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Homicide Detective Says, Chauvin's Use of Force Totally Unnecessary; CDC Says, Travel Risk is Low if You are Fully Vaccinated; Capitol on Lockdown Due to External Security Threat. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2021 - 13:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erica Hill in New York. We have been watching day five of the testimony in the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin who is charged in the death of George Floyd.

Compelling testimony this morning from the most senior officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, who heads up the homicide unit, was called to the crime scene shortly after the deadly incident and offered a damning assessment of Chauvin's actions.


MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: What is your -- you know, your view of that use of force during that time period?


FRANK: What do you mean?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, first of all, pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger if that's what they felt, and that's what they would have to have felt to be able to use that kind of force.

FRANK: So, in your opinion, should that restraint have stopped once he was handcuffed and prone on the ground?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

FRANK: And it appeared he had stopped putting up any resistance?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely, I would stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: CNN's Josh Campbell is covering the trial for us from Minneapolis. Josh, this may be some of the most devastating testimony yet for Derek Chauvin.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, a devastating witness for the defense, and let's break down what we just heard there and who this person was. This was a man who was the most senior police officer in the Minneapolis Police Department today. He's been a police officer for some four decades.

And so as he was testifying today, he is looking back with a foundation from all of that experience, and in his view, he was asked about the use of force that Derek Chauvin used against George Floyd, and he said in his words that we just heard, completely unnecessary, uncalled for.

And one thing that is so interesting is that this isn't just the opinion of one person, perhaps someone could say, well, this is just his own personal view. But what the prosecutor got to was not just his own opinion but what does the department actually train. Let's take a listen to what he said.


FRANK: Are there different kinds of force that officers can use?


FRANK: And have you ever, in all the years you've been working for the Minneapolis Police Department, been trained to kneel on the neck of someone who is handcuffed behind their back in a prone position?

ZIMMERMAN: No, I haven't.

FRANK: Is that -- if that were done, would that be considered force?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

FRANK: What level of force might that be?

ZIMMERMAN: That would be the top tier, the deadly force.


ZIMMERMAN: Because of the fact that if your knee is on a person's neck, that can kill him.


CAMPBELL: So two things there, let's extrapolate. The first thing he says is that that wasn't how Minneapolis Police officers are trained, to use that kind of technique. The second thing we heard there was how that technique, putting your knee on someone's neck, either restricting their airway, restricting their blood supply, how that constitutes deadly force. And it's important to note, and I can tell you this, I wasn't a police officer for 40 years, I didn't go through the FBI academy and this was defensive tactics 101 that you use only the force necessary to stop a potential threat. And that was what the witness was getting at right there, is that if you continue to apply force, that could then constitute deadly force.

And, of course, one thing that the prosecutor tried to get out of him was -- and the defense attempted to some degree as well, well, if a police officer is, in the defense counsel's words, in a fight for his or her life, does anything go? Can they use whatever means necessary to take someone down? This witness said, yes.

But, of course, as we look at that video, that now infamous video of George Floyd on the pavement, seemingly unconscious for so much of that time, I don't think any reasonable person could say he was pose ago threat to that officer. So that is going to be the hurdle that the defense attorney is going to have to overcome.

And then, finally, one other point that we heard today, which I hope we talk about a little bit more, is the lieutenant there said -- he was asked about what the role is of a police officer, and his words, he said that they are basically -- they qualify as first responders.


They get basic training and CPR and the like. If a police officer arrives somewhere, or someone's in distress, they're having some kind of medical issue, they render aid.

Go back to that day in May here in Minneapolis where it was not only a police officer on the scene where someone was injured, the police officer was responsible for causing the injury, at least that's what has been alleged. And so the idea that this trained police officer who was there with a duty to care would not respond, again, just very devastating today for the defense, Erica.

HILL: Josh Campbell, I really appreciate it. Thank you for breaking it down so well for all of us with that recap.

I want to bring in now CNN Senior Legal Analyst and Former Federal Prosecutor Laura Coates and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey. He's the former commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.

So, Laura, starting here, I mean, just your overall take, And I think Josh really laid out well. There are some of the key moments that we heard from Lieutenant Zimmerman. How would you characterize his time on the witness stand today?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It was extraordinarily compelling and damning for the defense, Derek Chauvin, and here is why. They set up over the course of time here a couple things, one, that the duty of care that was owed to somebody in the custody, they could not perform it because of an unruly crowd. Number two, they've articulated in the past that it was a reasonable use of force and the sustained use of force was in line with police training.

In this witness alone, you were able to blow these things out of the water. Number one, this lieutenant saying, I just don't see why they felt threatened. You had the paramedics from yesterday talking about how, in spite of a verbally vocal crowd, they still were able to perform the duty of care owed to somebody in custody.

You also have this idea of, look, an officer is able to use force. That is without question. An officer can use a reasonable amount of force. But they have a clear red line in the sand as to when it goes from a reasonable use of force to an assault. And that line is when the person is no longer resisting, they do not pose any sort of a threat, let alone deadly threat.

And he said, since 1985, he has been aware of the difficulty of breathing when somebody is in a prone position and how you have to move them right away. And the defense's attempt to suggest that somehow his veteran status made him out of touch with what really happens on the streets of America was not convincing. It was institutional knowledge, it was corroborated by others, it was damning.

HILL: So, Laura, I actually want to pick up on what you said there, the defense talking about -- because, as you just pointed out, we heard Josh say, there was really an effort to highlight the rich experience that Lieutenant Zimmerman has. That is not the take the defense had. Take a listen.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: When was the last time you got in a physical fight with a person?

ZIMMERMAN: About in 2018.

NELSON: Okay. So it's been a couple of years since you've been in a physical fight with a person?


NELSON: And would you also agree that the training that you received initially as a police officer is probably a lot different than the academy now?


NELSON: Obviously, the available tools that officers have are a lot different today than they were in, you know, '85, '90, '95.


NELSON: Body cameras, they didn't exist when you first became a police officer?

ZIMMERMAN: That's correct.

NELSON: Tasers were not a thing either, right?


NELSON: Okay. You carried a gun and some handcuffs, and kind of old school cop, right?



HILL: Charles, what did you make of that?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, listen, things have changed since 1985. I mean, I started -- I was a rookie cop in 1971 in Chicago. And even then, we didn't train to put your knee on someone's neck, especially for a prolonged period of time, like you saw in that video. So I don't know exactly what he was getting at.

Bottom line the lieutenant has to get regular training in order to remain certified as police chief in Philadelphia annually. I had training that I had to go through and I was the police commissioner at the time. So just because you're not active on the street doesn't mean you don't understand policy and you don't know what the current training looks like.

So, I mean, it was -- in my opinion, it was not an effective strategy that he was using at all.

HILL: You know, I also found it interesting, there was also an effort, I think, to downplay his role there, right, talk about why he was brought on, what he had to do when he got there. I think this is perhaps that too. So if we could just play this moment, I just want to get your take on that as well.


NELSON: Ultimately, your role in this particular case was limited to a couple of hours of time making sure those things were done and until BCA agents arrive and you handed off the scene, right?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, that's correct.

NELSON: All right. And it was -- it was not until later that you were asked to review the body worn cameras of the officers and consider the use of force, right?


NELSON: And it would not be within your normal role or job duties to do such a use of force analysis, right?

ZIMMERMAN: That's correct.

NELSON: I have no further questions.


HILL: Laura, so downplaying it there, it's not within your normal role, making out that it's sort of unusual for him to do that, but it doesn't change the fact that he was asked to take a look at that body camera footage that he was asked to weigh in.

COATES: Of course it does. I mean, he's a homicide detective.


COATES: Excuse me, sorry.

RAMSEY: Exactly. No, I was going to say the same thing. I was going to say the same thing. He's in homicide. And any in custody death, any death at all, someone from homicide's going to respond. And so that's why he was there.

The bureau of criminal apprehension does in custody deaths and officer-involved shootings in Minneapolis. That's the way it's laid out. But that doesn't mean that homicide isn't still notified and respond to the scene.

HILL: There was honestly so much that happened in this week and these five days of witness testimony. I'm curious, Laura, how do you think this sets us up going into week two?

COATES: Well, if you are the prosecution, you are very happy with the testimony that's come in. It's been emotional, impactful. Somebody as young as nine years old testifying, you have different vantage points, you have the ability that most prosecutors don't have, which is not only video testimony that speaks a thousand languages at volume 25, but you also have every single vantage point covered here, from bystanders to a 911 dispatcher, to an off duty firefighter, to paramedics on the scene, to responding sergeants to the scene to a lieutenant, all corroborating each other.

I mean, imagine if you're talking about a traffic incident. You can't even find in a trafficaccident all of these people saying the light was green or the light was red. It becomes its own version of an inkblot test. And instead here, you've got corroboration in different layers.

And going into now a three-day weekend without the defense being able to put on a case, all of this is festering in the minds of jurors who are recalling these themes, won't let up, won't get up. And they're trying to answer that question of, what would it have taken for Derek Chauvin to just do what is so easy, take a pulse on the neck of the wrist to move a knee, why did he choose not to do so? All of these lingering thoughts are things that are going to inure to the benefit of the prosecution.

But, Erica, I caution everyone, manage expectations. We are still a long way from the end of trial, we're a long way from the prosecution's case and it will come down to a battle of experts.

HILL: It is excellent point. We are happy to have the two of you as our experts every day to walk us through this. Laura Coates, Charles Ramsey, thank you both. Enjoy the weekend. We'll pick it up again next week.

RAMSEY: You too.

HILL: Thank you. There is so much more to get to this hour. The CDC finally releasing travel guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated. We'll share that with you ahead.

Meantime, top COVID Dr. Anthony Fauci telling the country, just to hold on a bit longer as more states detect new variants of this virus, and, of course, as they see more people move over the Easter weekend holiday.

Plus, new job data showing the pandemic recovery really starting to accelerate. White House Economic Adviser Jared Bernstein is standing by to unpack those new numbers with us.

Meantime, sources telling CNN Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz showed nude photos of women he'd slept with to other lawmakers, even on the House floor.



HILL: Just in to CNN, new CDC travel guidance for people who are fully vaccinated. So that means, of course, it's been at least two weeks since your final dose of the vaccine.

Let's get straight to CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean. This is guidance a lot of people have been waiting on, Pete. What are we learning?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. The CDC is telling people who are fully vaccinated that they can travel with low risk to themselves, but the CDC is still not recommending travel for non-essential purposes. Even still, this is a huge development.

One that was notably absent from CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals that came out back on March 8th, the CDC is telling domestic travelers they do not need to self-quarantine after their trip. They also do not need to get tested for coronavirus before and after their trip. International travelers though still need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test to their airline before coming to the United States.

All travelers though at the CDC says, need to remain smart and vigilant, still need to wear federally mandated masks on board planes and in terminals and still need to socially distance. Even still, it is a huge win for major airlines. Travel numbers are already riding high. 22 straight days of more than a million people passing through security at America's airports.

1.56 million people yesterday, just shy of the TSA pandemic record, 1.57 million people, that was set only back on Sunday. American Airlines says bookings are about 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, United Airlines says it's hiring pilots now for the first time in more than a year. So the CDC guidance is really welcome news for an industry that has been struggling during the pandemic. Erica?

HILL: Yes, it certainly has. Pete Muntean with the latest for us, Pete, thank you.

One of the biggest concerns for health experts right now, these fast spreading variants. Dr. Lucio Miele is a professor and the chair of Genetics at LSU Health at New Orleans School of Medicine.


He's been studying these variants. And I know you've identified 28 variants alone in samples from the New Orleans area in just the last six months of 2020. I think by now, we've all learned that viruses mutate, that's okay. But I think the real question for a lot of people is, as we're learning about these variants, that they're spreading more easily, if we talk about the one first identified in the U.K., and in some cases cause more severe disease, how concerned should we be right now?

DR. LUCIO MIELE, PROFESSOR AND CHAIR OF GENETICS, LSU HEALTH NEW ORLEANS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, think of it as a family tree. Some branches of the family tree are more successful than others, in this case, successful for a virus means infecting more, or invading the immune system.

There are three particularly successful, if you will, branches of the virus' family tree that are spreading. One is the so-called B117, which is the British variant. Then you've got P1, which is the Brazilian variant. And then you got the so-called South African variant.

These are all present in various parts of the United States in different numbers. And so we do have to be proactive and track their numbers and make sure that they don't cause another peak as they have in Europe.

HILL: So there are two things at play here as we're tracking their numbers. I know there's this race between vaccines and variants, but there's also a question about testing, and actually understanding how much of the virus, and how much of these variants are out there. Testing continues to drop. How concerned are you about that, and do you see a push for more consistent broad testing that's really helping us get a handle on this?

MIELE: I am concerned about this. Demand for testing is dropping, testing numbers are dropping. And also it must be pointed out that to identify what variant of virus one has, you don't just need to test, you need to test and then sequence the viral genome in the positive test. That's only done in a tiny fraction of cases.

For example, in Louisiana, the state where I work, we've run over 6 million tests, of which 450,000 or so are positive, but only less than a thousand have been sequenced. And this is true nationally. So we need to do a better job of staying ahead of the train by sequencing more like 10 percent of the positive sample to know where the virus' evolutionary tree is going.

HILL: Yes. And I know that there's been a real push for that too. When we look at vaccinations, which are also key to getting ahead of the spread here, Louisiana is now more -- one of, I should say, more than a dozen states that's opened up vaccinations to anyone 16 and older. In your view, which groups are most critical to vaccinate right now to slow the spread?

MIELE: So there are two different considerations here. The group that's most at risk from the virus in terms of severe illness and potentially fatality is for older people, people who are older than 65, or people with co-morbidities. For example, in our state, hospital length is longer in patients who have hypertension, chronic kidney failure, diabetes and so on.

But then you've got the younger people who may not necessarily be sick, but they may be a vehicle for transmission of the virus. Ideally, we vaccinate everyone, hence, the extending eligibility down to 16 years of age.

The scenario that is potentially concerning is this. We only vaccinate the people at highest risk, or primarily them. The virus keeps spreading among younger people. And then when immunity starts to wane from the --

HILL: Doctor, I'm going to have to stop you there. I'm sorry, Doctor. I appreciate your time.

I do want to go straight to Capitol Hill, Lauren Fox, our Congressional Correspondent, is joining us with breaking. The Capitol on lockdown, Lauren, as I understand it, because of some sort of external security threat. What more do you know?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. About ten minutes ago, over the announcement, we heard this speaker announcement saying that the Capitol was on lockdown, that we could not enter or exit any of the office buildings to the exterior because there is a situation outside.

We are now learning, according to the D.C. fire spokesman, that they are responding to a reported shooting at the north barricade of the Capitol. And we're here in the Russell Office Building.


We can see the scene just outside. We've seen multiple ambulances. You see a police presence outside. We also heard at least one helicopter overhead.

Obviously, this is a developing situation up here on Capitol Hill. We have reached out to the Capitol Police. And we are waiting to get more information from Capitol Police. That is where further information we expect will come from. That is what we know in the current moment. But, obviously, this all comes after that event on January 6th. There's heightened security up here on Capitol Hill. They just took down that external fence barrier just a couple of weeks ago. So, obviously, everyone on heightened alert here. We are going to keep you posted on what we learn but the scene outside obviously ongoing.

We did see one person at least on a stretcher. That is something that I observed a couple of minutes ago, but we will keep you posted on what more we are learning up here.

HILL: Okay. So, Lauren, just to touch on a couple things you said, as you noted, you were told you couldn't leave or enter. There were reports of a shooting, according to D.C. Fire, at the north barricade. Give us a sense, because some of the security has come down over the last couple of weeks, that was put in place after the insurrection on January 6th. What is still in place either at that area that you referenced or just in the Capitol complex, in general, what of the heightened security measures are still there?

FOX: Well, there had been this external fence for several blocks around the Capitol, so you couldn't go down some of the main thoroughfares just outside of the Capitol. But what we have seen is that fence is still up when you get closer to the actual Capitol complex, that, of course, being the dome that you see. Yes, go ahead.

HILL: And, Lauren, can I stop you for a second? We're just getting some new video in, I think, of these last few moments. Let's just take a look at this, and I am watching it for the first time along with all you folks joining us now. So we can see. Obviously, it's blocked off at this point. We see one ambulance, at least one ambulance there. The trunk of a car open, it's not clear, and a car stopped. It looks like it went into the barricade. It looks like it slammed into the barricade there.

A blue car, again, trunk open, hazards on. It's not clear to us obviously at this point who that car may belong to, why it had been there.

Lauren, I'm not sure if you are able to see this as well. Are you able to see this video right now, Lauren?

FOX: Yes, I'm looking at this video alongside of you, as it's playing there. And, yes, clearly, this is an area that normally would have been fenced off a couple of weeks ago. You couldn't drive up and down this main thoroughfare just outside in between the Russell Office Building and the U.S. Capitol. But what you're seeing there is this blue car that looks or appears to be approaching a barricade or perhaps it came closer to the barricade, rammed into the barricade, we don't know at this point. Obviously, we're coming to this scene after this moment happened.

But, you know, a large police presence surrounding it. Obviously, again, like I said, there is heightened security up here on Capitol Hill and there was a lot of discussion about whether it was time for that external fence to come down at all.

We do know, of course, that we have National Guard as well as Capitol Police officers trying to rush to the scene.

HILL: So as we're looking at this play out, and, again, this is tape that we have just got in here at CNN, so we're going to -- we are playing that tape. These are not live pictures. Charles Ramsey is with us as well, who, of course, has extensive experience in Washington, D.C., based on what you're hearing and what you're seeing, even just in terms of the way -- I'm not sure if you can see this car, but the way it's slammed into the barrier that is up. I'm just curious, your initial thoughts on what we know and what may or may not have been impacted based on the security measures that in place today versus what was there a couple weeks ago?

RAMSEY: Yes, I'm not getting return, by the way, so I can't see. But the original information that I had gotten was a possibility of two Capitol Police officers had been shot. I just got a text from a friend of mine at metropolitan police saying that they were not shot. I'm trying now to find out if there's anyone shot or if there are any injuries at all there, and what took place. But this is all preliminary information.

It's good to at least hear that the original information that I got is not accurate, but we'll see.

HILL: And this is, as we know, you and I have covered a number of events together that are unfolding as we're walking through them, talking through them as they're unfolding in real-time, information does change, as we know, as we learn more in the moments, and even in the hours and the days that follow. Give us a sense though, just bring us into that area, if you could, Charles, how would this normally be unfolding? What is the protocol right now, especially when you're dealing with the Capitol Police, we've got the metro police as well, how are they coordinating?

RAMSEY: Well, they coordinate well, but the U.S. Capitol Police are the ones that really are the primary agency on Capitol grounds.


The MPD only comes if requested by the U.S. Capitol Police.