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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

No Charges in Tamir Rice Case. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 28, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:22]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST HOST: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with breaking news in Cleveland. We're watching for a news conference to begin any moment addressing a grand jury's decision in the Tamir Rice case. We learned a short time ago that two police officers who shot and killed the 12-year-old will not face criminal charges, the young black boy who was holding what turned out to be a pellet gun.

A prosecutor described what he called a perfect storm of human error, but the grand jury decided this afternoon not to indict those officers.

Let's go straight now to that press conference in Cleveland. It appears it's about to start.

FRANK JACKSON, MAYOR OF CLEVELAND, OHIO: Everybody ready? Good. Good.

Well, as you already know, the grand jury came back with no indictment in terms of the police officers involved in the Tamir Rice shooting. You know, this has been a long, troubling, trying year for not just the city of Cleveland, but particularly for the Rice family.

And I know that they have been pushing for some closure in regards to the criminal side of this. But with this closure, know that -- the deep pain they must feel even with the closure. So I want to say to the family, the mother in particular, that we are sorry for their loss. We know it has been a long process, but we do not intend to add to whatever anxiety or agony that they feel in terms of the process.

We're concerned about due process. And now that the criminal side is over with and there's been a determination in terms of criminal side, we are now going to proceed with the administrative review of what happened. And that will come to the chief. And the chief will start immediately on that process.

So, I'm going to have the chief come up and really talk to you about that process in general. And then I will close it out. And we will answer whatever questions you have. All right?

CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND, OHIO, POLICE CHIEF: Thanks, Mayor.

Well, as the mayor stated, this has been a troubling year, some trying times for the city of Cleveland. But I think that the people in the city have met these times and have stepped up for us and for this city and have pushed for some positive changes that we're in the process of doing.

And I think the citizens of the city need to be applauded for that. I think that we're continuing down that road to make sure that things get better in the city day in and day out. And we don't do that alone. We do it with the assistance of the people in this city.

As the mayor stated, now that the county grand jury has concluded, we start our administrative process in this matter with both the officers involved. We are going to reconvene our critical incident review committee. That committee will look at this incident from start to finish.

That committee will also take a look at any and all information that's going to be provided to them by either the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office, the grand jury or the county prosecutor's office and their review of this incident.

Once that's completed, the results of that review will be forwarded to my office, at which time I will take a look at that and then we will conclude this process. Now, what that conclusion looks like, none of us know, because this committee has to conduct that investigation, that review.

And I don't want to speculate on how long that's going to take. As the mayor stated, this has been a long process already, and we don't want to drag this out unnecessarily and we won't. This committee will get to work very shortly here. They will take a look at all the evidence. They will take a look at all the testimony, everything that's been put out there so far.

And they will forward a recommendation to my office. At that time, we will start our administrative process. I want to again send our prayers out not only to the Rice family, but to the city, and to let people know that we're here, that we're going to get through this again, as we have gotten through other things in the past. And the city will be better off for it.

[16:05:10]

Thank you.

JACKSON: And I do want to emphasize that one of the things that we have been hearing for over this past year was whether or not there was a process or was there was a due process.

And we're not just going through a process. We are affording due process to everyone involved in the situation. And I believe that, when we do that and we do it in a fair and objective way, then we will reach whatever conclusion comes out of that due process. But, again, this has caused the city of Cleveland with the loss of a

child at the hands of a police officer to do a lot of soul searching. And in the midst of that soul searching, we have made some changes, not only in terms of our policies, tactics, process, procedure, but we have reached an agreement with the Department of Justice in terms of the consent decree.

All of this is designed to better ensure that an incident like this will never happen again. OK? So we will take whatever questions you have. Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

JACKSON: Well, I cannot comment on that until the process is finished, because that automatically -- when you say that, that automatically concludes something.

We're going to go through a process. And, you know, prosecutor McGinty has drawn his conclusion based on the end of his process. At the end of our process, we will have a conclusion. And that conclusion, as I said, will deal with due process for everyone involved.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) legal background (OFF-MIKE) Do you agree this is the appropriate outcome or not?

JACKSON: I'm not going to comment on that. You know, again, you're asking me to comment and get it, because whatever I say, you're going to draw a conclusion from that as to what -- and when I say that and you draw the conclusion, then it has tainted our process.

I'm not going to be having those kind of conversations. Just as we haven't had them in the past, we're not going to have them now. Only thing I can assure you and the public and the Rice family, that this will not just be a process. This will be due process.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

JACKSON: Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

WILLIAMS: Well, again, I also commented that I don't want to put a timeframe on it, because the committee has a lot of work to do. Yes, it starts right away. And that committee is made up of members of the division.

We also have members of the public, of the community that are on that committee. I can get you a full list of the committee members, but it's basically the same committee that was put together during the Brelo incident, the chase of November 29.

So we will give you that list of people that are on it, but they have a system to go through to get through all the evidence. And they have to review that evidence. And then they have to make sure that they come to conclusions based on that evidence. And then that's presented to me and we go from there.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) potential discipline of the officers that were involved in the shooting?

WILLIAMS: All right, there's potential discipline if there's a violation of our policies, our procedures, yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

WILLIAMS: Both of the officers are and will remain on restricted duty.

They have been on restricted duty since this incident happened. That's part of our process, not to allow officers involved in critical incidents to go back out there into the fray. They will remain on restricted duty until we complete the administrative process.

QUESTION: Chief, will there be any other (OFF-MIKE) looked at besides these two officers (OFF-MIKE) process?

WILLIAMS: We will look at the incident from start to finish. Anybody that was involved, from our communications center to the officers themselves, people involved afterwards, giving care, that kind of thing, we will look at the incident from start to finish.

Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

[16:10:04]

WILLIAMS: I don't want to get this mixed up.

SCIUTTO: We have been listening there to Cleveland chief of police, Calvin Williams, as well as the Cleveland mayor, Frank Johnson, responding to the lack of charges against the two police officers involved in the shooting of the 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

They say that there will now be an administrative action carried out by the Cleveland Police Department. They say that that will not be something that they want to drag out, but the mayor promising that there will be due process for those involved.

I want to go straight now to CNN correspondent Jean Casarez. She's been following this story from the beginning.

Jean, I know it's early. It's only been a short time since this decision came out announced by the prosecutor. From what you know and what you have seen, how did the grand jury decide in this case not to file charges against these officers?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that critical -- and we're going to show some of this in just a minute -- is an enhanced video of the situation at the recreation center on November 2014, one year ago when Tamir Rice was shot at 12 years old. But I think that the prosecutor said things that we had heard before,

but confirmed with us which really forms the state of mind of the officer. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM MCGINTY, CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OHIO, PROSECUTOR: It is likely that Tamir, whose size made him look much older and who had been warned that his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day, either intended to hand it over to the officers or show them it wasn't a real gun. But there was no way for the officers to know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CASAREZ: And despite that, the dispatch, when they called saying there was an active shooter at that recreation center, did not say that it was possibly a juvenile and did not say as the original call that came in that it was possibly a toy gun.

So their state of mind was active shooter. Now, you're looking right there at some of the enhanced video that we saw for the first time today. And you can see the squad car has pulled up and it was a matter of 10 seconds from pull-up to shooting and actually just two seconds after he got out of the car, the officer, that the shot came.

But what they really wanted to make apparent in this video today was that, first of all, the enhanced video shows Tamir Rice initially standing up and putting his hand into his waistband, as to be putting a gun away into the waistband, and then turning around and walking in an opposite direction, but turning and then coming toward the squad car.

At that point, they say the video shows that the right hand of Tamir Rice was in the front of his body and it moves back up to his waist and you see his jacket then come up. And I think, most importantly, they say that this gun, which was a toy gun, ultimately, it was found on the ground, which shows that the gun was out of his waistband when the officer shot Tamir Rice.

SCIUTTO: Jean, we heard when the prosecutor announce this decision. He said it was -- he acknowledged it was a difficult phone call, as, of course, you would expect, with his family. How has the family responded publicly since the announcement?

CASAREZ: Well, they issued a statement. And it has been so emotional. This was a 12-year-old little boy really.

And this is the statement that the family issued just minutes ago. They say: "Tamir's family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome, but not surprised. It has been clear for months now that the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Timothy McGinty,was abusing his manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."

SCIUTTO: Interesting, to say they were not surprised by this, disappointed, but not surprised. Jean Casarez, thanks very much on this.

Joining me now, CNN law enforcement Tom Fuentes, CNN political commentator Van Jones, and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

Joey, I want to start with you, if I can, take advantage of your legal experience here. We have seen, as you know, a lot of cases like this, police shootings. Seldom are the police officers charged. Of course, we're talking about a large variety of cases here.

I don't want to get lost in that, but just can you explain to me, explain to our viewers what is the legal standard required to be met by a prosecutor or by a grand jury to issue charges in a police shooting? It is higher for officers of the law, of course, than it is for members of the public, but what is the legal standard they have to meet?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is, Jim.

What happens is first you get it to a grand jury. And that's been a big concern with this case because of the delay of time it took to get to the grand jury. Let's remind everyone that this happened in November of last year, 2014. A grand jury was just convened this October in the middle of the month to consider it.

And so as an initial matter, the grand jury first, it considers, A, is there reasonable cause to believe that a crime was committed, and, B, did these officers commit it? And so what might constitute a crime? Whenever the grand jury considers police instances, what they look at is, what would a reasonable officer do in their position?

Now, three things are considered. One, is there an immediacy of the threat that's posed to the officers or the general public? Number two, is the officer's response to that threat proportionate or not? And, number three, as I mentioned before, the reasonableness of that activity.

Now, it's not viewed by Monday morning quarterbacked. It's not viewed by the fact of hindsight and the benefits of it. The law recognizes and understands that they have a split second to make decisions.

But I think, Jim, what happens particularly in this case and I think there will be an evaluation of that throughout the country is the process that's employed to get that information. Is the local prosecutor who works with police, who relies upon the police for investigative materials, who relies upon the police to make arrests, should they be the people who are ultimately really making that decision?

When I say that, we know this is a grand jury. But what we also know, Jim, is that the prosecutor essentially is the judge, the jury and the executioner, controlling the flow of information, seeing what the grand jury hears, what they don't hear, what they consider and don't consider. Yes, grand juries have subpoena power, but as a former prosecutor I

can tell you that the manner in which you present the case has a lot to do with the full-time outcome in terms of what the grand jury ultimately concludes.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: No questions. Prosecutors have a lot of power in this. Jean got to this earlier. Some of the key issues that came up were his size. The fact he'd been warned earlier, Tom Fuentes, about carrying that pellet gun.

But a lot of this information is how it got to the officers. For instance, the dispatcher neglected to mention that the 911 caller said that the gunman was probably a juvenile and that the gun may not be real.

So, the cops when you go to state of mind they have that there's a guy there, they have a description of his clothing, et cetera, but they don't have that key information.

You're a cop in those shoes. How essential is that?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, couple things about that, Jim. You know, you don't know -- again, the officer haves to go by what they're told by the dispatcher. You've already heard family members say that Tamir was large for his size. That means if he looked a bit older than 12, 14, 15, there's other kids in the streets of Cleveland and all over this country gunning other kids down at that age with handguns. That's number one, the size would really be relevant. And you have kids much smaller than that that have killed other kids.

Secondly, even if someone from the public tells you I think it's a toy gun, I was a firearms instructor most of my 36 years in law enforcement. I could not have told you standing five feet away whether that was or wasn't a real gun. Looking at the pictures now, no one could tell you that.

So, somebody from 100 yards away phoning that in, how would they know?

SCIUTTO: As you say it's a split second decision. Van, I want to ask you. That statement, that phrasing from the family statement struck me. They said they're disappointed but not surprised by this decision.

What's your reaction to that?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they are like many of us, this particular prosecutor went above and beyond the call of duty to orchestrate the exoneration of these officers. You've never seen a prosecutor go out, spend money to bring in experts to exonerate the police officers. They literally brought in experts.

Usually what a prosecutor does -- listen, if you think that this should go in front of a jury, you put the evidence forward. You move forward with the jury trial. To say nothing happened here, nothing happened, this should go to a jury. How about this? No medical aid after the kid is killed. How about criminal medical neglect? How about the fact that under ordinary circumstances a police officer would never put themselves in peril and then shoot their way out.

The fact that the police officers drove into peril and then shot his way out, there's not a traffic ticket you can issue, there's not a misdemeanor, there's not one thing that happened here that could be charged.

That is completely preposterous on its face and yet this prosecutor went above and beyond the call of duty to spend extra money and took extra time to get these cops off.

Prosecutors do not act this way under ordinary circumstances. Usually they throw the book at you and then they tell you, you explain to a judge and jury why you're innocent. This particular prosecutor did the opposite of most prosecutors in this case.

SCIUTTO: Now, we have to see how the city of Cleveland reacts to this.

Van Jones, Tom Fuentes, Joey Jackson, thanks very much for helping us through this.

Also in the national lead today, twisters, floods, blizzards. Violent storms making for a cruel and crushing end to 2015. That is across the U.S. More is on the way.

Also in national news, coming up after this --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:08] SCIUTTO: Also in national news, severe weather wreaking havoc, ruining holiday vacations and far worse. The massive storms exacting an alarming death toll of at least 25 people across the U.S. and the nasty weather is not over yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's very big. Oh, it's massive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my gosh! It's big!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That's the sound of storm chasers spotting a massive tornado lurking in the dark night sky near Dallas this weekend. Deadly twisters churned through the state tossing debris, crushing homes. In the Midwest, flooding and freezing rain swept away cars.

And tonight, parts of New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are under a blizzard warning.

Nick Valencia's in Garland, Texas, where tornadoes broke family homes it appeared into match sticks.

Nick, temperatures dropping there from 80s yesterday now to freezing today. Tell us what the scene is like.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been here all day long, Jim. And over the course of the last couple of hours, we have seen residents of this apartment complex slowly start to trickle back to sift through their belongings. Some of them telling me they had little if any warning to seek shelter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH WHITE, HOME DESTROYED BY TORNADO: I thought I was dead, you know. I was waiting for the tornado to suck me out. But it didn't, like gave me a second chance.

VALENCIA (voice-over): For Josh White, the chance to walk away from a deadly E-4 tornado here in Garland, Texas, almost didn't come.

WHITE: I was running toward my closet and the doors and everything started caving in. And stuff started flying through the windows. Things were just hitting us. I could feel it hitting us, bricks, everything.

VALENCIA: He hid with his wife and 5-year-old son with just a mattress to protect them from winds up to 200 miles per hour.

WHITE: This is made me realize how fragile life is. But try to do better.

VALENCIA: Eleven people were killed in Texas alone this weekend when tornadoes ripped through the state, tearing apart buildings, leaving skeleton structures and shattered wood behind.

The destructive winds are a part of a massive storm system wreaking havoc across the nation with a deadly mix of tornadoes, ice, blizzards and flooding, stretching from New Mexico to Maine. At least two dozen people have died and more than 100 million more could be affected by severe storms, flooding and snow from this same system.

White gathers his belongings in just a sweatshirt, while others in the Lone Star State are digging out of frigid blizzard conditions, just part of the bizarre and brutal weather here.

Texas is among the hardest hit states along with Illinois and Missouri, each reporting multiple deaths.

At least four international soldiers stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood perished in Missouri this weekend when their car was overtaken by rising water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did find two individuals in the car. We found two other men that were actually outside of the vehicle that were in the creek.

[16:25:05] VALENCIA: Now as hundreds of Americans are beginning to see the destruction left in the storm's path, millions more are bracing for what's next.

Josh White says he'll be there to help anyone who needs it.

WHITE: Everybody never expects this. I mean, once you go through it, it changes your life forever. You want to help people now, you know?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: We cannot forget the victims. Of the 11 people that died in the Dallas area, eight of them perished here. The youngest victim had just turned a year old two weeks ago -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And more storms to come. Nick Valencia, thank you.

The world lead, Iraqi soldiers raising their flag over a key city they say they took back from ISIS who were using innocent people as human shields. But it's the other areas where the terror group is actually gaining ground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Topping our world lead today, the western Iraq city of Ramadi now liberated say Iraqi officials from the hands of ISIS, for which the Iraqi army had been locked in a fierce, sometimes halting, battle with ISIS militants for control of the city. Then, earlier today, Iraqi forces proudly raising the country's flag above the government compound from where ISIS fighters had been launching attacks, though in a sign of the continuing danger, even that moment was marred by continuing gunfire.

CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is here.

Elise, you talk to U.S. officials, they are much more cautious than Iraqi officials than American officials about declaring victory on the ground today, aren't they?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, there's been a lot of praise today for Iraqi forces by the U.S.-led coalition, calling retaking of the center of the city a significant accomplishment.

But the U.S. is cautioning the Iraqi government its next steps are equally important to hold Ramadi and build upon those gains.