, it's rotten. When did that start exactly do you think?

BALBONI: That's a great question when you go back -- I mean some of the things truly are so shocking, the whole thing in Colombia where the President is coming and now you're having issues with locals, what about the ability to infiltrate?

What message does this send to the folks who are our enemies? You don't think someone from ISIS would love to take out the President of the United States? It's not like we're in a period of total calm. There are folks who want to hurt us. We want to have the best and the brightest in the position to send the message, no, no, we've got this covered. Unfortunately incidents like this send the opposite message.

COSTELLO: What should the new director do now?

BALBONI: I think he's got to clean house. And you know, It really makes pressure. I was involved in the state police in New York, a decision about their leadership. You become perplexed by do you stay inside and promote people from within or do you bring out someone new who can then bring a totally new view.

I think at this point in time there's going to be tremendous pressure to really do what Congress initially suggested was go outside; I think that's probably where you'll going to see the (inaudible).

COSTELLO: So this director is going to be short lived?

BALBONI: You had to take one incident and make that judgment for your career and say you're a failure because of one thing that you didn't do. That somebody beneath you did.

At some point in time, the old saying, the buck stops here. He has given the direction to mandate. As the former Secret Service agent said, he's got to get in front of this.

COSTELLO: He's already behind it. The bus already ran over him.

BALBONI: It's already overtaken him think unfortunately.

COSTELLO: Thanks so much you so much. I appreciate you being here. I'll be right back.



JON BELMAR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE: This is really an ambush is what it is. You can't see it coming, you don't understand that it's going to happen and you're basically defenseless from the fact that it is happening to you at the time. And that is something that is very difficult to guard against when you have a group of officers standing in a large group and you have gunfire certainly gunfire directed at them.

I would like to also point out however, last night that the only gunfire we had was the actual incident where the officers were struck.


COSTELLO: St. Louis County Police chief says two officers were ambushed in Ferguson last night, the shooter or shooters still on the loose. But when those shots rang out, a staff photographer for the St. Louis American was right there.

Lawrence Bryant is on the phone with me right now. Hi, Lawrence.


COSTELLO: Thanks for being with me. I appreciate it.

I want to start with this photo you took. It shows officers running to their injured colleague. He's down on the ground. Tell me about that moment.

BRYANT: I think it took everybody by surprise because like I said, the police were thinning out and the protesters were thinning out, also. I was actually debating about leaving, talking to another colleague. And like I said, when the shots rang out, like I said, I think it took everybody by surprise.

COSTELLO: Is the police chief right? Was this an ambush?

BRYANT: You know, I don't really know if that's the right word. Like I said, nobody expected that to happen. It wasn't tense. It was peaceful. Of course, you guys saw the other little brawl that was started, but I mean those were minor incidents. Everything was peaceful from there. Like I said, I think it took everybody by surprise.

COSTELLO: I'm just looking at another photo. This was probably taken after the shots were fired and police were trying to figure out where the gunshots came from and trying to protect themselves and the protesters who were left. Is that correct?

BRYANT: Correct.

COSTELLO: You know, the police chief also said that at these protests the mood has turned ugly, and it's difficult for police to determine who is a peaceful protester and who isn't. Do you agree with that assessment?

BRYANT: I don't think it has turned ugly. There are a lot of frustrated people out there because -- I mean people are just -- they're fed up with it. But at the same time, like I said, for the most part, 200-plus days, I mean it's been very, very peaceful.

Of course, people are going to use their First Amendment rights, but at the same time this has been peaceful. I don't think it has been ugly at all. I think the only ugly part is people looking for answers the same way they're looking for answers.

COSTELLO: The police chief also said that because this happened, he wanted the community to understand that police may not do exactly the right thing. What do you think he meant by that?

BRYANT: Well, it's tense on both sides. For instance, I was trying to get some information last night about when I could leave. I was there until almost 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, but you can tell from the police officers, yes, their guy got hit last night which was unfortunate, but at the same time they -- they've been going through a lot of stress just like the protesters have been going through a lot of stress. I think people just all the way around here in the city just are on edge.

COSTELLO: So what do you think the answer is?

BRYANT: At this point I really don't know. This changes the game a little bit. Like I said, I don't think nobody expected that to happen. The protesters are all basically, they want change and to be heard and to make the right decisions in the city so everybody can get along in the city. But, like I said, you do have, just like there might bad apples with any job or within the police department, there's going to be bad apples with the protesters.

COSTELLO: All right. I understand -- Lawrence Bryant -- I understand. Lawrence Bryant, thank you so much for talking with me. I've got to go.

Thank you all for joining me today, I'm Carol Costello.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Berman and Bolduan after a break.