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Memphis On Edge Ahead Of Video Release Showing Police Beating; Teacher's Lawyer: School Ignored Warnings About Armed Child; WNBA Star Uses Free Agency To Demand Charter Flights. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 26, 2023 - 07:30   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I want to play it and then I want to get your response to it.


LEMON: All right.

TERRY: Thank you.


CHIEF CERELYN DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video. I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action, and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process.


LEMON: So, being a member of -- a longtime member of the community, have you ever heard the police chief come out and do something like that?

TERRY: No, I haven't, not since she's been here. But I think she told me that was something that she wanted to do to let the people know how horrified she was of this crime.

LEMON: I think -- I was going to say that speaks to the nature --


LEMON: -- of what's in this video.


LEMON: What are you being told is in this video because you spoke to the family members?

TERRY: I have, but they didn't go into too much details because of technicalities.

LEMON: Right.

TERRY: So they did not want the community to know until the tape has been released.

LEMON: But the fact that the chief is coming out and saying this, they're taking their time in releasing the statement, which I feel they're preparing the community --


LEMON: -- for what's --


LEMON: -- to come --


LEMON: -- because otherwise, they were -- they would release it if it wasn't so bad.

TERRY: Right.

LEMON: If it -- in some way, it was questionable about what happened or it exonerated the officers in any way. But the fact that they're waiting and they're being careful about it speaks to the nature of the video.

TERRY: Exactly. That is correct.

LEMON: But what are you hearing is in the video -- what it's like?

TERRY: I mean, I heard it was worse than the Rodney King video if I could say that much.


TERRY: So, we could go back and think about what happened years ago to Rodney King, it's worse than that. And I've heard even Ben Crump say that this was probably one of the worst things that he's -- at the violence that he's seen.

LEMON: When you spoke to the family members, what is the sentiment? What are they saying and how are they doing?

TERRY: They want justice for their son and they just -- you know, I think some of the last words he said was "What did I do? What did I do?" And that mother was just saying what did my son do? What could he have done to deserve whatever he got?


I just wonder -- you know, they said that the family wants -- they -- justice, but they believe that there should be murder charges for --

TERRY: Yes. LEMON: -- these five officers.

TERRY: Yes, sir, that is right. That is correct. That's what they are asking the D.A. to do -- charge them with first-degree murder.

LEMON: The fact that the officers are all Black --


LEMON: -- what does that say to you?

TERRY: It hurt me. It hurt my heart. I was very, very upset when I heard that, of course. I mean, regardless of any color, but just to have five African American officers to do this to a young man that weighed less than I do. He only weighed 145 pounds. With them -- five of them to savagely beat him.

LEMON: Yes. And he was over six feet tall but he had Crohn's disease, right --


LEMON: -- so it --


LEMON: -- so he didn't weigh a lot because of the illness.

TERRY: No, he did not.

LEMON: He was -- yes, he was tall and --

TERRY: Right.

LEMON: -- slight in stature.


LEMON: But the fact that there are five officers and they're all Black, I've heard one member -- prominent member of the community said but they're all blue, meaning they're all police officers.

TERRY: Exactly.

LEMON: That they all had the same training.

TERRY: That's right. And I don't think it has anything to do with the training. I think just like police chief Davis said, they are trained very well. But the mentality that they took on that night -- I think that was a personal decision that they made. So it had -- I don't think it had anything to do with the training.

LEMON: What do you say to the community -- this fear of unrest?

TERRY: There is, and I think if it happens today and if the charges are brought to the officers -- if it's not what the community thinks should happen there might be.

LEMON: Are you worried? Are you worried?

TERRY: I'm not. I am not worried right now. I am just praying that it will be a peaceful protest. Whatever happens, I hope it's peaceful.

LEMON: Vickie Terry, we thank you for your insights and we --

TERRY: Thank you so much.

LEMON: -- appreciate you waking up early to come down.

TERRY: Oh, yes, thank you.

LEMON: Thank you so much.

TERRY: Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

LEMON: Poppy, we're going to continue to follow and any moment --


LEMON: -- now that video could be released -- any day now. And as you heard from Vickie Terry here, the executive director of the local NAACP -- as you heard, those officers -- she's heard -- expected to turn themselves in --


LEMON: -- at 10:00 central time, 11:00 eastern. So we shall see. We'll be here reporting.

HARLOW: That would be just three hours from now, Don. Thank you. We'll get back to you very soon. And our thanks to her as well.

Now to the latest fallout in Virginia after a 6-year-old -- a 6-year- old child shot his teacher. The Newport News school board fired its superintendent Wednesday in a 5-1 vote. The vote coming the same day the school's assistant principal resigned.

Twenty-five-year-old teacher Abby Zwerner was shot inside of her classroom at Richneck Elementary School. The bullet went through her hand into her chest. She has been released from the hospital.


She is now taking legal action against the school district.

She claims that on the day of the shooting, school administrators disregarded multiple warnings that the child had a gun.


DIANE TOSCANO, ATTORNEY FOR ABBY ZWERNER: On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times -- three times, school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered. This tragedy was entirely preventable.


HARLOW: So let's lay out this timeline for you.

According to that woman, who is Abby Zwerner's attorney, just after 11:00 a.m., Zwerner told an administrator that the child threatened another student. Nothing was done.

By noon, another teacher told the administrator she believed that student put a gun in his pocket and had taken it out to recess. Just after 1:00 p.m., a third teacher told administrators a student had reported the 6-year-old had showed him a gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone.

Zwerner was shot almost an hour later, according to her attorney.

CNN has reached out to the school district about those claims. Officials have not commented to us yet.

Joining us now is Kasey Sypolt. Her son is a fifth-grade student at Richneck Elementary and was at school the day of the shooting. Kasey, thank you, and good morning.

KASEY SYPOLT, MOM OF 5TH GRADER AT RICHNECK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (via Webex by Cisco): Hi, good morning. Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: You know those officials are gone now -- the superintendent and the assistant principal. There are metal detectors at your child's school. But given the multiple alleged incidents of complete disregard by the district, do you feel safe sending your son to school?

SYPOLT: We are trying to take one day at a time. Am I 100 percent comfortable sending him back, no, but I am hoping that the change in administration is going to make a difference. That they're going to listen to teacher concerns and take things a little more seriously now.

HARLOW: You have a unique perspective. Not only are you the parent of a fifth-grader but you're an educator yourself and you spoke out at the town hall meeting about this last week.

When you talk to your son --


HARLOW: When you talk to your son about this, how do you even have that conversation with a fifth-grader?

SYPOLT: It's a hard conversation to have. You never think that it's going to be your kid, your school. We've tried to talk about it and I don't push the issue. If he wants to talk about it, we talk about it. And I just -- I really want what's best for him and I want him to feel safe at his school. HARLOW: Talk a little bit about what your child did that day.

SYPOLT: So, that day, I was at work. I work about 45 minutes away from where we live. I got a text message from him that said, "Mom, there's a lockdown. I'm scared." And I told him, "Well, hold on. Let me figure out what's going on. I love you."

And then after that, I started getting phone calls from family and friends letting me know that there was a shooting at his school. And at that point, that was the only information we had. So I left work to get here. I called my husband and he met me over at the school while we waited.

HARLOW: Have you had any concerns about the school district and school officials not heeding warning signs about this child, in particular, who had, according to his family, severe behavioral issues and had to be, for a long time, accompanied by one of his parents within the classroom? Had you had any indication that warnings were not heeded about him or any other threats?

SYPOLT: I definitely don't think that the administration, particularly at that school, listened. I know that there had been several complaints previously in regards to this particular student. But I do know that other teachers have had behavior problems as well and they have not been listened to.

HARLOW: Well, Kasey Sypolt, thank you very much. It's impossible to have to try to explain this to your child and we wish you luck as kids do head back to school there. Thanks, again.

SYPOLT: All right. Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Of course -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Poppy.

And straight ahead, the tense moments a woman was rescued from a carjacker. Plus, the renewed calls for better travel accommodations for WNBA players. Bomani Jones is going to join us live to discuss that. We're also going to talk to him about this wild moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, this is going to be the turnover in the --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- right there in the corner. Yes, yes. He's a --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy is actually -- who is he delivering it to?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ref said later. Give it to me later.



HARLOW: Newly-released dashcam video captures a dramatic rescue at the end of a wild police chase in Wisconsin. A woman is sleeping in the back of her car when her husband gets out at the gas station to fill up. And suddenly, a stranger jumped in the front seat and took off. The victim called 911 and said the suspect started driving like crazy once he realized she was in the car.

Listen to this exchange she had with the suspect while she was on the phone with the police dispatcher.


VICTIM (TO WAGNER): No, no. I'm not trying to do anything because I'm really scared. You know, you should get back.


VICTIM (TO WAGNER): Please, now.

WAGNER: I will. OK, I'm going back.

VICTIM (TO WAGNER): No, you are not.

WAGNER: I'm turning around.

VICTIM (TO WAGNER): No, you're not turning around.




This chase came to an end after the police used a technique often used to force a fleeing car to turn sideways. The victim walked away unharmed. The suspect is free on bond but faces multiple charges. Police say he told them he was on drugs at the time.

LEMON: My goodness.

In sports this morning, WNBA star Breanna Stewart is taking it upon herself to try to improve travel conditions for players across the league. Stewart, a free agent and a former MVP, hoping to get rid of WNBA rules forcing teams to travel on commercial flights under most circumstances.

Now, she tweeted earlier this week, "I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA. I would contribute my NIL" -- name, image, and likeness -- "posts and production hours to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health and safety, which ultimately results in a better product."

Let's discuss now. Bomani Jones, the host of "GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES" joins me now, which is, by the way, now streaming season two on HBO Max. Bomani, good morning to you.

So let's talk about this. There are several WNBA and NBA stars who have signaled their support by responding to Stewart's tweet with the hands-up emojis. I mean, this issue has come up several times over recent years.

Should WNBA players still be publicly campaigning for this right now?

BOMANI JONES, HOST, HBO-HBO MAX "GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES", HOST, "THE RIGHT TIME WITH BOMANI JONES" PODCAST: Oh, they absolutely should be. I do think that there's a bit of a dilemma at play with this.

Like, this is an issue that Major League soccer also had a few years ago, which is that it has become standard, at least in the minds of professional athletes, that you fly private, right, and that flying commercial is not good. It's also worth noting that as we know more about the effect that flying has on the body and how it affects athletes, it's probably a cost to doing business that you should be flying private.

The problem, of course, is the same reasons those teams don't fly private is the same reason that I don't fly private. It costs a lot of money to do that. However, if this is what the cost of doing business is -- if a team cannot afford to fly its players private, then the person who owns the team probably cannot afford to own it.

I think the league needs to find a way to make this possible or, if nothing else, putting in a prohibition against flying private, which is what the issue is right now. The leagues have it set in order to protect the owners that ain't got that much money that they're not allowed to fly private. And if an owner can do it, they should allow them to do it. And if that's a problem for those who can't afford it, they should probably sell to somebody richer.

LEMON: Oh, listen, Bomani. I said that a lot of players, even in the NBA, have been speaking up. Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is one of them -- a vice president of the NBA Players Association -- said about this last night -- watch.


KYRIE IRVING, NBA PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: I wish it was as easy as getting it tomorrow, but business takes a little bit of patience. And our W ladies have been patient long enough, so we've definitely got to get something done. And I'm -- and I'm with them no matter how much it costs. You know, per se, I think could all collectively come together and make something very doable happen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So what is stopping the NBA from getting this done? Is it the rules that you mentioned before?

JONES: I mean, they are the rules. They set the rules. The issue is money. This costs a lot of money.

Now, what I think has happened with the leagues -- and I've seen people make this point -- is that college athletes grow accustomed to flying charters in college, but the reason is you've got a booster who's like hey, want to fly in my plane? And then they come drop off the plane and then somebody does it.

This is much more of a profit-maximizing enterprise. They look at it differently. But they don't have to have those rules in place. Those rules are there to protect the owners at the expense of the players.

And I've been on a flight before with the WNBA team and you sit there and you think about it. They played a game the night before. They're getting on the plane the next day. They're playing a game the same night and they're all walking on the plane getting behind me, right? So you think about people -- their height, sitting there cramped into a middle seat, and then they're supposed to play a basketball game that night. I mean, that just sounds ridiculous on its face.

So one way or another, they need to figure out how to come up with the money. And if it's a loss, I think this is just a cost that's necessary for them to do business in an optimal way.

LEMON: Yes, Bomani, you're right. Listen, I have to jump on a plane a lot and you don't get much sleep. I can't imagine having to play a professional basketball game, right -- a high-intensity basketball game after flying commercial and waiting, and delays on the runway. And you know what happens.

But before you go, Bomani Jones, I've got to ask you about this crazy video because I was like, wait, is this team being punked? Is this real? This is last night at the Duquesne men's basketball game. A food delivery guy walked right onto the court with a McDonald's order. The ref had to call a delay in the game.

And we have a ton of questions about how this could happen. We reached out to the school. We have not heard back.

Is this real or was this a stunt? What's up with this?

JONES: I have a hard time believing that it was a stunt.


But I do have to say that if all you've got to do to get courtside at a game is put in an Uber Eats order, I feel like I need to try this trick. I had never thought of that. If I'm an Uber Eats driver and I get to the arena, and I say hey, somebody ordered some McDonald's and you'll let me in, I'll be able to get through all these different levels of usher in order to get there -- I -- that is an incredible way to get over on the cheap on getting to a game. I think we all need to give that a run.

LEMON: (Laughing)

I feel like we're going to see, like, this on a late-night talk show or something that this guy was part of a team or something that was hired to do this so that it could be a joke. But we'll get to the bottom of it.

Bomani, thank you. And I need to tell everyone make sure you tune into "GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES" streaming season two on HBO Max right now.

OK, so there's --

JONES: All right, thanks.

LEMON: -- fear and confusion. We are -- we're going to go live in Florida next hour with a reaction to the new law that requires classroom books to be preapproved.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would not suggest banning books. It's a slippery slope. This is good literature with value.




HARLOW: A bizarre story out of Michigan. State Police there have fatally shot a man after he allegedly shined a laser at a police helicopter. This happened in Detroit on Tuesday night.


LT. MICHAEL SHAW, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE: Trooper two was on patrol over this neighborhood here when they started getting a laser light that was shining into the cockpit from one of the homes on Terry Street.


HARLOW: Police say as they searched for the location of the laser, the man emerged from the home and engaged in a gunfight with the officers in the chopper and on the ground. He allegedly fired multiple shots. He was killed when police returned fire. And officials say they also discovered a cache of weapons and ammunition inside of his home.

Now, this.

LEMON: Good morning. We are live in Memphis as this city here awaits the release of the video showing police officers beating a man during a traffic stop that preceded his death. This morning, the police chief is speaking out.

HARLOW: Opening statements underway in the trial of the former lawyer accused of killing his wife and son. The new evidence revealed, including a phone call he made shortly after the murders.

LEMON: A superintendent and an assistant principal out this morning after it is revealed the school where a teacher was shot by a 6-year- old allegedly ignored dire warnings.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": It seems like everybody's bringing home classified documents like they were catsup packets.


HARLOW: As we learn more, officials are taking their secrets home with them. The National Archives may now ask former presidents and vice presidents to check their files.

LEMON: And despite Russia warning of nuclear war, new moves by the U.S. and its allies may show the West no longer fears Vladimir Putin's threats.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

And we begin here in Memphis where police could soon release bodycam video from the beating of Tyre Nichols. And just last hour, the head of the local NAACP branch told us that criminal charges could be coming this morning against the officers, and in a few hours, they may turn themselves in. We'll talk to you about that.

And a warning now. We're about to show you a photo of Tyre Nichols in the hospital before he died.

His family and their attorneys have already seen the bodycam footage. They say the video is horrific and that it shows officers kicking Tyre, pepper-spraying him, and using a stun gun while Tyre repeatedly asked them "What did I do?"

The Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis has already fired the five officers involved. She says the beating was heinous and inhumane. Davis addressed her community last night -- watch.


DAVIS: This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane. And in the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.

I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video. I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action, and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right, so let's bring in now CNN's Sara Sidner and Shimon Prokupecz. They have been following this story from the very beginning. Good morning to both of you. Thank you for -- listen, we're awaiting to see what happens.


LEMON: We're standing here in front of City Hall.

That video supposedly is horrific. We've been getting all indications from that.

Can you talk to us about the investigation, and when do we -- when will that video be released?

PROKUPECZ: Well, in terms of the state investigation, it seems that they're at a point where they're complete with their investigation. The D.A. said he was waiting to finish interviews with witnesses and then they were going to release the video.

The big thing that we are all waiting for right now is word on whether or not these officers are going to face charges.

There seems to be an effort here to warn people -- give people some notice that this video is going to come out, to kind of prepare the community. The family has already seen the video. But they really want to prepare the community for what they are about to see.