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New Day Saturday

New Videos Document Ronald Greene's Brutal Death In Police Custody; Pace Of Daily Vaccinations Across U.S. Slows; Fauci: "We Don't Know" When A Booster Vaccine May Be Needed; Israel & Hamas Ceasefire Agreement Enters Second Day; Mayor Lightfoot Calls For More Diversity In Chicago Media; Rural Ambulances On Brink Of Collapse As Funding Plummets; Biden Delivers Commencement Address At U.S. Coastal Guard Academy. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 22, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: So, if it comes from the same plant, what's the different between black, green and white tea? Well, it's just the way it's processed.

Drinking tea is generally very safe, but some people may be sensitive to the caffeine. Teas may also contain vitamin K. So, if you're on blood thinners, you should check with your doctor first.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: If you're going to rise, you might as well shine, and we are glad to see you doing so on this Saturday, May 22nd. We appreciate you being here. Good morning Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christi. Always great to be with you. I'm grateful that you are with us. And we're going to be having a really important conversation this morning.

In just a few moments, I'll be speaking to one of Ronald Greene's loved ones and an attorney for his family. After Louisiana State Police finally released all the videos, they say they have, showing the horrific final moments of Greene's life while in their custody. This evidence finally coming to light two years after his death.

PAUL: We do want to give you a warning here, because we don't want you to be caught off guard. The videos are incredibly disturbing and hard to watch. They are our clearest look yet at how troopers tased, kicked, dragged Greene, even as he's heard at different points of this brutal encounter, apologizing, saying he's scared. Even calling out to Jesus.

And we also, for this first time, here radio transmissions from the preceding police chase. In fact, here's one clip from those final moments of the chase.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 46 we got to do something. He's going to kill somebody. He's intentionally driving on the wrong side of the road.


PAUL: Now to be clear, at no point in any of the videos released do we see images of Greene's car as he's trying to get away from police. In all, there are nine body and dashcam videos that were released last night. Only after clips started to leak, though, to the news media, beginning with the Associated Press.

SANCHEZ: Now, Greene's family says there was an attempt to cover up what happened. And now they want consequences, calling what they witnessed in these videos torture. CNN is Randi Kaye has a deeper look at what the videos reveal and what an autopsy, also obtained by CNN, detail.

Again, we want to warn you the video and images in the story are very graphic. If there are young ones in the room, you may want to ask them to step outside.


RANDI KAYE, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The new video obtained by CNN is 30 minutes long and offers a different view from a Louisiana State Trooper's body camera than the video obtained earlier by the AP. It shows Ronald Greene following a high speed chase near Monroe, Louisiana, on the ground face down and struggling to turn over.

TROOPER: Don't you turn over.


TROOPER: Don't you turn over. Lay on your belly! Lay on your belly!

GREENE: Yes, sir. OK, OK, sir.

TROOPER: You're going to lay on your (bleep) belly. Like I told you to! You understand?

GREENE: Yes, sir.

KAYE (voice-over): Greene apologizes and politely calls the officer sir, even as they continue to berate him. The video shows Greene's leg shackled and his hands cuffed behind his back. When he cries out in pain, even calling on the Lord Jesus. The officers continue to restrain him.

TROOPER: Yes, yes, that's (bleep) hurts, doesn't it?

GREENE: Oh, Lord Jesus. Oh, Lord.

KAYE (voice-over): Louisiana State Police kept this video under wraps for two years. Greene's arrest and subsequent death occurred back in May 2019. This is what the family says Louisiana State Police initially told them happened.

DINELLE HARDIN, RONALD GREENE'S SISTER: That he was in a car accident and that he hit his head on the stairwell and that's how he died. KAYE (voice-over): The family says police initially made no mention to them of the arrest or use of force, now revealed on the body camera videos. Another police report said Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and his struggle with troopers and that he died on the way to the hospital. His family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

HARDIN: This has been a cover up from day one. They were out to kill him. He had no chance of living.

KAYE (voice-over): In the video it's not clear if Greene is offered medical attention as he lay on the ground, moaning and gurgling.

TROOPER: I was going to situation him up, but I didn't want him spitting blood all over us.

KAYE (voice-over): At one point on the new video a medical technician arrives and is clearly concerned.

PARAMEDIC: He's not getting enough air--

KAYE (voice-over): And when it was over, in previously released video obtained by the AP, one trooper can be heard on his body camera audio boasting about beating Greene.

CHRIS HOLLINGSWORTH, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE TROOPER: I beat the ever- living (bleep) out of him, choked him and everything else trying to get him under control. He was spitting blood everywhere. And then all of a sudden, he just went limp. Yes, I thought he was dead.


KAYE (voice-over): CNN has also obtained the autopsy report. It lists Greene's cause of death as cocaine induced agitated delirium, complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint.

According to the autopsy, injuries included a fracture of the sternum or breastbone, and a torn aorta, the body's main artery. The autopsy notes that Greene had alcohol and a significant level of cocaine in his system.

These postmortem photos of Greene released on the NAACP Baton Rouge Facebook page show the extent of his injuries, and the autopsy notes, lacerations of the head inconsistent with motor vehicle collision injury. Instead finding these injuries are most consistent with multiple impact sites from a blunt object.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Randy for that report. Joining us now to discuss is Ronald Greene's brother-in-law, Jay McGowan, and also with us is Ron Haley an attorney for Greene's family. Jay, first and foremost, I am sorry for your loss. And I'm sorry that

Ronald's life is now at the center of this controversy and that you had to endure watching your loved one go through that. How were you doing, and how's your family doing, made all of us?

JAY MCGOWAN, RONALD GREENE'S BROTHER-IN-LAW: Well, it's a constant struggle every day, especially now that the video has been released. It's watching this over and over again, watching him die over and over again. It's a - it's tough. The family is dealing with it the best way that you can possibly expect. I mean, it's tough.

SANCHEZ: And Jay, the camera footage, we're only now seeing it after it was leaked to the press, I'm curious if you've seen all the footage, and why do you think it's taken two years now to come out?

MCGOWAN: You know, I'm not sure - and I yes, I have seen most of the footage, even though, again, it's been very hard to watch it. But I'm not sure why it's just coming out now. I have no clue why this has been kept under wraps so long.

SANCHEZ: In this footage, you hear Ronald say things like I'm sorry, I'm scared. He's asked why he fled after officers saw him speeding. He says, I was just tired. When you watched as he then is handcuffed, he's tased, he's dragged while faced down by his ankles, what do you want to say to the officers that were there that night?

MCGOWAN: Well, as you can hear on the video, and seal the video now, Ronald was a very respectful person. He - he was very sorry for what - causing all this and he was just - that speaks to his character. He was definitely - he was a good guy, and it's very unfortunate, and anything - any message that I would give is, you can hear it. It speaks - it's right there on the video.

He's very, very remorseful and sorry. And even at one point, calling them - saying to them, I'm your brother. That speaks to the character of Ron, it does. And, again, it's tough. I've - we've had a lot of conversations. I have just had a conversation last night. His mom is going from trying to be strong to being, to being in pain, and it's just tough.

And now, two years later, still dealing with this. I don't think the family has had a chance to really grieve properly. I think, not knowing what was going on then. Now all this coming out, it's just two years of pain and harm.

SANCHEZ: Yes, especially being told that he died as a result of an accident and then later finding out that there's a lot more to the story.

One of the officers involved, speaking about more to the story, Chris Hollingsworth, he was supposed to be fired for a number of issues in other incidents. He ultimately passed away before he could be terminated. But he was caught on an audio recording bragging about the incident. I believe we have that sound bite. I want to play it for you now.


HOLLINGSWORTH: I beat the ever-living (bleep) out of him, choked him and everything else trying to get him under control. And he finally got him in handcuffs when a third man go there and the son of (bleep) was still fighting and we were wrestling with him, trying to hold him down because he was spitting blood everywhere. And then all of a sudden, he just went limp.



SANCHEZ: Jay, there are people out there who are going to see this story and say that Ronald should have complied, that he shouldn't have run away. What is your response to those folks, especially hearing the words that you just did from the officer who treated your loved one that way?

MCGOWAN: Yes, what actually happened that night, meaning why he was pursued, and why he didn't pull over, we don't know that. We don't know all the details of that. But what we do know is that - and what I can speak on is Ronald's character and his character, regardless, we all make mistakes.

And he clearly apologized for his part - that whole, that whole pursuit, he said he was sorry. He said he was tired, he was scared, which under the circumstances in the current climate of what's going on, that's not that, that crazy of a thing if you really think about it, you know. So - but his character, it showed up. Regardless of anything, when they approached the vehicle, the very first thing he said, was, I'm sorry. And that speaks to the character of Ron.

And I think that there's - as things come out, I think it's important that we - the narrative isn't changed too much from he - Ronald was a very good guy. A couple - probably a couple of days prior to this happening to him, he called me to talk about a homeless program that he wanted to - he wanted us to both start.

That was my last conversation. He was talking about, talking about putting together a program to feed the homeless. That's what I know about Ron, and that's the Ron that I think it's important that everybody - they hear that, they know that. That's what you're talking about.

And again, no one's perfect, we all make mistakes. But I've been taught - my mom taught me when you make a mistake, you apologize and you try to move on. And Ron tried to apologize. Matter of fact, he did apologize. And he tried to move on. But for whatever reason, that apology was not accepted. And it was met with some terrible things. And to hear that video - every time I hear the video, it's really tough. It's really tough.

SANCHEZ: Ron, from your perspective, given what we've seen in this footage, hearing Ronald over and over, say, "Yes, sir." And crying out in pain, calling out for Jesus, do you think it was appropriate the way that officers behaved, given that it didn't appear that he was armed, it didn't appear that he'd threatened them?

And further, there's a specific segment of video. I'm not sure if we have it, but there's a specific segment of video where one of the officers says, "That hurts, doesn't it?" And you see on one of the body cams, an officer point to it, he sort of tries to obscure, and then he points to it, sort of reminding that officer that we're being filmed. Does any of this seem aboveboard to you?

RON HALEY, ATTORNEY FOR THE RONALD GREENE FAMILY: The things, it seems insidious. Noncompliance should not be a death penalty, and that's what these troopers did. They took it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner. And let's not pretend that officers can't show restraint.

The Capitol Police Officer showed great restraint January 6th, but these offices here in the midst of Ron begging for mercy, did not give him mercy. They gave them anything - gave him anything, but.

SANCHEZ: I also am interested in getting your reaction to the fact that he had head injuries that apparently according to this autopsy report came from being beaten and not being involved in a crash the way that police described it.

You also have an emergency room physician who said that stories from police that night did not add up. Saying "History seems to be disjointed, different versions are present." Ron, what does that tell you?

HALEY: It tells me the obvious that this was a cover up. They murdered Ronnie on May 10th, 2019, and they tried to cover it up and they just cannot get their story straight. It did not add up to the physicians. It did not add up to the corner.


And there needs to be a deeper dive in this investigation. One into punishing and holding accountable those who put their hands on Ronnie, but more so we need to look at who helped participate in this cover up. It has to be bigger than these officers that did this and it was so cavalier. And that's the - it just seems so par for the course.

The officers did not seem worried or concerned when Ronnie's limp body was taken off by the ambulance. They didn't. You know what Lieutenant said - Lieutenant told everybody, everybody did a good job. Everybody did a good job killing Ronnie. That's - that's sick.

SANCHEZ: Jay, I do want to ask about the Superintendent of Louisiana State Police, Colonel Lamar Davis, he essentially said that he's sorry for your family. He recognizes the grief that you're processing now. He says that "when police don't get it right, we must hold ourselves accountable." In your mind, what does that mean? How could Louisiana State Police at this point hold themselves accountable?

MCGOWAN: You know, just by being truthful, telling the truth. And I know, sometimes it's hard for people to do, but the truth is there and that at the very end of the day, Ron deserves justice. He deserved to be treated better than he was treated, regardless of the circumstance. And after the fact, I guess it's easy for people to say all the right things.

But we have to do the right things, because if not, this will continue to happen and there will be another family on your program, having this exact same conversation until something is actually done. And like I said, I think it's important that we get action and hey, words are not going to work in this case, it needs to be some type of action.

SANCHEZ: I certainly hope there is some action, whether in the form of legislation or a change in attitude so that we're not here having a similar conversation again, as you noted in the near future. Jay McGowan, Ron Haley, thank you both for the time. We appreciate it.

MCGOWAN: Thank you.

PAUL: Yes. Thank you to everybody involved in that conversation. Well, we do have some good and some bad news to tell you when it comes to the coronavirus vaccine front, that's coming up next.



PAUL: Well, New York and Maryland are the latest states to announce COVID vaccine lotteries in this effort to get more people to roll up their sleeves. New Yorkers who received shots next week are going to have the chance to win as much as $5 million.

SANCHEZ: I may have to get up there and get vaccinated again.

PAUL: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Starting on Tuesday, one vaccinated person a day in Maryland is going to be randomly selected to win $40,000 until the 4th of July where a grand prize of $400,000 is going to be given away.

The incentives are coming as the country sees a dramatic decline in vaccination rates this past week, a 46 percent drop from a peak just a month ago.

PAUL: Let's talk to Dr. Richina Bicette. She's medical director at Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Bicette, it is always so good to have you with us. So I wanted to ask you about the - one of the things we are talking about is this 38 percent of people who are fully vaccinated. We keep talking about getting to herd immunity. If we only have 38 percent vaccinated at this time, and we need 75 to 80 percent, what happens if we don't reach herd immunity?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, I think herd immunity is somewhat of a moving target. We're thinking about the United States as a whole, when really what probably matters most are the demographics of your immediate community. How many people around you are fully vaccinated? When we look at United States numbers, we know that at least 60 percent of adults over 18 have gotten at least a one shot and one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine do offer some sort of protection against COVID-19, latest studies have shown. So that's likely contributing to the decline in cases. Though, we do want as many people to become as fully vaccinated as possible.

PAUL: Dr. Fauci said this week that booster shots may be in our future. Now, the timing as to when that might be is in question. We know that the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Murthy said it could be in a year and Dr. Fauci said it's unclear when it might be. But the U.S. Surgeon General also said, you have to determine how long the protection lasts, meaning from the vaccine. We know it lasts six months.

How exactly do we determine how long it lasts, and therefore when a booster might be necessary?

BICETTE: So recently, both the Pfizer and Moderna CEOs have come out and said that they believe booster shots are going to be needed within about eight to 12 months from your first dose, because of the data that they are seeing. Now, we can only assume that means, because of the immunity that they're following from people who were in their clinical trials, but they haven't released that data just yet.

Now, I know some people are a bit wary about getting the vaccine and then maybe having to potentially get a booster shot. But this isn't a novel idea. Multiple vaccines, things that we've gotten in childhood, require booster shots, like hepatitis, your measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, even the tetanus vaccine requires a booster every few years. So, this is something that is typical in immunology and it's likely to come with the COVID vaccine as well.

PAUL: Very good points. Dr. Richina Bicette it's always so good to have you with us. Thank you for being here.

BICETTE: Thank you, Christi.


PAUL: Of course. And I wanted to ask you what medical questions you might have about the coronavirus vaccine and the push to reopen here. Dr. Rob Davidson is with us tomorrow morning, and we want to make sure your questions get answered. So go ahead and put the questions on our Twitter pages. It's Christi_Paul and Boris_Sanchez and we will get those to Dr. Davidson.

SANCHEZ: I'm going to ask him what I can do to improve the odds to win that lottery, Christi. Maybe he's got some tips.

Up next, the Israel-Hamas ceasefire appears to be holding despite some clashes on Friday. We're going to take you to Jerusalem in just a moment to get the very latest. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: 11 days of deadly rocket attacks and airstrikes have left

more than 250 people dead in the Middle East, including more than 60 children.


PAUL: But listen to this this morning, no bombs, no rockets thus far, though it is a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, as we're in the second day of it.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And tensions are still high. Israeli police and Palestinian protesters have been clashing just hours after the ceasefire went into effect.

PAUL: Now the key border crossing has been opened that allows humanitarian aid into Gaza. The UN says they're sending food, medical supplies and COVID vaccines.

SANCHEZ: Let's get to CNNs Nic Robertson, he is following the latest from the region. Nic, do we expect that the ceasefire is actually going to hold?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It does seem to be so, and I think there are several reasons for that. One is that Hamas thinks that they've scored a political victory. They're claiming it as such. The Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu claiming it as a military victory over Hamas being able to get so many of their targets, and in their words, push them back in time - take them back many years.

And I think the stiffest test of that ceasefire did come yesterday in those confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police and border police at Haram al-Sharif on Temple Mount and that compound there. That was one of the places that Hamas had sort of set as a test marker, if you will, for the Israeli government.

And the fact that they didn't launch rockets or take any other action, because of what they saw happen there yesterday, tear gas fired, rubber coated bullets fired, this is what this is what the Palestinians report. And the Israeli police say they were targeted with rocks and Molotov cocktails by the protesters there. That did not spark a return to the rocket fire that we've seen over the past 11 days. So in those terms, it seems to have passed.

And perhaps, there is another reason hanging over this, both sides claiming victory, thinking that they can - that they that this these victories that their public and populations will support, by and large, is that we're expecting the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to come here in the coming days. Not quite clear when.

But, again, the fact that he would come here with that truce holding - with that ceasefire holding is indicative of both sides sort of wanting to keep open the potential to move, what is in essence, just a ceasefire. Keep open the possibility of moving it towards something else, like actually a durable peace to try to get to some of the issues that lie behind the violence that we've seen, principally land rights here. There's no path for that at the moment. No real diplomatic talk about it. But it does seem to lay open the possibility of at least keeping that on the distant horizon.

PAUL: All right, Nic Robertson, great way to lay it out for us. Thank you so much.

So, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is getting a lot of reaction for limiting the media outlets to people of color. We're talking to a journalist from Chicago about what this means for the bigger picture of this. Stay close



PAUL: So, there's a move that's caused quite a bit of controversy and conversation. This week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced for the second anniversary of her inauguration, she would grant one on one interviews with journalists of color only.

In a letter to Chicago area media outlets, the mayor explained there is almost no one in the editorial board rooms or in the City Hall press corps, whose themselves lived the experience of a woman of color in the city of Chicago.

It's impossible for this glaring lack of diversity, she says, not to be reflected in the daily coverage of government, politics and city life every single day. There are journalists who applaud Lightfoot for drawing attention to the problem. Maybe not necessarily in the way that she decided to do it.

In a statement, the National Association of Black Journalists said in part, "Although, we cannot support this tactic. We applaud the mayor's sensitivity to the lack of diversity among the people who cover city government.

And the National Association of Hispanic journalists tweeted, "While it's important to address long-standing newsroom inequalities, and it is imperative that leaders in power help hold news organizations accountable. NAHJ he does not condone restricting press access based on a journalist's race or ethnicity."

So, we have Maudlyne Ihejirika, columnist and staff reporter for the Chicago Sun Times. Maudlyne, did I say your name right, first of all?


PAUL: Ihejirika?


IHEJIRIKA: Thank you so much. I was - sorry, I didn't get to hear it beforehand. But I want to make sure that I - always try to make sure to get it right. So, thank you so much for being here. She also, by the way, is the President of the Chicago Chapter of the NABJ.

So, we heard from the mayor there as to her reasoning for this. There didn't seem to be a real consensus in the media, necessarily, regarding how to receive this. What is the lingering effect that you can tell of this decision that she made?

IHEJIRIKA: I think that in general, journalists of color, applaud the concept and - behind this decision, because journalists of color understand that the systemic racism also plagues the media sector, just as every sector of society that has seen a racial reckoning since George Floyd's dead.


But the split is in where us journalists fall on the reparative leisure that Mayor Lightfoot is suggesting. And I think that for myself, I certainly believe that it is absolutely OK for her to prioritize journalists of color at this halfway mark in her four-year term for an interview. Journalists of color who are typically excluded from these plumb beats (ph) such as politics, City Hall, Springfield, the White House in Washington, D.C.

She is not saying that she will not ever have an interview with journalists who are not of color. She is simply saying that she wants to make sure that they get first crack, since they have traditionally been excluded.

PAUL: So, it help me understand - how all of us understand. Is this a new protocol for her? Or is this something that she was just doing for her second inauguration?

IHEJIRIKA: This is absolutely simply for this particular mark. She knows that at the two-year mark, at the halfway mark, journalists begin to clamor for one on one interviews to do a retrospective. And she knows that she is going to be held accountable for her accomplishments, as well as her weaknesses.

And, therefore, she wants to make sure that communities of color, who traditionally these smaller journalists, outlets, which are in community newspapers, small digital startups, and a very small viewership and readership, but are targeted toward communities of color. She wants to make sure that that audience is one of the first to hear her take on these past two years, because they were very vested in in voting her in.

PAUL: Absolutely. So let me ask you real quickly, because there was a journalist from Chicago, Gregory Pratt, who tweeted this, "I am a Latino reporter at the Chicago Tribune whose interview request was granted for today. However, I asked the mayor's office to lift its condition on others. And when they said no, we respectfully canceled. Politicians don't get to choose who covers them."

Now. I'm wondering, is there a way, do you think, Maudlyne, to get to equality, to get to the equality of humanness that we have, without excluding someone. Because I think the question came into the point of, she's excluding one group to include another, which doesn't seem equal, and the point is to be equal.

IHEJIRIKA: Well, here's the point. For myself, I understand that Mayor Lightfoot is simply doing exactly what all of us have done in the past year, which is to point out systemic racism and to encourage inclusion. And therefore, what I also understand is that she is not saying she will now exclude journalists who are not of color, she is simply saying she will prioritize journalists of color at this particular mark.

There are so many outlets in Chicago, a lot of them have sprung up in the last decade due to citizen journalism, that do not get a call back from City Hall when they request an interview or information. We wish that she had taken this up in the past two years when these outlets were calling her and not getting response.

So we do understand that this is a necessary thing to include. And one of the things that we point out is that she is not saying she will exclude as a matter of policy. She's saying at this particular mark, for these interviews, she will prioritize, not exclude.

PAUL: Very good point to make. Maudlyne Ihejirika, thank you so much for being here. It is good to have you with us. And I appreciate your perspective so much. Thank you.

IHEJIRIKA: Thank you so very much.

PAUL: Of course. So for more discussions on race, by the way, you can sign up for CNN's new Race Deconstructed newsletter. Every week, you'll get the latest on current events in American history through conversations on the role of race and culture and politics and more. So go to, that's how you can sign up.

SANCHEZ: Up next, health officials are sounding the alarm. A critical lifeline is having a difficult time across rural America. Ambulance services running out of money and volunteers. An eye-opening report up next.

PAUL: Little quick note to tell you here about tomorrow, be sure to watch an all-new episode of the episode of the CNN original series "The Story of Late Night," because this week, Johnny Carson's 1992 retirement really touches the nation, and touches off an epic late night war between Jay Leno and David Letterman.




BETTE MIDLER, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITE: I can believe, the last guest.

It's quarter to three. There's no one in the place except you and me...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was Johnny Carson. This is what American knew for 30 years. There was that intimacy.

MIDLER: And John I know you're getting anxious to close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Johnny's got a look on his face when she says, "John, I know you're getting anxious to go," that I found, wow. That made me tear up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was the voice for America that we all wanted to give him a serenade. How cool is that?


CARSON: And so it has come to this, I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something I always wanted to do, and I have enjoyed every single minute of it.


PAUL: "The Story of Late Night" airs tomorrow at 9:00.



SANCHEZ: Health officials across America are sounding the alarm as ambulance crews in rural parts of the country are running out of money and volunteers to keep their services going here.

PAUL: These ambulance companies provide vital services for millions of people. CNN's Lucy Kafanov traveled to Wyoming and she has more.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With its rugged terrain and wide open spaces, Wyoming is still the wild frontier. That's the draw of places like Washakie County, the trade off, the nearest major trauma hospital is more than two and a half hours away. For rural residents, access to emergency medical services, paramedics and an ambulance can mean - well, everything.

KAFANOV (on camera): Is this a life or death issue?


KAFANOV (voice-over): Luke Sypherd has spent the past three years running Washakie County's Volunteer Ambulance Service, a literal lifeline for some 8,000 residents. But as of this month, the volunteer service is no more.

SYPHERD: We just saw that we didn't have the personnel to continue.

KAFANOV (voice-over): A nearby hospital system, Cody Regional Health, has agreed to provide ambulance coverage averting a crisis in this county. But it's a problem playing out across rural America. Ambulance crews are running out of money and volunteers. PHILLIP FRANKLIN, EMS DIRECTOR, CODY REGIONAL HEALTH: Majority of ambulance service are not paid. So if you don't have your volunteers, they - you can't run calls. There's simply just not enough volumes to keep the service afloat. In State of Wyoming EMS is not essential, so that means there's nobody responsible to fund these entities.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Unlike police and fire less than 10 states require EMS as an essential service, pushing some rural ambulances to the brink of economic collapse. Health experts down warn more than a third of all rural EMS are in danger of closing.

KAFANOV (on camera): It's a crisis in rural America right now?

SYPHERD: Yes, today. Yes, this isn't something that's in the future. It is happening now.

KAFANOV (voice-over): According to Sypherd, the funding model for EMS is fundamentally flawed.

SYPHERD: You're reimbursed based on the number of patients that you transport to a hospital. So you could get called 1,000 times a year and only transport 750 patients, those other 250 calls you make no money on.

FRANKLIN: When you look at what's happening here, it's just the tip of the iceberg. There's other services with throughout the state that are just one bad year away from closure.

KAFANOV (on camera): Wyoming may have the smallest population in America, but when it comes to land, the cowboy state is the ninth largest.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Fremont County is roughly the size of the state of Vermont, but the private company providing ambulance services here says it can't afford to keep going after losing $1.5 million in revenue last year. The company American Medical Response announced it won't renew its contract when it runs out on June 30th. No others have bid.

LARRY ALLEN, FREMONT COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Because of the distance and the ruralness of this county, we just don't have people standing in line want to provide ambulance service.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Fremont County Commissioner Larry Allen is scrambling to find a solution.

KAFANOV (on camera): What keeps you up at night?

ALLEN: I worry about not providing a quick service - I mean, a quick response.

JORDAN DRESSER, CHAIRMAN, NORTHERN ARAPAHO TRIBE: I think if we didn't have access to ambulances death rate would be higher.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The Wind River Indian Reservation relies in Fremont County for ambulances. DRESSER: A lot of our tribal members don't have working vehicles or they don't have direct access to take themselves to the hospital or the clinic, so it's a matter of life and death essentially, for us.

KAFANOV (on camera): In parts of rural America the system that was built to save lives is now itself in need of saving. Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Fremont County, Wyoming.


SANCHEZ: Great report. Lucy thanks for that. This week, President Biden delivered the commencement address to Coast Guard Academy graduates, and his speech he emphasized the importance of this year's graduates as the country grapples with a pandemic, climate change and other major challenges. Watch this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world is changing. We're at a significant inflection point in world history. And our country in the world, United States of America, has always been able to chart the future in times of great change. We've been able to consistently renew ourselves. And time and again, we've proven there's not a single thing we cannot do as a nation when we do it together, and I mean that not a single, solitary thing.



SANCHEZ: Tomorrow night join CNN as we celebrate the Class of 2021 with an All Stars Special. Hear congrats messages from your favorite stars, musical performances, and a special message from the Vice President Kamala Harris. "Graduation 2021," a CNN special event starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And don't forget you can join us again in just one hour.

PAUL: Yes, you don't get to go home yet, Boris.

SANCHEZ: I'm not going home.

PAUL: Smerconish is up next. We'll see you again in an hour.