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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Protesters Demand Answers in Police Custody Death; Emergency Plane Landing; Interview with Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police President. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 22, 2015 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:06]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are live in Baltimore, where protesters say they will not stop until they get answers.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. As people begin to fill the streets of Baltimore, again, new video emerges of Freddie Gray's arrest. And a witness comes forward saying police had him meant like a pretzel. We will show you that video. Does it explain why his spinal cord was severed while in police custody?

Plus, it's been 10 days without answers or facts for Freddie Gray's family. What do they think is holding up the truth? We will ask their attorney. Plus, we will hear for the first time from the lawyer for the police officers who have been suspended. That's coming up live.

Some also breaking national news, a scare in the skies over the U.S., a plane forced to make an emergency landing, descending 28,000 feet in just three minutes. What happened in the air?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'm live in Baltimore, Maryland, with our national lead today.

I am just outside the Western District Police Station, where minutes from now hundreds of protesters are expected to gather once again to express their outrage, their anguish, their confusion over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who family members and witnesses say was in perfect health until he was taken into police custody on the morning of April 12, just 10 days ago.

Gray died in the hospital a week after this arrest captured by cell phone cameras. We know that Gray died because of a severe spinal injury. What remains unclear, a mystery, is how and when he got that spinal injury, the Justice Department now conducting its own investigation separate from the one the Baltimore police is conducting, to see whether Gray's civil rights were violated.

The gap in information has only made room for a growing demand for justice spurred by Gray's family members and people here in the Baltimore community. But during yesterday's march, we were reminded of the raw emotion at the heart of that movement. Gray's mother, so overcome, she collapsed in tears at the very spot where her son was originally taken into custody.

Let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's been covering this story.

Suzanne, what's the latest? What's going on?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, essentially, we are learning about the six individuals who have been suspended with pay. Five of those six have actually given some statement to the investigators at this point.

We expect that all of this information will be handed over to the state's attorney's office. That's going to happen by next Friday, as promised by the Baltimore Police Department. We have also learned as well that there's a second individual who was inside of the police van. That person is considered a witness to this, not part of the arrest. So that individual's identity has been protected.

That's the latest that's coming out of Baltimore police. We are getting more information about what actually happened the day that he was arrested and then, of course, the pursuit in the van.

As you had mentioned before, yesterday, it was a very emotional day, people who gathered here, the mother, the father, many of the relatives, the protesters. We expect to see protesters out here tonight. The family's not going to be a part of it. But we do expect that there's going to be a lot of raw emotion and, of course, more demands for information.

TAPPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much.

Police released a timeline of what happened from the moment Freddie Gray was arrested until he ended up in the hospital. But that timeline did not do much to explain how Gray ended up with these life- threatening injuries.

I want to take a little time here to walk you through everything we know happened that day, according to the best and most recent information, including the estimated routes that police took.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I'm standing at the corner of West North and North Mount in Baltimore. It was at this intersection on April 12 at 8:39 a.m. that police here in Baltimore say they first made eye contact with Gray. They say he took off and they pursued him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Gray was arrested one minute later a few blocks away on Presbury Street. As you know, the cell phone video shows the moment of the arrest. You can hear him wailing in apparent pain. Then, at 8:42, Gray asks for an inhaler while being put into the police van. He can be seen standing on his own for just a moment, which is perhaps significant. The van takes off and makes its way towards Mount and Baker streets. At 8:46 a.m., the driver reports that Gray is acting, in his view, irate. Now, as this video shows, the van then pulls over. Gray is then placed in leg irons and then he's put back into the van. The van takes off again and makes its way toward Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street.

[16:05:22]

It's here at this intersection at around 8:59 a.m. that the van driver asks another unit to check on his prisoner, referring to Gray. But Gray still doesn't receive any medical attention. Instead, the van is called on to pick up another prisoner at 1600 North Avenue. That second prisoner is picked up and, according to police, separated from Gray by a metal barrier. And then at 9:24, after the van arrives here, where I'm standing at the Western District police station in Baltimore, nearly 45 minutes after Gray's initial arrest, then paramedics are called to check him out.

It is the missing pieces from the timeline that has caused so much pain and frustration for family members of Freddie Gray and for so many people in this community who don't understand what happened.

Let's bring in Jason Downs. He's an attorney for the Gray family.

Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

JASON DOWNS, ATTORNEY FOR GRAY FAMILY: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: We have heard from the police that Freddie Gray's body might be given to the family, released to the family. Do you know if that's happened yet?

DOWNS: It has not happened at this point.

The family is very much in the grieving process right now. They are planning the funeral. But, as you may imagine, there's a mother who has to bury her son. So she is very, very much upset. But she is planning the funeral as we speak.

TAPPER: OK. But they don't -- do they know when they're going to get the body for the funeral?

DOWNS: Well, no. But, first, we have to plan -- we -- the family has to plan the funeral first. And she's very much grieving.

TAPPER: OK.

I do want to -- forgive me for looking down at this. I just want to make sure I get it right. Police say that Freddie Gray suffered spinal cord injuries. The family members say he was treated for three fractured vertebrae and for a crushed voice box or larynx.

Where are they getting that information from?

DOWNS: Well, we have to first see the medical records. That's the first thing.

We know -- it appears that he passed away from a spinal cord injury. And right now we know for sure that he passed away because of injuries that he suffered while in police custody.

TAPPER: Right.

DOWNS: The extent of those injuries, we don't just know because we don't yet have the medical records. But what we do know is that the injuries that he sustained occurred while he was in police custody.

TAPPER: OK. But when we have heard information about his neck being severed from his spine or the three crushed vertebrae or the larynx being crushed, that's not based on medical evidence as of now, that's based on impressions?

DOWNS: It's not based on impressions. It's based on a source. We certainly can't -- we certainly don't have the medical records right now, but it's based on a reliable source.

TAPPER: Somebody with information told the family that.

DOWNS: Yes.

TAPPER: Police have said they expect to have the investigation wrapped up by next Friday. Have they been in touch with the family about the investigation or have they given any information about the status of it?

DOWNS: To my knowledge, the answer to that question is no. At this point, the family is much more interested in a transparent investigation. So if the police were interested in the family, the police could just release certain pieces of information, for example, the 911 calls, if they exist, radio runs.

If they exist, they could be released to the family. What the officers said today could be released to the family. That's what the family is interested in right now.

TAPPER: We saw Freddie Gray's mom break down in tears during the protest yesterday, very moving and upsetting. How is she holding up? How is the family holding up?

DOWNS: Quite frankly, they are in shock. And it's tough for everyone, everyone involved. The entire family is in shock. They all right now are grieving.

TAPPER: One day, he's there, young guy, 25, his whole life ahead of him.

DOWNS: Twenty-five years old, completely healthy on a Sunday morning going to get a cup of coffee and he's unlawfully arrested. And after being unlawfully arrested, his spinal cord is severed and he's no longer with us. They want answers right now and they are extremely, extremely sad and extremely frustrated and they want answers. TAPPER: Does the family have confidence in the investigation? We

have been told there's going to be an investigation by Baltimore police, a separate investigation that the police commissioner called for and now the Department of Justice is doing an investigation. Is the family confident that they will see justice and they will get answers?

DOWNS: Well, the family has no confidence that the police can actually investigate the police. History shows us that that's just not an accurate assumption. The police will not thoroughly and competently investigate themselves.

Now, the Justice Department -- we're very hopeful that the Justice Department will conduct an impartial investigation and a thorough investigation. But with regard to the Baltimore Police Department, no, there's no confidence that the Baltimore Police Department can accurately investigate themselves.

TAPPER: It's early -- and forgive me for even asking the question, but is the family considering filing civil suits against the police at this -- at this point?

[16:10:06]

DOWNS: Right now, it's just too early.

The family is interested in finding the truth. And right now, that's their primary goal, is just to uncover what happened to their loved one. How was he a healthy young man on a Sunday morning and how did he end up with a severed spinal cord after coming in contact with police? They want answers.

TAPPER: We know little about Freddie Gray. We know that he had a police record for minor drug offenses and things along those lines.

What should we know about Freddie Gray, other than the fact that he was 25 and had his whole life ahead of him? What do you and the family want us to know?

DOWNS: The family wants everyone to know that the available information in the case that Mr. Gray wasn't breaking any laws.

We have the mayor of this city thankfully admitting that the police didn't have probable cause to arrest Mr. Gray. And so we should all realize that Mr. Gray had no -- he was not breaking any law whatsoever. The police had no reason to arrest him. And after unlawfully arresting him, he's no longer with us.

TAPPER: Did he have any medical conditions? He asked for an inhaler. Is there anything -- obviously, nothing would explain the severed neck. But did he have any health issues at all?

DOWNS: He had no health issues to our knowledge and there was nothing wrong with his spinal cord at all.

TAPPER: Right. DOWNS: He was a healthy young man. He was able to walk, he was able

to talk. And we could see that in video. He was able to run and after coming in contact with the police, he's not able to walk. He can't talk and his spinal cord was severed. And he's now deceased.

TAPPER: Jason Downs, thank you so much for taking the time. We really appreciate it. And our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Please convey for that us.

OK. Thank you so much.

So far, we have not heard from any of the six police officers involved. They have all been suspended with pay. But we did catch up with the president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police. He has spoken with the officers -- that interview next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:13] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'm live in Baltimore.

You're seeing police outside in the western district police station here. They are getting ready for the protests tonight. We're expecting hundreds, perhaps even thousands of protesters coming here to the western district police station.

This is, of course, where that police van brought Freddie Gray ten days ago. It stopped here almost 45 minutes after that cell phone video that we've been watching for days now. The video showing the 25-year-old on the ground screaming for help. Officers, I think is fair to say, dragging him to the van, carrying him to the van.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's a few blocks away on Presbury Street, just down the street here. That's where officers arrested Freddie Gray on that Sunday morning.

Brian, is that where the protest is beginning? Are folks starting to gather there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is where the protests are expected to begin, Jake, within the hour. No one gathered here yet. But they are expected to within the hour. This is where they've been gathering over the last few days.

This is the exact spot where Freddie Gray was arrested. They set up a poster here where people have come to write messages to Freddie Gray and his family. They've set up a candlelight vigil site here for evening gatherings. And over here, you can see a memorial, balloon memorial over here to Freddie Gray that's posted at the spot where Freddie Gray was arrested and dragged into that van.

Now, within the hour, the protesters are expected to gather here. And we're also told they may be gathering at local churches to kind of converge on the West Baltimore Police Precinct. And that's going to proceed down this way. This is Presbury, this is North Mount Street. The protests are going to proceed down here, we believe. So, that's what they've been doing over the last few days.

So, that is what's expected. The rain has let up. It's been a light rain. So maybe more of a gathering than we may have anticipated a couple of hours ago.

Also, Jake, some new developments. Five of the six officers who are suspended in this case have given statements to investigators we are told by Baltimore police and we are expected to hear soon, this hour, from the lawyer for those officers who were suspended in the Freddie Gray case.

So, that hopefully will garner more information. Five of the six officers who are involved in the case have given statements to police, we are told this afternoon, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Brian, of course, there's a presumption of innocence. We still don't know what the story is from the six police officers in question. And then, of course, most cops are good cops.

What have you heard from police about fears of retaliation against them?

TODD: We have heard that they are really concerned about possible retaliation because there is such tension in the street, such anger and frustration, all of it understandable, and police officials we've talked to, they do understand the frustration. But a police union official told me not long ago, they are concerned about retaliation.

Not far from their minds, Jake, as the assassination of those two New York City police officers last December in the wake of the Ferguson case, in the wake of the Eric Garner death on Staten Island, a man who assassinated those two police officers, drove up from this area, from Baltimore -- this very much on the minds of Baltimore police tonight.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much.

When police are called on to investigate themselves, there is an inevitable skepticism among many in the community about whether or not anyone can do that fairly. Whether justice can be served in a situation like that.

Earlier today, I spoke with Gene Ryan. He is the president of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police. We talked about the tensions between police and the community here and also the police account of what happened that day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: So, where are you about to head right now?

GENE RYAN, PRESIDENT, BALTIMORE CITY FOP, LODGE #3: I'm going to what's called a suspension hearing for the officers involved.

[16:20:00] And all that is it's an informal hearing and it's only -- they don't talk about the case at all, they don't talk about the evidence or the facts. But it's just to see if they continue their suspension, number one, and rather, it's going to be -- if it is continued, with pay or without pay.

TAPPER: What was your reaction when you saw the cell phone video and then you heard about what happened to Freddie Gray?

RYAN: Well, number one, when he passed away, of course, it was a tragedy. I mean, that's upsetting anytime anyone loses their life.

The cell phone videos, I don't really see where they showed that the officer did any wrongdoing at this point in time. The real question is, what happened inside the van? And that part I don't know yet.

TAPPER: Do you understand why so many people have taken to the street and are frustrated because they don't know what happened? Obviously, something happened to Freddie Gray but ten days and still no answers?

RYAN: Obviously, I give -- I applaud the commissioner for -- see, the one thing everybody doesn't understand, you can't give out information on an ongoing investigation because it could jeopardize the integrity of the case.

TAPPER: But, I mean, obviously, something happened to him, whether it was before he got in the van or after, and he died and I mean think the community wants answers.

RYAN: I understand that, absolutely. And I'm sure they do. But I would ask for everybody to slow down, let the investigation continue to unfold and the truth will come out, because number one, the commissioner appointed an independent commission.

We're going to do our investigation. The state's attorney has their end of it. Plus, the federal government is involved. That -- they're not going to cover up anything. They're going to have a fair and just investigation.

TAPPER: How would you describe the relationship between the Baltimore police officers and the community they serve? The mayor yesterday when I asked her about it, she said that there's been a lot of tension historically, that they're working on improvements. But there has been a lot of tension.

RYAN: Right. There has been some tension. But she's right with the commissioner we have now and her office, we have been working to improve that relationship.

TAPPER: What is the feeling in the Baltimore police department right now about this incident? Are people upset about what happened to this young man? Are they worried about police being accused of something that they didn't do? What are officers feeling?

RYAN: I think that's out there. Obviously, like I said, it's a tragedy. Everybody feels bad that this person lost their life for my reason, because every life matters.

But our guys -- they have the mindset right now, they're more afraid of getting shot and killed than if they're doing their job properly that they'll be put in jail for doing what they were hired to do. TAPPER: What could possibly justify even on a theoretical level what

happened to this guy's neck? I mean, I understand there are incidents where somebody accidentally or mistakenly thinks somebody has a gun and they don't. But in a situation like this, how could that have happened?

RYAN: I don't know. So, that's why I'll wait for an investigation to be completed and then we can all make a decision then. And, of course, once the information is complete, all the facts are obtained, the evidence, it goes to a state's attorney. And State Attorney Mosby is very intelligent and she'll make the right decision.

TAPPER: How long do you think it will be before there's some sort of answer for the community, for the family of Freddie Gray as to what happened?

RYAN: That's hard to say.

TAPPER: It's been 10 days.

RYAN: I understand that, but sometimes these investigations take some time. I believe that you don't want to rush the investigation because if -- that could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation also and if there is anything wrong with what the officers did, we certainly don't want the investigation messed up by rushing through it.

TAPPER: This is a city that has been plagued by drugs, plagued by crime. What is Baltimore like these days to serve in as a police officer?

RYAN: It's tough. Any job, no matter where you're at in law enforcement is a dangerous, hard job. The majority of our officers are very professional, highly motivated, highly trained. They enjoy what they do, enjoy serving the citizens of Baltimore. But it is a tough job. But they go out every day and day in and do their job and do they're supposed to do and protect the citizens of Baltimore.

TAPPER: Do you think the delay in getting answers as to what happened to Freddie Gray might actually make it more difficult for officers to do their job because the community doesn't trust them or is eyeing them with suspicion? People are worried there's going to be a cover- up.

RYAN: Yes, that definitely does factor in. But I think that everybody should be comfortable with the federal government coming in. DOJ is not going to be cover up anything, you know? I think it's a mistake for them to think the Baltimore police department is going to cover up anything, the independent commission, the state's attorney's office because believe me, I don't know one police officer that wants to work with a bad cop.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And our thanks to Gene Ryan for speaking to us this afternoon. To truly understand this case and perhaps even more so the reaction,

you need to go back decades.

[16:25:00] There's a long history of mistrust and violence on both sides, including millions of dollars paid to victims of alleged police brutality. We'll talk about that next.

Plus, we're expecting a press conference with a lawyer for the six police officers involved in this incident to start any minute. We'll bring that to you live.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm live from Baltimore with our national lead, right outside the western district headquarters, police headquarters here in Baltimore.

Intensifying anger is very visible as the community here in Baltimore is calling for answers into the death of the man, the 25-year-old chased down, tased and later dragged by police, why the entire incident was necessary to begin with is still something of a mystery. Cell phone video shows the arrest.

You can see Freddie Gray down on the ground, then when he pulled up, he's limping. A week later, his family says the 25-year-old's spine was somehow severed while he was in police custody. An autopsy report is expected any day that could help explain how this man died.