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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Baltimore Police Update On Freddie Gray's Death; Washington Prepares For White House Correspondents' Dinner. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 24, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: I've been brought here with a team to be focused on reform to this organization. We should never lose sight of the fact that we also have thousands of women and men who come to work every day and protect the people of Baltimore in a very proud and professional way.
Over the course to have last 12 days we have undertaken a massive investigation. We have ramped up a task force of more than 30-plus investigators from various disciplines in this agency. Dozens of interviews have been conducted and many more remain.
A step by step meticulous investigation has taken place. It is much like you go to the ophthalmologist and he asked you can you see this picture. We are refining our investigation. We're getting closer and the picture is getting sharper and sharper as we move forward.
We have canvassed the entire geographic region on foot multiple times and we will do it more often. The video footage of every CCTV camera that may have caught even a single moment of the incident is under review.
This city has pretty close to 600 cameras within the city as a whole. Much of that footage will be released today. We're narrowing do I know the timeline of events that led to Mr. Gray's tragic death and the events surrounding them.
The timeline will continue to change. We found new information and we will continue to find more information as we go. We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses for that, period.
We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times. There are still many questions that we don't have the answers to and so open-ended areas that we need to focus heavily on.
We're going to ask for help from citizens and residents on things they may have seen or videos they may be in possession of. We've extended this out several times. We're going to share with you today some more witnesses that we have caught on cameras that we would like for them to come forth and share information.
I want to clear up some confusion. We received a preliminary verbal report from the medical examiner, not the official report. They still are working on that. They still have to complete a toxicology that can take 30 to 45 days.
What I'm told is they may be bringing experts in to look at the spine and I don't know how long that will take. Let me further clear up, when we take our information or our files to the state's attorney's office on Friday, that is not the conclusion of this investigation.
That is step one of us gathering information, step two is taking it to the state's attorney's office for them to look at our interviews and our investigation. I'm sure they're going to have questions and they're going to send us back out to re-interview people.
They're going to send us back out to look at more evidence. That is not the end of this investigation on May 1st. That is us sitting down providing all of the data that we have. We will continue to follow the evidence wherever it goes.
I just finished a meeting of ministers in the western district. We shared with them information that we knew. It was a good meeting. They shared with us what the parishioners in the neighborhoods are thinking. We will reach out more to other ministerial groups within the city.
I think now is the time usually in events like that that there's finger pointing and blame. I am clear that Reverend Gwen of Minister Alliance has called for my resignation. That's not going to happen. I'm focused on my job. I'm focused on leading this organization.
I have been a reformed commissioner. I've taken an organization that has many challenges and faced it head on whether it's from terminating 50 employees over the last two years for misconduct within this organization.
Whether it's from dropping officer-involved shooting from 50 percent to 40 percent over the previous years, whether it's reducing excessive force complaints dramatically, whether it's reducing lawsuits dramatically.
Whether training -- changing the entire training regimen of this city, the rebuilding of field train program of the police department, or whether it's standing here taking the tough questions during the tough times, we're going to continue to serve this city in a very strong way.
[16:35:11] The key factor not from these distractions, the focus that we should have is that a young man has lost his life and we're going to do everything we can to bring clarification and if there are those responsible to justice that's where the focus should be not on the finger pointing.
I'm going to bring up Deputy Commissioner Paul Mere to tell about the crowd controls and then I'm going to bring up Deputy Commissioner Davis to give you an update on the investigation.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER PAUL MERE: Thank you, Commissioner. First I would like to extend my personal condolence to the Gray family. I want to go over a few key points as we prepare for these demonstrations throughout the weekend.
We handle these demonstrations as we do any other special event. Those special events include assistance of mutual aid from other agencies across the state. We want to make some announcements as we do in any other special events. That these demonstrations may cause traffic delays.
We expect traffic delays throughout the city. We also expect code of conduct with those that come and visit the city during the demonstrations. We respect the right for individuals to demonstrate and we'll protect the constitutional right for people to demonstrate.
The expectation of conduct is very clear to our visitors that they do not disturb. There are demonstrations that the police will continue to protect those. We have extensive law enforcement resources to assist. Some will be seen, some will not.
We also appreciate the mutual aid law enforcement agencies that are coming in to assist with us. We met with them earlier, very good conversation.
And we want to remind everyone in the Baltimore community, we cannot stress enough the need for peaceful demonstrations as we gather through these tough times.
KEVIN DAVIS, BALTIMORE DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: Good afternoon, Kevin Davis. I'm the deputy commissioner in charge of the investigations and intelligence bureau. This Freddie Gray Task Force is comprehensive. It involves many different facets of our organization.
Our force investigation team is leading the way. We have homicide detectives assigned it to. We have district detective units assigned to it. Our trained division is deeply involved. Our crime lab is a partner and our watch center is a partner.
This is an ongoing complex comprehensive investigation and this investigative update is obviously far from complete. But we wanted to give you a picture of where we are at this moment in time.
We do know that our the morning of April 12th that three bicycle officers, one lieutenant and two police officers, spotted Freddie Gray along the 1600 block of West North Avenue.
Freddie gray and another unidentified person at the moment fled on foot. One of our bicycle officers dismounted his bicycle and gave chase on foot while the two other bicycle officers remained on their bicycles and chased both Freddie Gray and this other unidentified male in a southbound direction.
I walked the entire route yesterday. It's a foot chase that's not a short one. It goes through several streets, several housing complexes and eventually ends up along the 1700 block of Presberry and that's where the apprehension of Freddie Gray occurred. And quite frankly that's exactly where Freddie Gray should have received medical attention and he did not. After that apprehension was effected, Freddie Gray was placed into a transport wagon. That transport wagon stopped for the first time at Mount and Baker.
Freddie Gray was removed from the transport wagon and leg irons were attached. Freddie Gray was placed back into a transport wagon. That transport wagon stops again for a second time at Drud Hill and Dalton to deal with Mr. Gray and the facts of that interaction are under investigation.
The next stop for the transport wagon involved a call for assistance. BPD officers were handling an arrest scenario that required additional police officers to respond. The wagon operator decided to respond to that location at North Avenue and Pennsylvania.
[16:40:00] At North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, a second prisoner was introduced into the transport wagon. The transport wagon then proceeded to the western district.
At the western district, Freddie Gray, an ambulance was called rather for Freddie Gray. Mr. Gray was placed in an ambulance and he was transported to shock trauma where he died a week later.
Our investigative team is dedicating every resource at our disposing to each and every one of these sites. It's comflex. It involves a minutia of details. It requires our full talents, our full time.
And we're going to get this right. But in order to get it right, we've got to fully investigate our interactions with Mr. Gray at each and every stop along the way. We have to identify civilian witnesses who may have been present at each and every stop along the way.
We have to identify police officers, who may have been present at each and every stop of the way. And we are continually combing through video footage to identify additional footage that will help us in the investigation.
In fact yesterday -- you're going to receive at least a still photo that we recovered from a CCTV camera yesterday that shows our police officers interacting with Mr. Gray at the scene of the apprehension along the 1700 block of Pressberry.
As this investigation continues, like the commissioner said it will be presented to the state attorney's office and we'll continue to work in partnership with our prosecutors as we move forward with this investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talked about the eye chart coming into focus. Is it your sense now that Freddie Gray died as a result of one of these rough rides or do you believe his injuries were sustained out of the wagon?
BATTS: The potential is for both of those. We don't have that clear of a picture. There is a gap for me, the gap between is where Mr. Gray ran from the officers and where the video picks up. What we don't have there is witnesses or CCTV information to show what occurred there.
We have to clear that picture. The next focus is on the ride within the vehicle itself. We see Mr. Gray enter into the vehicle. He's able to talk. He's able to move. He's able to stand on his left foot. I'm told that he was able to enter the van at this point in time.
We see Mr. Gray through video again or camera by another citizen getting out one block around the corner. They're able to put the leg shackle on him. He's able to move and talk at that given point in time. The van driver stops a third time.
We have another officer that comes up to witness Mr. Gray. Mr. Gray is talking there. They pick hick up off the floor and place him on the seat at that time. He said he needs a medic I think is the terminology.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At which stop? I'm sorry?
BATTS: The third stop, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
BATTS: So I have another gap between that time and where he gets to the last stop that we have to have information on. We've taken a look at the CCTV cameras. We believe we have the route. We have the van. We have the movement and the route that it's taken.
So we're focusing on -- there is -- I cannot give you all of the information. There's an incident -- not incident. There's something that we have to look at that we have to have further investigation on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) back to 1600 block, that part of the --
DAVIS: Each and every leg of this transport is being investigated. So how long it took, the distance, the likely travel route, we're in the process of making sure that we can absolutely nail down the travel route. We're close to that.
But beyond the route that was taken, we need to know from A to Z what occurred at each and every stop, who was present at each and every stop, the extent that Mr. Gray asked for medical assistance at each and every stop and our interaction with Mr. Gray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that, but you've given certain details for each and every stop up until Dalton. And you've given fewer details about back at 1600 North Avenue at times whether officers were -- (inaudible).
DAVIS: Those are the same questions that our task force deals with each and every day. And each and every day, like the commissioner said, we get a clearer and clearer picture of what happened.
[16:45:08] So the absence of details about those particular stops is because we're not exactly certain yet. We haven't reached a place in our investigation where we're certain enough of the details and the circumstances to share at the moment.
The still photo and perhaps the video footage that you'll be receiving later on shows some citizens we have not yet spoken to along the 1700 block of Pressberry.
So as we release that this afternoon, Captain (inaudible), make sure you get a copy. We really need to identify those folks because we're certain that they can help us move forward in the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true that you're really trying to focus in on that third stop?
BATTS: No. There are multiple gaps that we're focusing on that I want clearer and more definite information. And that's where we're focusing on those multiple gaps. You know one with of the things -- let me come back to you in one quick second and I'll answer your questions.
When we were talking to the ministers right before coming down here, the ministers said that the community wants information and answers. What you see us tap dancing on and balancing here is if someone harmed Freddie Gray, we're going to have to prosecute them.
So giving too much information out to you here on the front may jeopardize the prosecution. We're trying to be open and transparent. But if somebody harmed him, they have to be held accountable and we don't want to give away all of the information we have.
I'm trying to answer the questions as best we can without jeopardizing the case. I promised this gentleman I was coming back to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you say it is on the first two stops that it appeared that he was OK, that he was at least able to communicate and that he was at least standing on one leg, but it's the third stop that you're most drilling down --
BATTS: No, what I'm sharing with you is what evidence that we have that identifies his state. And that's what I have. The other parts we have to fill in the blanks. That's what we're doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question).
BATTS: We have five of the six officers who have given their statement and the one who invoked their rights with has continued to invoke their rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question).
BATTS: I think what the mayor is looking at, we were talking earlier and she's going to make a suggestion about that in the coming days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question).
DAVIS: So all those details are the subject of our investigation. So when the transport wagon stops at each and every one of these sites and stops along the way, where was Mr. Gray when we opened the door? Was he seated? Was he in a praying position? Was he on his back? Was he on his side?
We're finding those answers out as our investigation moves forward. They're all pertinent details and they're all going to be eventually revealed to us in due time and they're just crucial to our investigative effort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At no point did he have a seat belt on?
DAVIS: At no point did he have a seat belt on.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, finally some answers from the Baltimore Police Department. We just heard from Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts on the investigation into Freddie Gray's death.
Let's talk about all this with CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, first of all, a strong statement I thought from Commissioner Batts suggesting that they don't want to disclose too much at this point because they might be prosecuting some of the police officers.
Also the deputy commissioner, Kevin Davis, with the first admissions that the police did something wrong, he said, quote, very frankly, "He should have gotten medical attention at the site of the arrest and he wasn't strapped in, in the van, as he should have been.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think those are both very significant because those are clear acknowledgments that Freddie Gray was not treated properly and those are significant things.
He should have gotten medical treatment and should have been strapped into the transport wagon. Now the big question that is still outstanding is was this negligence, was this inadvertence?
Was this a mistake on the part of the officers or was it some kind of aggressive mistreatment? Was it more like a crime, an assault? That question is not answered but certainly an advance in the investigation to say that Freddie Gray was treated in a wrong way.
TAPPER: Very different tone, very different words from Commissioner Batts than one from what we heard from the fraternal order of police earlier in the week when they said we stand by our officers no matter what. Commissioner Batts out loud in a roomful of reporters talking about the prospect of prosecution.
TOOBIN: There's a dead person here and if he died as a result of mistreatment or even negligence on the part of these officers, it does seem that a criminal prosecution is definitely possible.
[16:50:10] One of the six officers who has been questioned has already taken the fifth. So they're certainly aware that a criminal prosecution is possible. That's why we're here.
TAPPER: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Coming up, a lighter note after all this horrific news this week. She normally spends her Saturday nights live from New York. But tomorrow, SNL star, Cecily Strong will be taking the microphone here in Washington, D.C. and she'll sit down with us next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our Pop Culture Lead today, this is the weirdest, the most fun and also the most troubling weekend our nation's capital has to offer. Tomorrow night is of course the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.
All week it's been party after party, celebrities hobnobbing the politicians who are hobnobbing with journalists. It's bad optics, but also kind of a blast and also kind of a drag.
[16:55:06] As you can see I'm a little conflicted about it all. The dinner itself provides scholarships for students and awards for journalists and an opportunity for President Obama to make fun of himself and, well, us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Jake Tapper, don't you ever talk about me like that. I'm the best president in the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And joining me now to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of this weekend's festivities is Poppy Harlow, who will be leading CNN's coverage. Poppy, you interviewed the host of Saturday night's dinner, comedian, Cecily Strong. Is she nervous? This is a tough gig.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's incredibly tough gig. I think she's a little nervous to stand next to the leader of the free world and point some jokes at him and others. But look, if she's nervous, she wears it very well.
CECILY STRONG: People are angry, Seth. Society is angry. And sometimes it's not angry enough. Open your eyes people, war, hunger, diseases, it's like pick one.
HARLOW (voice-over): Hosting the White House Correspondent's Dinner is a job some have turned down. It's a job of awkward moments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The launch of healthcare.gov was a disaster.
HARLOW: And biting words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least and by these standards we've set up a fabulous government in Iraq. HARLOW (on camera): You've said some people encouraged you not to do this? Why?
STRONG: No offense. It's sort of known as a tough room. When it was made public people were like, congratulations and I think I would go like, yes, thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let's face it, Fox. You'll miss me when I'm gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.
STRONG: He doesn't get any of my jokes. I'm sure he's fine. I need the help. He can write my jokes.
HARLOW (voice-over): The story of how she got here is remarkable.
(on camera): Do you pinch yourself?
STRONG: Constantly, SNL, especially with such a dream job.
HARLOW: Just three years ago, Strong was touring with the second city comedy group and OK, she says with being poor forever. And then at a 2012 comedy showcase in her native Chicago, she caught the eye of SNL creator, Loren Michaels.
(on camera): Been three years now?
HARLOW: What was the moment like when it sunk in?
STRONG: I think it's still sinking in. At the 40th, that was another moment for all of us on the current cast. We were call crying and holding each other. It's just like I can't believe if I look to my left or look to my right now, there's true heroes and legends and to get to be on a stage with them is super overwhelming.
HARLOW (voice-over): Boundaries have been tested.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rush Limbaugh. I hope the country fails. I hope his kidneys nail fail. How about that? He needs a good water boarding.
HARLOW: The question is how far will Cecily Strong go?
STRONG: I don't think I've been known as a real envelope pusher. I don't want to be mean. I'd rather be funny. And of course I'll have a couple of pointed remarks, but hopefully it's all funny. It's funny to me.
HARLOW: And you know, Jake, she would not test any her jokes on me. They're keeping those closely to their chest. I will tell you she said she doesn't want to be mean, but there's plenty of ridiculous stuff going on in Washington right now so she's got plenty of things to make fun of. You're going to be at the dinner. Have a good time.
TAPPER: I will. I'm looking forward to it. Poppy Harlow, thank you so much. Be sure to tune in so our special coverage of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which begins this Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. right here on CNN.
Today marks a major milestone, the Hubble telescope turns 25 years old today. It circles this planet every 97 minutes. You know, Hubble did not start out with high hopes. Its first images were kind of fuzzy.
Today NASA celebrated the day by releasing quite the image, a burst of light emitted by stars. The telescope has logged more than one million observations.
One final note from us today, CNN announced that I will have the honor of anchoring, in addition to this show, the Sunday morning show "STATE OF THE UNION." We'll launch in June. We'll have much more on that as we get closer to our launch date.
I want to take a moment to thank CNN for the honor and the opportunity and most importantly to thank you for watching "THE LEAD" and hopefully our pending Sunday efforts as well.
That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great weekend.