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SUV Slams into Christmas Parade Crowd; Biden to Renominate Jerome Powell; Closing Arguments to Begin in Arbery Trial; Search for Man Whose Gun Discharged at Atlanta Airport; Uptick in Smash-and-Grab Robberies. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What he chose, to feed the homeless in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, for a year.


ADEOLA "ABRAHAM" OLAGBEGI, MAKE-A-WISH RECIPIENT: It's always a good thing to do and that's what I grew up doing. So I just decided to like go back to my roots and just to do what I was taught to do.


BERMAN: That's great. Also great, he was given a successful bone marrow transplant and says he is feeling well.

CNN's coverage continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning. I'm Erica Hill.


Right now, closing arguments are set to begin in the murder trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. The three men charged face potentially life in prison if convicted. In a moment, we will take you to Brunswick, Georgia, where jury deliberations could begin as soon as today.

We are also, this morning, following just a tragic story out of Waukesha, Wisconsin. At least five people confirmed dead, more than 40 injured this morning after what you saw right there, an SUV plowed through a crowded Christmas parade.


KAYLEE STARAL, BUSINESS INTERN, "MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL": Probably around 4:30/5:00, you just hear a bunch of people start to scream. And your first thought is, maybe it's Santa Claus, right? Santa comes at the end of the parade. Maybe people are excited. But the next thing you see is a red SUV barreling down the middle of the street going 30 miles per hour and you see it hit people. You know, it doesn't stop and it keeps going down that street.


HILL: Well, that red SUV has been recovered. Police also have a person in custody this morning. It's unclear at this hour whether that person is the driver. Sources tell CNN, investigators believe the driver was trying to get away from the scene of another incident when he drove into the parade route. The chaotic scene leaving witnesses horrified.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Must have been going, I mean, at least 40 to 50 miles an hour, just came through and, um, I saw -- I mean maybe three people right in front of me get hit.

I saw people right away run to the people that were hit and started doing CPR. And I saw people on the ground. There's blood and it was really bad.


HILL: At one point, a police officer fired his weapon in an attempt to stop the driver. Officials do not believe, however, any shots were fired from the vehicle itself.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Natasha Chen joins us now from the scene in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Natasha, police describing having a person in custody this morning. Do we know any more information about whether this person is a suspect?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim and Erica, they used the term "person of interest" last night in a couple of press conferences. They wouldn't say much more about that person. There were some reporters next to me who were asking, well, did they say anything to you when they were taken into custody? Very tight-lipped and actually would not take questions in the last press update.

But where we are right now is over by main street, you can actually see, this was the parade route and there are items, belongings from people that were abandoned in a hurry. They're strewn across the street. Police markings on the ground there. So, this is still very much closed off. This is the downtown core.

And as we were talking about, this red SUV hit the first group of people about three blocks east of where we are right now, hitting a marching band. Some of those horrifying descriptions that the witnesses talked about.

Here's one witness who talked to "Good Morning America" today about the just shocking moments when that red SUV came plowing through the crowd.


MATTHEW RUDE, WITNESS: I didn't get any sleep last night. I kept replayed what I witness and what could have potentially happened to myself and my children.

All of a sudden I heard screams and chaos coming from my right and that caught my attention. I looked over and I saw an SUV coming towards us relatively quickly and I knew that wasn't part of the parade and I knew something was -- something was wrong.


CHEN: Something very, very wrong.

Let's remind folks that the basic information that we do have at this moment. Five people at least have been killed, more than 40 people injured, which include children of a catholic school, children in this area. Sources, again, ,say the investigators believe the suspect was actually fleeing another incident. Police do have a person of interest in custody. The local schools are closed today and President Biden is receiving regular updates on this situation.

I just want to also mention that one of the witnesses who talked to me last night said how in those terrifying moments, people, law enforcement, first responders jumped into action immediately.


She was in an apartment building and people pulled folks into the building to get them off the streets, away from the threat. So, a lot of people who did some very important, heroic actions.

Jim. Erica.

HILL: Yes, that's for sure.

Natasha, appreciate it. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We are now hearing the frantic police calls that followed that deadly incident in Waukesha.

Listen to one of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A maroon Ford Escape just blew past White Rock (ph) and Hartwell (ph) heading into the parade route.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a car going westbound closer to the parade (INAUDIBLE). A red Escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have multiple casualties. (INAUDIBLE). Need multiple 10-52s. (INAUDIBLE) people down in the street. Forty casualties down main street.


HILL: Joining us now, Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst and former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, and Charles Ramsey, senior CNN law enforcement analyst. He's also a former police commissioner in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Good to have both of you with us this morning.

When we look at what we know this morning, right, we've actually learned a fair amount overnight. Those videos, the calls that came in.

Commissioner, as you see that video, how fast the car is going, and even sort of the trajectory, I feel that we heard early on, this is what also, before it had been confirmed, gave a number of analysts and law enforcement specialists the thought that perhaps this was not premeditated, if that's the right word.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I'm sure that they've learned an awful lot overnight. He's in custody. Hopefully he is cooperating and at least talking to authorities. But even if he wasn't, by now they would have been able to kind of piece together a few things. For example, now they're saying that perhaps this is part of another incident. Maybe it was a description of a vehicle, a driver, or whatever they were able to start matching things. They've been going through video footage and the like.

But, you know, a lot of work still need to be done to determine what -- just exactly how this happened. It may well have not been intentional. He did pass a lot of people that he could have struck. If the intent was simply to cause that kind of carnage, he could have done it a lot earlier than the actual crash site.


Juliette, you worked at the Department of Homeland Security.


SCIUTTO: I don't want to give people the impression you can -- you or anyone can protect against every threat at every time.

KAYYEM: Right.

SCIUTTO: But we do know that in the past vehicles have been used, you know, intentionally.


SCIUTTO: And, again, the circumstances here don't -- don't seem to look that way, at least right now.

But as you look at the setup, were there any missed opportunities to provide better security for the parade route or is this just a difficult one to handle?

KAYYEM: It's a difficult one to handle. I mean the more security you put on events like this, a local event, a small town, or relatively small town, the more disruptive it becomes, the less likely people are going to want to attend. So you're sort of constantly balancing the inconvenience of safety and security with the, you know, the benefits of being together. And I -- but -- but motivation does matter, Jim, as you were -- as you were saying, because what you have to remember is that the motivation actually had been -- or terrorism or race related as some people were suggesting early on, that would have had a national impact on the holiday season. I mean, in other words, how cities were planning whether they were going to have events, whether family members would want to go to event. I'm not saying it's a relief that it was a flee situation, but it's why we actually need to be very cautious because these have ripple effects down the pike.


KAYYEM: And the truth is, you know, people do want to go out this holiday season now that we can.


HILL: When we -- to that point, Commissioner, when we look at how things have changed based on vehicles being used in the past as a weapon, for people who are looking at event that may be coming up for the holiday, whether it's a local Thanksgiving Day parade, a Christmas parade coming up, do you sense that the questions that they're going to be asking, am I safe, you know, how easy is that question going to be to answer for local officials?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, there are going to be parades around the country. Thanksgiving, Santa Claus coming into town, all those kinds of things going on. Now, many cities now use trash trucks or dump trucks, police vehicles to block main arteries where the parade is going to be taking place so you don't have a problem with a vehicle going down that particular street and everybody's going to take a look at security.

You know, you can't protect against everything, but there are some steps you can take as a precaution that I believe will help make people feel a little bit more comfortable.



SCIUTTO: It's a good point, Chief, because we should reassure people that the police and cities around the country, they take precautions before events like this one.


This one, obviously, a horrible tragedy, but they do think along these lines.

Juliette Kayyem, Charles Ramsey, thanks so much to both of you.

KAYYEM: Yes. Thanks.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, yet more breaking news this morning.

A source tells CNN that President Biden will renominate Jerome Powell as chairman of the Federal Reserve. This is a big decision, Erica, particularly in the midst of high inflation times.

HILL: Yes, it certainly is. CNN's White House correspondent Arlette Saenz joins us now, along with chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

Arlette, first to you.

So what more do we know about the thinking behind this decision and when we will hear more?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, President Biden has decided to nominate -- or to reappoint Jerome Powell as the chair of the Federal Reserve. We just received a statement from the White House and the president about that a short while ago. But this move really signals that he wants to have continuity when it comes to the economic policy of the U.S.

Now, in addition to reappointing Jerome Powell, who was first appointed to the board of governors of the Federal Reserve under President Obama, and then elevated to the post of chair under President Trump, Biden is also elevating Lael Brainard to the post of vice chair. She currently sits on the Federal Reserve board. And she was also considered one of the top contenders for the Fed chair position in addition to Powell.

And I want to read you a statement released just a short while ago from President Biden. He said, if we want to continue to build on the economic success of this year, we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve. An I have full confidence after their trial by fire over the last 20 months that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard will provide the strong leadership our country needs.

Now, there had been some progressives in the Democratic Party who did not want to see the president reappoint Powell to another term. They were looking for someone who might enact more tough, strict banking regulations. But, ultimately, the president has decided to go that route. Of course, right now, the Federal Reserve has a lot on their plate, particularly when it comes to that rising inflation that we've seen across the country. One looming decision that they will have is whether to raise interest rates in the coming months.

But, today, the president is really cementing one of his most important economic policy decisions by renominating Powell as the chair to the Federal Reserve.

SCIUTTO: Chief business correspondent Christine Romans joining us now as well.

And, Christine, you know, oftentimes a president's ability to control inflation can be exaggerated, but a Fed chair's ability is real, right, because this gets, as Arlette was saying, to interest rate policy here. Do you see implications in this decision for the administration's

approach to inflation and what we might see down the pipeline?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, absolutely. I mean the Fed is the official inflation fighter and the president gets grief for high gas prices or rising prices for the things that we're paying out of the Covid. But it is the Fed that fights inflation by tailoring -- tapering back stimulus and raising interest rates to tramp down an overheating economy.

So, Jerome Powell is probably the most important and powerful person that most Americans have probably never even heard of. This, to me, signals that the White House is going to stay the course, they're not going to change horses midstream, to use that terrible cliche, and they're going to let this Fed chief continue on his Covid fight.

He gets very high marks for working quickly with a remarkable stimulus to keep the American economy from slipping into a depression from the Covid recession here. So, I think that this is a predictable move for Wall Street and it allows the president to give the Fed maybe a little bit of -- a little bit of clear way from -- remember the Fed kept saying it was transitory -- inflation was transitory?


ROMANS: It doesn't feel very transitory. But the -- but the president is keeping, you know, keeping with Jerome Powell here.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and the markets don't like surprises.

ROMANS: No, they don't.

SCIUTTO: Christine Romans, Arlette Saenz, thanks so much to both of you.

Other big story we're following this morning, right now, closing arguments will begin at any moment in the murder trial of the three white men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

HILL: CNN national correspondent Ryan Young is following all the developments for us. He is outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia.

So, closing arguments begin today. Do we know any more about length, what we will hear in those arguments?


One of the things I was -- figured out this week is you never can get too far ahead of this -- these attorneys here, especially on the defense side. Right now they're actually going back and forth about the charging documents as court sort of just started. They haven't brought the jury in because they're going to decide officially about the charges. Apparently they have a lot of emails traded back and forth between the law teams this weekend to get us to this point. At one point, someone estimated maybe six hours in terms of all the back and forth that would be included in these closing arguments.

Let's not forget, last week the big headline was Travis McMichael was on the stand and both sides took a crack at explaining their story.


And the prosecution probably scored some points with asking him some really pointed questions when it came to what they were thinking that day. They got him to admit they never said this was a citizens arrest.

But moving from that point right now, we're in that procedural standpoint, where it comes down to getting things sort of laid out so they can bring the jury in.

Let's also not forget the inflammatory statements that were made just last week by Defense Attorney Kevin Gough, when he said he felt like the clients were being publicly lynched. A lot of people really sort of were aghast about that because, obviously, in a community like this, where you have so much racial tension at this point, for him to bring up those words during the ending, outside of the jury, but still at the same point to bring those words up, the judge wasn't happy about it.

But we'll see how this moves forward. Again, they're discussing the last bit of charges before moving forward for closing statements this morning.


SCIUTTO: Ryan Young, we know you'll be watching.

Joining us now to discuss, Page Pate, he's a criminal defense and constitutional law attorney, and Chris Stewart, he's an attorney who actually represented Ahmaud Arbery's mother, as well as the families of George Floyd, Walter Scott and Alton Sterling.

Good to have all of you here.

Page Pate, in brief, if you can, what do both the prosecution and defense have to accomplish in their closing arguments?

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Jim, obviously the prosecution is going to go back to what I think is the critical piece of evidence in the case, and that's the video. They will certainly walk the jury through each and every frame of that video, remind them of the testimony, of the law enforcement officers who responded after Ahmaud Arbery was killed. And I think also go back to the absence of any information to support the argument that Ahmaud Arbery was committing some sort of crime.

So I think the prosecution will kind of get away from the opinion type testimony, the medical type testimony and just focus on the videos.

Now, for the defense, of course, they have a very different challenge. I think they will try to use a lot of what Travis McMichael said about his perceptions about what he was thinking, some evidence of some criminal activity in the neighborhood and then try to walk the jury through what he saw on the scene.

So it really is one of those cases that's going to come down to how the individual jurors see that video and whether or not they believe Travis McMichael.


HILL: Ultimately, we know it's supposed to be about the evidence for jurors.

So, Chris, when you look at this, sort of coming off of what we just heard from Page there, in terms of the evidence, in terms of the cross-examination from the prosecutor of Travis McMichael, how much will that, you think, not only be a focus in closing arguments, but, frankly, be a focus for the jury?

CHRIS STEWART, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: It was a phenomenal cross-examination. I think that the prosecution, they've really laid this out. They had a game plan. They wanted to go step by step, and they were successful. I mean they got him to admit that Ahmaud hadn't threatened him. That he didn't want to speak to them. That they kept pursuing him. That he actually pointed the shotgun at Ahmaud, you know, in a close range and stepped towards him. You know, at that point, Ahmaud's life was in danger. There was nothing he could do. He couldn't run away. He admitted that there was no such thing as a citizen's arrest until his lawyers brought it up. It left the jury and it left all of us thinking, well, why would you shoot him? And that's effective.

SCIUTTO: Chris, can I ask you, just as a brief follow, more broadly there's been some discussion about how the prosecution seemed to avoid race as a central issue -- influencing factor in this case. And I wonder, in your view, given your experience, was that deliberate and was that a good idea?

STEWART: Well, in this situation they had the facts on their side. So they didn't need to go to race or things of that nature. They have phenomenal facts in the prosecution of this case. You know, and they knew that. They knew what their witnesses were going to say. The officers backed up everything the prosecution was going to bring. So they stepped to the facts and that's why they're going to win this case.

HILL: Page, when we look at those facts, how difficult has this been on the defense? I know that the burden, right, is on the prosecution. That being said, did you see a strength at all in any of the cases from these defendants?

PATE: Well, I did. And, respectfully, I disagree a bit with Chris on this point. I think Travis McMichael's testimony went in mostly unchallenged. I mean we heard the prosecutor cross-examine him but it was not a very focused examination. She let him repeat his narrative about what he thought. She didn't really drill down into his lack of legitimate training. I mean he came across as some sort of law enforcement officer. And I'm concerned, at least from the prosecution's standpoint, that the jury may buy into that. And then we heard testimony from people in that neighborhood trying to

corroborate McMichael's position that there was a lot of crime going on. And I don't think that's factual, but that is the testimony that they heard. By leaving out the evidence of racial prejudice, I do think that was a mistake from the prosecution's side. I mean maybe they thought, this is an almost all white jury.


It could backfire on us. But I don't think that's correct. I think they should have taken all of that evidence, let the jury consider it, because that's evidence of motive. Right now the prosecution just has a bunch of mistakes and I think that was a mistake.

HILL: It will be interesting to see what we hear in both of those closing arguments as we wait for those.

Page Pate, Chris Stewart, good to have both of you with us.

Stay with us. We're going to continue to watch that courtroom. Again, we'll bring you the closing arguments when they begin.

Also still to come here, a manhunt underway for a man whose gun discharged in an extremely busy airport security line. We'll take you live to Atlanta, next.

SCIUTTO: Why did he have a gun in the first place there?

Scenes like this playing out in stores across the country. What's being done to stop these brazen robberies?

Plus, countries in Europe are choosing to go into lockdown now over new surges in coronavirus infections. What does that mean for the U.S. as we head into winter?



SCIUTTO: Authorities are still searching for the man who caused mass panic as well as delayed flights in Atlanta's international airport. Here's the scene. This after a gun inside his bag, loaded apparently, discharged during a security screening Saturday afternoon.

HILL: Officials believe the gun belongs to 42-year-old Kenny Wells, who fled the scene after it went off.

CNN's Nadia Romero is live outside of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

So, Nadia, what more do we know this morning?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica and Jim.

And it is a busy morning here at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. We're right ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. And so imagine how bust it was on Saturday, on the weekend, as people were trying to make their way to loved ones, and then they heard a gunshot.

Now, police say that 42-year-old Kenny Wells was a passenger who lunged for his gun after going through TSA checkpoint and having it flagged during the x-ray machine. He lunged for the gun, discharging it, and that sent people into hysteria. Chaos and confusion ensued.

And listen to people who were inside of the airport. They were believing that they were running for their lives during an active shooter situation.

Take a listen.


IVAN STOBERT, WITNESSED CHAOS AT ATLANTA AIRPORT: We heard that somebody say, "active shooter, get out." And that's when everyone start running away really hard.

JUDITH FOUTS, WITNESSED CHAOS AT ATLANTA AIRPORT: People just came flying through and just were like "run, run, run" and then people were just running, and we all just ran outside this door right here.

KEVIN HELGREN, WITNESSED CHAOS AT ATLANTA AIRPORT: Everyone was dropping their suitcases. Folks were running in any possible direction away from what we thought was the center of action. People were sliding under rails and jumping over barricades.


ROMERO: And that happened for quite some time before we heard from Atlanta airport telling us that they believed that this was an accidental discharge and not an active shooter situation.

Now, in that confusion, Kenny Wells was able to run away with the gun. He blended in with the crowd of everyone else running away. And that's why police are still looking for him today. They say that they have warrants out for his arrest because he's a convicted felon. He shouldn't have had a firearm at all, let alone bring it into a commercial airport, discharging that firearm and for reckless conduct.

Now, this brought a spotlight on the Atlanta airport and its security measures because so many people are flying now once again during this pandemic after taking a pause for many people in 2020, especially now right before a holiday. So we spoke with Atlanta airport security spokesperson, asking him about the security measures. He says, listen, every quarter we step it up. Back in January, they brought in another 335 cameras. Those cameras now making it 3,400 all across the airport grounds that are being monitored 24/7 by TSA and airport emergency operations. But, again, that manhunt continues for 42-year-old Kenny Wells.

Erica. Jim.

HILL: Nadia Romero with the latest for us. Nadia, thank you.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, there has been a recent uptick in brazen smash-and-grab robberies. In the San Francisco Bay area, three people have been arrested after dozens of looters ransacked a Nordstrom store on Saturday night.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the concern is this is becoming a pattern.

Just outside of Chicago last week, at least 14 people forced their way into a Louis Vuitton store, made off with more than $100,000 worth of merchandise. You see the security camera footage there.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has been following.

Polo, I mean, big question is, what you can do about this, right? I mean easy to overwhelm whatever security guard you might have there. How broadly are we seeing this phenomenon?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, authorities are saying that they're basically going to saturate some of these areas here to make sure that they have that visibility because, no question, when you look at these pictures, too, Erica and Jim, this was just a huge smash-and-grab operation that took place near San Francisco over the weekend on Saturday. Police saying that at least -- at least 80 suspects, they actually ransacked the Nordstrom department store in Walnut Creek, California, there. Authorities did manage to catch up with one vehicle, detained about three people. They're speaking to them right now to see if they can actually track down the rest of the suspects.

And this incident really just following what has been just a series of other similar lootings that took place in and around the San Francisco area, mainly at Union Square and surrounding areas there in San Francisco. Some of the businesses that were hit there include dozens of them, including high-end retailers. There was a pharmacy that was hit. Also a cannabis dispensary. Even an eye glass store that was hit according to authorities there, though it is unclear if they were actually related.


San Francisco has been really struggling with a surge in various crimes here, larceny, for example, and theft incidents.