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Floyd's Girlfriend Says, in May 2020, I Suspected He Had Started Drugs Again; Child Among Four Killed in Southern California Office Park Shooting; COVID Vaccinations Pick Up as Cases Rise in Half the States. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 1, 2021 - 11:30   ET


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Analyst and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner.

Laura, let me begin with you. A lot of time spent on drug use, on drug addictions, on struggles that both of them shared over the course of their relationship, this we heard from the prosecutors before the trial even began from the George Floyd family. They said this is going to be a lot of focus and attention, especially from the defense. But don't lose sight of where the focus should be and that should be on Derek Chauvin.

That having been said, in those 20 minutes that you just heard about their history of drug use, what is it that stood out to you and what is the most relevant?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, two things. One, there was that interesting moment at the end there where they tried to elicit that somehow the name he was calling for was, in fact momma, meaning, perhaps his girlfriend at the time. But, of course, it just a nonsensical point because he was calling for help under obvious physical duress. The idea of who he was referring to was really irrelevant for the officers to be considering at that point.

But you also the idea of OxyContin being talked about, about opioid addiction. Remember, we're in a very different world now in 2021 and how people view opioid abuse. It's not the vilifying factor that perhaps it even once was in trials and for good reason. So talking about his tolerance, about his attempts to get help in the past, about the physical effect of what the drugs have done to his body. And in previous instances, as they articulated, he has survived his use of those drugs. He has been alive to tell the story, to get treatment, to have these conversations.

What made this interaction different? What was the new causal factor? Well, the kneeling on his neck, perhaps, by former Officer Derek Chauvin. That's what the jurors are going to think to themselves here. Why is this relevant to the actual charges? And if drug use is relevant, does that mean that asphyxiation can no longer be a substantial cause of death? That's what the prosecution has got to prove now.

GOLODRYGA: And, Chief Ramsey, from a law enforcement standpoint, we heard details about an overdose that George Floyd had back in March of 2020. He's been hospitalized for five days. There had been discussion about some bad, quote/unquote, drugs that he had purchased and that both he and his girlfriend had consumed. And there seems to be this argument that he may have, in fact, been on some of the bad drugs at the time of his ultimate death and leading up to that. What was your take away and how relevant was that?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, well, clearly, he had an addiction. I Mean, and that's really not in question. And, you know, the autopsy report, the toxicology report is part of the autopsy, will indicate what substances he had in his system at the time of death, and whether or not it was potentially a fatal dose of whatever it was that was in his system. So, you know, all that will be resolved as this progresses, and as your expert witnesses, medical examiner and the like begin to testify.

Primarily, his addiction was to opioids. And, you know, I spent a great deal of my career when I was in the Chicago Police Department in narcotics, more than ten years. I mean that's a depressant. I mean, I can't think of a single time I had a person who was addicted to heroin, let's say, create a problem for me in terms of a struggle. I mean, so, you know, all this will come out.

The only point they're trying to make is trying to, you know, make George Floyd the bad guy out here. It has nothing to do with whether or not the officer was justified in his use of force at the time he took him into custody and should he have maintained that pressure and that force for that long a period of time on Mr. Floyd. The answer to that still remains no, whether he was on drugs or not on drugs.

GOLODRYGA: And, Chief Ramsey, from a training standpoint, would law enforcement be prepared in the sense of how to handle and approach somebody that would be under the influence?

RAMSEY: Well, yes. I mean, there are techniques, I mean, de- escalation and so forth. But if you have a person, let's say, who's on phencyclidine, PCP, that can be very, very problematic. Someone who's under the influence of opioids, you know, depressant, they tend not to be a problem. I mean, I wasn't there. I don't know what was in his system.

But I do know this. One of the things I was taught in the academy, lots been made of George Floyd's physical size, if you have someone that is that big and you know you're going to take them into custody, you try to handcuff them as soon as possible before they, you know, in the event they become irate or there is a problem later, you already have him restrained. That could be why they cuffed him so quickly too.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the point is though at least the video that we saw, the nine minutes and 29 seconds, he'd been cuffed the whole time and had not been --

RAMSEY: Right.

GOLODRYGA: -- resisting in any sense that we have seen from that clear view. [11:35:01]

RAMSEY: Exactly right.

GOLODRYGA: I want to bring in CNN's Josh Campbell who is outside of the courthouse in Minneapolis. And as we said, Josh, that was some emotional testimony from Courteney, his former girlfriend talking, about their relationship crying throughout. Give us a sense of what the atmosphere was like in the courtroom throughout that period.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, we could see just the reactions, obviously we can't see the jurors on the live feed. But I think the one thing that is a key take away, when we look at this case and back up in totality and look at this not only impacting the people of Minneapolis and here in Minnesota but also people are watching this indeed around the world.

We know that after the death of George Floyd, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets calling for racial justice. And I can tell you, you know, you and I covered so many of the stories where you have a bad cop, that disgrace that's noble profession. And one thing that I continue to hear and talking to communities of color is how they don't feel that sometimes police officers look at them as human beings.

But what was so striking in hearing from Floyd's ex-girlfriend there is just the humanity. She talked about George Floyd as a person, how he loved his children, the things he liked to do, the things he looked forward to and seeing him as a person is something that so many people here, so many of his family members have said was denied to him by the officers on that day as they arrived on the scene.

I mean, just yesterday, we saw some of the footage released by prosecutors. You see quick escalation. You see the officer, his gun is out, he's pointing it at Floyd's head as he's in the front of that vehicle. And so just that idea that George Floyd wasn't a human is something that has been a constant, you know, strain obviously in the community but to see someone who knew him so intimately describe him as a person was so powerful.

I think also it's important to note and this is as you look at the defense's strategy, there is not a lot that they have to go on here. I mean, what can Derek Chauvin say? He's not going to say that this was a department's policy, that neck restraint that was used that ultimately resulted in death. He can say it.

But we talked to people, these officers here who said that that's not policy. He can't say that he was one of four officers and they may also be to blame because he was the senior officer on the scene. And, in fact, I heard from the defense counsel for these other officers saying that they looked into Chauvin, the senior officer, taking cues from him.

And so my point is there is not a lot that he can say. So what they're trying to do is turn the tables, put George Floyd on trial and his drug addiction. The one thing finally there that I think was so important to pick up in that exchange of questions is one thing that the prosecutor was eliciting as he asked those questions, is that, yes, George Floyd may have taken drugs, yes, she may have taken drugs, but he didn't die prior to May 25th whenever he was taking pills. The point that the prosecutor is likely trying to make is that it was that interaction with the police officers, not the drug abuse, not any drug history but what took place on May 25th during that encounter with Minneapolis Police officers that ultimately resulted in his death.

So, a powerful exchange there and obviously there is much more to come.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, interesting. Some 45 minutes spent as you bring that up, Josh, on their drug abuse and addiction and struggles and, yet, if we go to Laura Coates, you know, Derek Chauvin didn't even know that he had been under the influence. He said he appears to have been under the influence. But he wasn't sure of that either at the time. So we're spending a lot of time sort of Monday morning quarterbacking now. But the sense of what was happening in reality and real life, Derek Chauvin had no idea either.

Before we go to break, I want to go back to something you pointed out as well, and that was the defense building up to the questioning of what George Floyd called his girlfriend, the name that he had listed her under on his phone, and that was momma. He had been wanting to make this point. It was obvious that he was building up to that. How effective was that? Of course, given over this pastime, we have always associated that with George Floyd calling for his mother.

COATES: It was an interesting point and one that I think they were trying to take away some of the reaction and to dull the sense of the jury to say, oh, it wasn't this grown man, as people keep commenting calling out for his biological mother. He was referring to somebody that he affectionately called momma.

Well, does that change the calculus for the officers who at the time would not have known that he had saved the name momma in his phone for his girlfriend? Does that change the calculus that he was calling out for help from somebody and obviously under physical duress? It doesn't.

Similar to what you just said, Bianna, and this notion of what did the officer know at the time? Having toxicology reports, that's what you get after the fact. Unlike things like marijuana, that has a very strong smell, other drugs that have a very distinct smell, we're talking about the ingestion of OxyContin and other things perhaps that would not have alerted the officers to know what specifically, if anything, he was truly under the influence of.


It goes the same category of saying, well, we don't know the true identity of who George Floyd meant when he called out for momma but we know he needed help. But at the end of the day, Bianna, f we were to ask the person would know exactly who he was calling out for as he took his last breaths prone, handcuffed with asphyxiation around his neck at that point, well, that person has died. And the reason for that is the defendant who is sitting there having to answer because he's the one charged with this crime. He's the one that stands accused for the very reason we will never get that answer.

GOLODRYGA: Really interesting point. And obviously whether he was calling for his girlfriend or his own mother, clearly, he was in agony and emotional those final few moments of his life.

As we mentioned earlier, the judge called a 20-minute break. Of course, we will return to testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin when the courtroom returns from that break.

But coming up, yet again, another mass shooting, four people killed during -- including a child. We'll have the latest on what happened. That's coming up next.



GOLODRYGA: Well, another mass shooting in the U.S., this one leaving four people dead including a child and a fifth person critically wounded along with the suspect. It all happened at an office complex in Orange, California. There have been 20 mass shootings since the Atlanta area spa attacks that left eight people dead two weeks ago.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Orange County, California. And, Kyung, so many of these shootings, all of them equally sickening, what more are we learning about this one?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's becoming depressingly familiar, you know, the carnage and then what we're expecting now, which is an update hopefully from the police department. The Orange Police, in about an hour and 15 minutes, holding a news conference to perhaps give us a little more insight into what led up to this.

Here is what we do know, is that this is a business park. There are six businesses that appear to be in this tiny complex. It's set in a neighborhood. So, a lot of the people in the community actually heard that first round of gunfire. So some of the neighbors say they heard a bunch of gunfire and then they heard sirens, the first responders going in and then first responders exchanged gunfire with the suspect. The suspect was wounded, taken to the hospital.

When officers then started to go through this facility, this office park, they found four dead people, four bodies, one of them a child. We don't have any other description other than three adults, one child. We don't know the relation to the suspect if there even was one. And what we're hoping to learn, Bianna, there was one gun recovered. We don't know what type of gun, we don't know how this gun was purchased or obtained. So all of these details police hoping to fill in the blanks shortly.

GOLODRYGA: 20 mass shootings in the last two weeks alone. This is a normal we do not want to return to. Obviously, even more depressing when you hear that a child is among the victims. Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

And coming up, despite more and more shots in arms, cases continue to rise across the country. But there is promising news from Pfizer about how long vaccine protection can last.



GOLODRYGA: Right now, the country is treading a fine line between pandemic optimism and caution, and half of the states, cases are trending up compared to a week ago, and that's despite considerable progress on vaccinations. According to the CDC, about one out of every six Americans has been vaccinated.

And in an effort to get even more shots in people's arms, the Biden administration is launching a series of public service ads to combat vaccine hesitancy. Here is a look.

This push coming as just this morning, Pfizer said its vaccine gives protection for at least six months after the second dose.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins me now from Washington. And, Kristen, this is a first look at just how long the vaccine offers protection. What is Pfizer saying about it?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is incredibly significant, Bianna. You have to keep in mind that up until this point, our best estimate was 90 days. So, six months is a vast improvement here.

But I want to go through all of the data from this trial because there're some other interesting facts here. First of all, of course, we mentioned the protection lasts at least six months after the second dose. But here is the second one that's really key, protects against variants. Now, that includes the South Africa variant that medical professionals have been so worried about.

And the reason why this is so important, keep in mind, when they actually tested this vaccine, there was no South Africa variant. So the fact that this protects you, that is huge. It remains more than 91 percent effective against disease of any symptoms, and 100 percent effective against severe disease.


So a lot of positive news here, again, after yesterday when we had talked about that new data showing that 12 to 15-year-olds, it was 100 percent efficacy there in that group, so a lot of positivity on the vaccine front, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Big relief also when it comes to the strains and the variants as well. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

Well, we are waiting for the trial of the Derek Chauvin to resume, emotional testimony taking place from George Floyd's girlfriend today. We'll, of course, have the latest outside the courthouse, coming up next.



JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: And hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing this day with us.

We're on a break right now.