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Protests Erupt In New York City Over Death Of Man Held In Chokehold; U.S. History And Civics Scores Drop For Eighth Graders; Doctors Perform In-Utero Surgery For Rare Brain Malformation. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 04, 2023 - 07:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is conducting a quote "rigorous and ongoing investigation" after a man who was riding the New York subway died after he was held in a chokehold by a fellow passenger. Officials have ruled Jordan Neely's death a homicide and police have questioned and now released, we should note, the 20-year-old -- 24-year-old former U.S. Marine who was the one to restrain him.

CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now. Brynn, what have we heard from witnesses about what exactly was happening in this incident as this took place that led up to this chokehold?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan. Listen, witnesses are saying that Neely was acting erratically, but he wasn't harming anyone. So there's a lot of questions that still need to be answered here.

The district attorney's office says it's going to be looking at that autopsy report that just came out. It's going to be conducting its own interviews and also looking at any video that some of which witnesses shot on that train to kind of make a determination if charges are going to be filed in this case. You're going to see some of that video as well for yourself.

But all of this -- this fatal incident and his death prompting protests in New York City.



GINGRAS (voice-over): Protesters chanting on a New York City subway platform for Jordan Neely who was killed by a subway rider after being placed in a chokehold.

Juan Alberto Vazquez, who recorded this video, says the 30-year-old launched into an aggressive rant saying he was fed up and hungry and was tired of having nothing. Another passenger described Neely as acting erratically. Neely had not attacked anyone on the train, according to Vazquez.

Despite this, a passenger came up from behind and placed Neely in a chokehold. Other passengers are seen in the video helping restrain him. NYPD officers were seen after trying to administer CPR.

CNN cannot independently confirm what happened leading up to the incident and does not know how long Neely was restrained.

The New York City medical examiner has ruled Neely's death a homicide. The Manhattan district attorney says it's investigating his death.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY: This is what highlights what I've been saying throughout my administration. People who are dealing with mental health illness should get the help they need and not live on the train, and I'm going to continue to push on that.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Last year, New York City's Mayor Eric Adams was criticized for directing first responders and the NYPD to involuntarily commit people experiencing a mental health crisis as part of an attempt to address concerns about homelessness and crime. And in October 2022, Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced an initiative to have a stronger police presence on New York City subways after a string of violent crimes.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL, (D) NEW YORK: We want to have a more significant presence -- visible presence. We'll do ever -- whatever we can -- whatever is necessary to keep New Yorkers safe.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The use of chokeholds by the NYPD came under scrutiny after the 2014 death of Eric Garner by police. The practice was eventually banned from use by arresting officers.

This incident has drawn the attention of many local officials. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is calling it murder. And New York City's comptroller, Brad Lander, tweeting New York City, quote, "is not Gotham. We must not become a city where a mentally ill human being can be choked to death by a vigilante without consequence."


GINGRAS: And as far as those comments, like from AOC, the mayor was on CNN last night and saying they are -- they're not responsible at the moment. He says he kind of wants to take a pause and see how the district attorney's investigation plays out. And, of course, we're going to be following that for us.

COLLINS: Yes. He told Abby Phillip we'll have to wait to see what this investigation finds.

Brynn Gingras, thank you for that.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Eighth-graders are scoring at historic lows in history and civics. This is according to a really troubling new report. We'll explain what's behind that downward trend.

Also, this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEREK COLEMAN, FATHER OF DENVER COLEMAN: So this is Miss Denver Coleman and she is about to change the world.


COLLINS: Yes, she is. Look how cute she is. Doctors have performed a groundbreaking surgery on the baby you see there, Denver, before she was even born. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with that entire fascinating story.

HARLOW: I love that.



COLLINS: It's often said that history repeats itself, but what if you don't know your history? According to new results from Nation's Report Card, scores in the U.S. history and civics are down across the country for eighth-graders. In U.S. history, actually, scores dropped by five points from 2018 to 2022 -- a downtrend that actually began nine years ago and unfortunately, has continued.

Another negative, 2022 also marked the first-ever score drop for civics classes. Only 14 percent of students reached at or above what is considered a proficient mark in history. It was 22 percent in civics.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement that the report underscores the profound impact that the pandemic had on student learning in subjects beyond math and reading.

Here is a sample U.S. history question that is deemed medium difficulty. The question is: What were the European explorers such as Henry Hudson looking for when they sailed the coast and rivers of North America in the 1600s?

One more. Here's an open-ended civics question that's categorized as hard. Quote, "Many citizens of the U.S. believe the federal government should work with other nations to develop ways to protect the environment. What are two ways, other than military action, countries can act together to address environmental issues?

Those are the kinds of questions that are on these exams. If eighth- graders can figure that out for the sake of the world, of course, that would be great.


COLLINS: But this is really alarming because -- I mean, it is a cliche to say history repeats itself but that is part of all of this and informing people and making sure people know what has happened in the past. HARLOW: Yes, and the best leaders have always thought in business or in government are people who know and understand and learn from history, right? And to what?

I also think the learning loss -- what Sec. Cardona said there -- we have to talk a lot more about what it meant to have our schools closed.

COLLINS: Yes, a massive impact.

HARLOW: Just days after the collapse of First Republic Bank, which was the second largest bank failure in the history of this nation, Los Angeles-based PacWest -- that's Pacific Western Bank -- this morning is on edge, frankly. Wall Street shares tumbling as a result. The shares of the bank down 50 percent after hours yesterday after it said it is exploring all strategic options, including a sale.

In a statement, though, on its website, the PacWest leaders write, "Recently, the company has been approached by several potential partners and investors. Discussions are ongoing. The company will continue to evaluate all options to maximize shareholder value. The bank has not experienced," they say, any sort of "out-of-the-ordinary deposit flows following the sale of First Republic and other news."

Let's talk about what's happening here and where this goes with New York Times reporter Lauren Hirsch, who has been covering PacWest extensively during this banking crisis. Good morning.


HARLOW: Thanks for being here.

Why PacWest now? Their number show 75 percent of their deposits are insured as of earlier this week, and they haven't seen big outflows, meaning people -- there's not -- it doesn't appear that there's a run on this bank.


HIRSCH: Right. And so, the big concern is does the stock falling create a run on this bank? I mean, what we're seeing at PacWest is, I would say (INAUDIBLE) in last -- this week --


HIRSCH: -- which is a huge confidence for investors. And this was the number one concern was the short investors basically -- investors who invest against the stock -- they were all betting against First Republic, and that is what helped drive down its shares.

And so the big question there was well, now if First Republic is gone, who's next? And it looks like they attacked PacWest and a lot of the other regional banks that on paper look kind of similar to First Republic but one really big difference is they said today, they haven't lost a lot of deposits. And so while the fundamental business hasn't changed to investors, attacking it created uncertainty that wasn't there and does that almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

COLLINS: And is that what this is, you think? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy where it's essentially what happened with First Republic felt like a leftover of what we saw happen with SVB? Is this just it repeating itself and this would not happen had those banks not failed?

HIRSCH: That's the big concern. I mean, banks are really -- it's a confidence industry and right now there is a lack of confidence in regional banks across the U.S. And that is what I think the government is dealing with. Do they have to do something a little bit more drastic perhaps and really get that confidence back?

HARLOW: But I think, Lauren, you bring up such a good point because this is not like 2008, which all the leaders have said. I mean, you had some really crappy stuff in 2008, to say the least. You know, what are -- credit defaults and so many issues. I could go on and on.

That's not the banking system we're in today. That's not what we're talking about. So the fact that you're saying short sellers could be essentially demolishing these established U.S. banks is remarkable and troubling?

HIRSCH: It's troubling. I mean, listen, it's capitalism and there's a whole separate debate --


HIRSCH: -- on whether or not short sellers are good or bad, and they have gotten a lot of flack there.

HARLOW: That's fair.

HIRSCH: They have some confidence.


HIRSCH: They found some confidence.

HARLOW: So they can point out weaknesses.

HIRSCH: They can point out weaknesses. But it's a really good point.

And yes, this is nothing like the 2008 financial crisis. If anything, it's like the savings and loan crisis in the '80s when it took a while for the --

HARLOW: 10 years.

HIRSCH: Yes, exactly. So, you know -- and the economy kind of hummed along.

So there's no reason as of now to freak out for lack of a technical term, but it's concerning and alarming, and you do want to contain it and not let it spiral.

COLLINS: Yes. And I think regional bank executives would like people to shout that from the roof a little bit louder.

How does the interest rate raise yesterday from Jay Powell play into all of this?

HIRSCH: It was widely expected and the market, aside from regional banks, is generally up this morning. So I think they were -- they kind of baked it in.

The big question now is whether or not he raises it in the future. He kind of indicated yesterday they may leave room to take a pause that I think will give people -- I think a lot of people are pushing for that. I think they don't think the economy right now can really handle any more hikes.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, he said it might be the last one for a while. We'll see.

HARLOW: I'll bet (PH).

HIRSCH: We'll see.

HARLOW: Your reporting has been great on this. Thanks, Lauren, very much.

HIRSCH: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Russia without any evidence, accusing the United States of being behind a drone attack on the Kremlin. John Kirby, from the White House, will join us live right ahead. We'll get his response to that.

COLLINS: Also, a new ProPublica investigation broken this morning reveals billionaire Harlan Crow had paid for the tuition fees for a family member of Clarence -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was raising this grand-nephew as a son. More on that investigation next.



HARLOW: Well, doctors in Boston have performed a groundbreaking surgery on an unborn baby with a rare type of brain malformation in utero.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke exclusively with the family and he has this remarkable report.


KENYATA COLEMAN, MOTHER OF DENVER COLEMAN: On September 14, we were able to have our first ultrasound. We saw "baby." We were extremely excited. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN HOST, CHASING LIFE PODCAST (voice-over): This was baby number four for Derek and Kenyata Coleman -- a girl named Denver -- and they were excited. But then, at their routine 30-week ultrasound, a nightmare began.

K. COLEMAN: I saw my doctor and we sat down, and then she shared with me that something wasn't right in terms of the baby's brain, and also her heart was enlarged.

GUPTA (voice-over): The concern was this -- that big colorful mass you're looking at in baby Denver's brain. It's known as a vein of Galen malformation and it shouldn't exist. Simply put, this vein was getting too much blood and too quickly.

DR. DARREN ORBACH, RADIOLOGIST, BOSTON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Ironically, despite all of this blood going to the brain, it's not supplying brain tissue. It's just going through the malformation like a short circuit right back to the heart.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Darren Orbach, a radiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, typically treats these rare malformations right after a baby is born. But too often, that can be too late.

ORBACH: Fifty to 60 percent of all babies with his condition will get very sick immediately. For those, it looks like there's about a 40 percent mortality.

GUPTA (voice-over): So, Orbach and his team offered Kenyata and Derek something new -- a chance to treat Denver before she was born in utero.

Now, keep in mind, in utero surgery also means they had to take two patients to the operating room instead of one, and they had to then very carefully thread a catheter right into the middle of that gigantic blood vessel inside a very tiny baby brain.

GUPTA (on camera): What was the biggest risk?

ORBACH: I would say the biggest risk is the fear of injury to the brain. We are accessing the head through the skull and through the dura, and back into the big collecting vein.

GUPTA (voice-over): In order to accomplish this, Kenyata was taken to the operating room and given an epidural, and then Denver was rotated into the right position and given anesthesia to keep her from moving.

K. COLEMAN: So after learning that she was in the ideal position that was more confirmation for me. Like, there's no backing out of this.


GUPTA (on camera): So babies in utero -- you sort of -- baby is flipped so that the back of the head is towards the abdominal wall. So this would be toward you as the surgeon here. The needle is going to go then through the abdominal wall of mom and then through the occipital bone right here. ORBACH: And at that point, we introduced the microcatheter through the needle and went up through the sinus to get to the big vein.

GUPTA (voice-over): And through that needle these tiny little coils were used to fill up the vein and change that big colorful mass into something that looks like this. The actual procedure itself took just around 20 minutes.

Just two days later, Denver was born -- happy, healthy -- both baby and family.

D. COLEMAN: So this is Miss Denver Coleman and she is about to change the world.


GUPTA: So what you've just seen there is the first time a procedure like that has been performed successfully to actually try and address a brain malformation like that, as you saw in baby Denver.

It's fascinating stuff. I have to tell you the procedure took 20 minutes, Poppy, but it's about five years of planning, to give you some idea, just even figuring out just how thick would the bone be --

HARLOW: Right.

GUPTA: -- when a baby is at that level of gestation. How many coils did you have to put in there? All these things they plan meticulously ahead of time that even tried this before in the years past. But this time they actually did it and it worked.

HARLOW: We were just talking watching your piece about how remarkable medicine is, and on babies in utero, Sanjay. What kind --


HARLOW: -- of impact does this remarkable procedure have just on the field as a whole?

GUPTA: Well, we've been seeing in-utero operations being done successfully for quite some time now. But I think when it comes to actually looking at these blood vessels -- the blood vessels are still forming in the brain, they're changing in the brain. That's sort of been, as Dr. Orbach put it, sort of still a black box. That's -- you know, that's been the sort of area where they've had the most challenges still.

Now we've seen what is possible. So I think what this means is now that you've seen it and you've seen it successfully -- in medicine they've seen it now. The world has seen it. I think it just opens up a range of possibilities now, so I think you're going to get a lot more of these types of procedures being performed.

COLLINS: It's truly amazing, Sanjay.

You're in Atlanta right now and before we let you go I want to ask you about what happened in Atlanta yesterday as we watched this --


COLLINS: -- chaotic manhunt after that shooting happened at a medical center. The victims who were shot were then taken to the hospital where you operate -- Grady Memorial Hospital -- in which --


COLLINS: -- I should note it's the only level-one trauma hospital in the city, actually. That's been a big point I know of consternation for a lot of people who live there.

But what happens -- how often are your colleagues treating these gunshot victims? What is it like for them to have to deal with this on such a regular basis?

GUPTA: Well, I'll tell you just quickly, from the background for us is when there's a question of a mass casualty incident. You may remember at first they thought there could have been up to 12 patients. We all sort of get these alerts and are made aware. Operating rooms are put on standby. All these things go into effect.

And Grady is -- this is what they do. They're really, really good at this.

But I think your question is a really important one Kaitlan because let me just give you some context here. Last year, in 2022, we took care of 1,215 patients with gunshot wounds -- more than 100 a month. More than three a day on average.

So this was obviously sad and tragic what happened yesterday. It happens all the time. We see this all the time at places like Grady.

There was a weekend last summer I remember when I was operating. Seventeen patients came in one weekend all with gunshot wounds. The numbers of patients with gunshot wounds have been increasing steadily and the severity of those types of injuries have been increasing as well.

So we are trained, obviously, to do this -- I mean, trauma surgeons, trauma nurses. It's what we do. But it is an increasing majority of the types of patients we care for.

COLLINS: Yes, and it's not just when there's a mass manhunt like there was yesterday. This happens on a regular basis.

GUPTA: Right.

COLLINS: Sanjay Gupta, thank you for your perspective on that -- for that great report.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

COLLINS: CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. We're glad you're with us.

An explosive accusation from Russia this morning. Moscow is now blaming the United States for the mysterious drone attack on the Kremlin. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby will join us live in moments with the White House response.

COLLINS: And it apparently was not just luxury vacations. There is a new investigative report out just a few moments that found that the billionaire GOP megadonor also paid for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' grand-nephew to go to private school. We're going to talk to one of the reporters who broke that story about why it was not disclosed, just ahead.

HARLOW: Nordstrom closing its store in San Francisco. Is it because of crime?