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tv   Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta  CNN  May 23, 2015 11:30am-12:01pm PDT

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the home while the family was being held hostage and dropped it off. the key thing that police note over and over again is he told several different versions of the story. for example, he said first that he got that text message on a wednesday -- i'm sorry, thursday and then changed it again to wednesday when police believe the hostage situation began. he also changed his story over where he dropped the money, whether it was in a locked car or in an unlocked car. he had two different versions of how he delivered the money, whether it was in a manila envelope or in a red bag, which police now believe it was delivered in a red bag based on a text message picture that he sent to someone else. and then there are other discrepancies, fred, over whether or not he delivered four bundles of money to the home or two bundles of money and whether or not they had the bank tape still on them. so was that money tampered with before haen beforehand. now, police in this criminal complaint, which is the charging
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document for daron wint, they call this driver a witness but they say over and over again that he admitted that he did lie about certain details. again, where he dropped the money, why he dropped the money, whether or not it was in a locked car or unlocked car. another discrepancy is whether or not he was physically at the bank when another employee removed that money. when you hear the police chief talk about whether or not other people were involved, this person is an employee of mr. savap och savapolous and we know daron wint had also been at one point an employee of the company and that brings the question whether or not these people knew each other and whether or not this person was just an innocent bystander delivering potentially a ransom or whether or not he knew what was going on. fred. >> sara, are investigators saying anything about this witness or entertaining things
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like might this person have been nervous and maybe that's why they got certain facts misconstrued or was there a language barrier? any kind of benefit of the doubt explanations like this? >> reporter: i read this police criminal complaint and i've read quite a few of them in the past and you don't typically hear or see or read police say someone lied. they use that word, "lied," over and over and over in this criminal complaint when they talk about this witness and what he told police. now, to be clear, it does not say that he did anything wrong. it does not even do anything more than imply that he was not truthful in his initial interview. but there is a good chunk of this criminal complaint that is devoted to his side of the story, what he remembers and the role that he played. they do say that he admitted to changing that story. however, they still call him a witness in this court document and they still do not name him.
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>> and investigators are still implying that there is some belief that there may be other suspects, others that may have allegedly been involved here. >> police said yesterday that they don't believe this could have been done by daron wint alone. when we talk about the ransom money too, fred, we heard them say that $10,000 was found on daron wint when he was arrested and we do know that the money delivered to the house was about $40,000 and it was supposed to be broken up into four bundles. so four bundles, you know, $10,000 you could reasonably assume could add up to $40,000 in cash. >> all fascinating and still very sad. sara ganim, thank you very much. we'll have much more from the newsroom, right after this. (dog) mmm, beneful healthy weight is so good... and low-calorie. keeps me looking good. hey, i get some looks, i hear the whistles. (vo) beneful healthy weight, a delicious, low-calorie meal your dog will love. with wholesome rice, real chicken,
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and accents of vegetables and apples.
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welcome back. i'm fredricka whitfield. we're following breaking news out of cleveland, the city on edge hours after a police officer was found not guilty in the shooting deaths of an unarmed man and woman. protesters have been demonstrating around the city. officer michael brelo, you see him right there, as he's hearing
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the verdict. he was one of 13 police officers who opened fire on the vehicle with the two unarmed people inside. right now you're seeing when the verdict was read not guilty for two counts of voluntary manslaughter. now in total, the officers who were involved fired 137 rounds at that car, that chevy malibu there. brelo stood on the hood of the car. he was the only one to face charges in this case. he fired into the windshield. timothy russell and melissa williams were the two unarmed people who were killed. so this chase started after officers said they heard what they thought was a gunshot. it turned out to be the car back firing. today a judge acquitted brelo of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault. the justice department now says it will review the case. so let's talk about more about what's next here. joined now by hln's joey
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jackson, cleveland attorney walter madison, who represents the tamir rice family out of cleveland and cnn law enforcement analyst cedric alexander. both cedric and walter are here with me in atlanta. let's talk more about the what's next here, joey, because the city says that they are looking into more administrative charges. but is it also likely that the families could pursue some sort of civil suits, given that the family members have expressed their very much disappointed in this. they even allege that the officers lied about the circumstances surrounding the shooting. >> sure, absolutely, fredricka. what will happen is this. we've already heard from the prosecutor, of course, during his press conference in relation to other charges that are forthcoming. apparently we understand that the grand jury has indicted five additional officers, not relating to the shooting but related to the chase and the indictment according to the prosecutor earlier was for dereliction of duty.
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should that chase have proceeded so there was an actual shooting later on. so there will be some accountability there. as relates to brelo, there are two things that are important to point out. the first thing will be the civil aspects of this case. of course walter madison is doing just that as it relates to tamir rice, although we don't know yet as it relates to that 12-year-old shooting what will happen, you know, criminally. but in any event as it relates to this case, i think we'll see a civil matter go forward. different standard of proof, preponderance of the evidence. is it more likely than not, 51% versus 49%, that the officer engaged in the type of conduct that resulted in death. so i think you can certainly see a monetary settlement there. the other thing, fredricka, is the federal government. of course we know and have been talking about the federal investigation that related to the pattern and practice of the entirety of the police department there. >> so that would likely be used in the pursuit of that civil
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suit, right? the justice department already saying there's a problem within that department even prior to the verdict today. >> well, you know what will happen, fredricka, the lawyers will attempt to isolate that and say listen, the lawyers for the city, there may indeed be a pattern and practice issue but as it relates to brelo, we need to focus on his specific conduct or misconduct, if any. certainly in the civil aspect in terms of what filters into that. but the federal claim and the federal government will focus on brelo's conduct. the standard will be did he intentionally seek to violate the civil rights, that is brelo, of the two sdeed endecedents, t victims here, and that's a very high standard because you have to demonstrate maliciousness and malice on his part. >> we heard the mayor, frank jackson, say today that he said that the charge will be difficult to prove. if the mayor is saying that, even though he's not expounding on his personal views of this, he had said long ago that he thought the charge would be -- it would make this a very
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difficult case. so would that too be folded into any kind of civil suit? >> well, you know what ends up happening is, and the mayor's comments we can understand. whenever you're going after a police officer, there's a certain heightened standard that when you evaluate their conduct that's looked at, that a civilian's would not be. we talk about the perception. do they perceive and is that perception reasonable that there's an imminent threat to them and their response, is it proportionate to that threat. based on them being police officers, you could see the mayor saying from a criminal perspective, it may be very difficult. from a civil perspective, i think based on the standard of proof it's going to be a little different and who knows if it even goes to trial. the city may be in a conciliatory mood looking to settle and move on. >> so the police chief, calvin williams, admitted today a lot of work has to be done. it came out after this verdict saying there will be some
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administrative charges, but in terms of reforming police department, lots has to be done. he's not promising overnight success, however. >> there is not overnight success. it's going to take time. this is a police department that has been -- >> how patient are residents expected to be, though? >> well, i'm quite sure residents want this done asap, but the fact of the matter is it's going to take time. here again, chief williams inherited a lot of what's going on here in cleveland. i'm more than confident that he's going to seek out support, help, counsel, from other colleagues and chiefs around the country as he deems necessary in order to help move through this process. but this is a community that of course is in a great deal of pain and we understand it, because the circumstances around this case certainly doesn't make sense to a lot of people but the due process system has spoken. we have to respect that. now we just have to figure out as a community how does cleveland move forward. i think we all have to be a part of that process. >> we have to leave it right there. we're going to take a short
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break. thanks so much. we're going to talk about some severe weather on the way. a live report, next.
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welcome back. an acquittal for cleveland police officer, our martin savidge takes us through the case. >> reporter: november, 2012, when a couple in a car speeds away from an undercover cop, their engine backfires. it triggers a police radio report of shots fired, and the chase is on. investigators say the pursuit involves as many as 62 police cars and speeds of 100 miles per hour. through the streets of cleveland. it ends in a hail of gunfire, killing two unarmed people. an investigation reveals a toning 137 shots fired by 13
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police officers. but only one, michael brelo, was on trial, charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter. >> he is shooting repeatedly, he is shooting excessively and he is shooting to kill. >> reporter: prosecutors say the 31-year-old former marine did what other cops didn't. he reloaded. and when the car police were chasing finally came to a halt, brelo is said to have jumped on its hood and fired 15 shots directly through the windshield. the prosecution believes those are the shots that killed 43-year-old timothy russell and 30-year-old melissa williams. brelo told investigators he thought he and his partner were in danger, believing the couple in the car were shooting, saying, quote, i have never been so afraid in my life. i thought my partner and i would be shot and that we were going to be killed. brelo went on, at which point i drew my weapon and i shot through the windshield at the suspects. recorded police radio traffic that night gives conflicting accounts. at one point, warning police about weapons.
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>> use caution. occupants are armed. >> reporter: while other officers on the radio report seeing no weapons. >> he does not have a gun in his hands. >> reporter: neither victim in the car had a gun but defense attorneys say officer brelo had no way of knowing that at the time. telling the court he wasn't trying to be rambo, he was just trying to survive. >> let's talk more about what next here. i'm joined by walter madison, who represents the tamir rice family out of cleveland. that's the 12-year-old young man who police thought was holding a real gun. turned out to be a toy gun. he was shot dead. and cnn law enforcement analyst cedric alexander. walter, to you first. one has to wonder how influential this case and the outcome of this case may be for any upcoming case involving the police officers who shot tamir rice. do you see there being any correlation? >> absolutely. and i think it feeds to the public's distrust of the system.
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one of the things that i think needs more attention is that the prosecutor and only the prosecutor engineers, if you will, the inputs for a grand jury. he controls exactly what comes out of there because he controls what's presented. >> meaning in this case timothy mcginty, the prosecutor, imposed a charge or charges for only one of the 13 officers, and you heard from the mayor earlier who said he didn't think it was going to be -- it was not likely to bring a successful outcome. he thought it would be very difficult to prove these charges. >> and the mayor went -- he pushed it to the limit there with that. he's a lawyer. and the mayor and the police department, there's a fractured relationship there. but for a mayor to even say that much tells you clearly, i never thought that this was going to result in a conviction anyway. >> why wouldn't the prosecutor feel the same way? >> well, you have to ask him. you'd have to look at his website an his background and all of those things and see if that plays a part into his
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decision-making, which begs the question why is he even involved? why isn't there a special prosecutor? >> that similar argument has been made many times, cedric wright in baltimore, the relationship between the prosecutor there and police officers and the whole political makeup there in baltimore. we heard the same argument in ferguson, whether the prosecutor should have recused himself because of the close relationship with the police officer. is that going to be a similar refrain in many cities whenever you have a police-involved shooting that perhaps the prosecutor's office typically works too close to the police and so the sitting prosecutor needs to recuse themselves from any prosecution or involved with the police officers that they often work together with? >> well, i think it's important to note in this is that -- because what you're saying is not just the police department here that is part of what's in question. it's the entire judicial system that's what's in question.
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so in some communities, of course, that community may feel that their prosecutor is more than able, capable and trustworthy to try a case they are involved with. however, some other communities may not feel that's the case. >> that's the common denominator. in these highly publicized cases there is the same kind of problem. so it almost speaks to it can't be a problem one city faces, but a problem across the country. >> if you would step aside you wouldn't have this second guessing which is what cedric is saying because then it falls all on the police officers. and there are good police officers. >> but there are also good prosecutors as well too and there are prosecutors that are capable of doing those prosecutions but that has yet to be determined. >> cedric, thanks so much. walter, appreciate it, gentlemen. thanks for being with me all often long trying to digest this very complicated case. thank you. we'll be right back. ,
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welcome back. right now fears of major flooding in texas. just moments ago flash flood warnings were issued for several counties, and we just got this video in from wichita falls, texas, near the oklahoma border. 3 to 5 inches of rain have pelted several counties in just the last few hours. mayor glen barham had this warning for residents. >> i would rather in this case, you know, be safe than sorry. the last thing we need is for somebody not to leave an evacuated area and then something happen and you can't get out and the worst could happen. >> the wichita river is up at least a foot and a half since thursday and continues to rise. it is getting perilously close to major flood stage, and more rain is actually expected this afternoon and evening. two of california's biggest beaches are closed this holiday
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weekend, thanks to a major oil spill. work crews are cleaning up more than 100,000 gallons of oil along beaches near santa barbara, desperately hoping to save wildlife endangered by the toxic goo watching ashore. here now is stephanie elam. >> reporter: the beaches should be packed here in santa barbara county for memorial day weekend, but instead on this strip of beach shall it's all closed off and that's because of this oil spill. they are still working to clean it up. if you look behind me you can see there are workers who have been out here since the break of dawn digging on the sand, pulling out little bits of oil, collecting it, putting it in bags and removing it from the beach. they have been trying to do as much as they can while the tide is out and also in the distance you can see that bright pinkish mass back there. that's actually a boom. they're going to pull that out into the ocean and try to contain any more of the oil that can be seen out of there.
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and yesterday we got some really interesting footage of a flyover. if you take a look at what this little bit of beach looks like, you can still see that there is still oil in that water, and that's what they're looking to contain. they have got boats out here that are dragging basically big pieces of cloth behind them trying to control the kelp that may have oil on it as well and bring that in. as we know, despite the fact that this it not one of the biggest oil spills we've seen in this country, it can still have pervasive effects. there have been animals that have died. they are cleaning some animals as well that are covered in this gooey tar and they are looking to make sure the wildlife can live here again and also make sure that the plants also are going to be okay, removing a lot of that that was coated and tossing that away as well. as you look at today, they continue to work on these cleanup efforts but say it could take weeks or months before they
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feel like things here will go back to somewhat normal conditions. >> all right, stephanie elam, thank you so much there in santa barbara. thanks so much for spending your saturday with me. i'm fredricka whitfield. much more in the newsroom right after this.
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3:00 eastern, i'm poppy harlow joining you live from new york. we begin with breaking news out of cleveland where the verdict in a police shooting trial has yet another american city on edge. just hours ago officer michael brelo was acquitted of all charges surrounding the deaths of an unarmed couple back in november of 2012. the shooting has come to be known locally as 137 shots. that is the number of times that officer brelo and his 12 other police colleagues fired into the car of timothy russell and meli


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