Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Administers Record 4.6 Million Vaccine Doses In One Day; Iran Claims Terrorist Action Caused Blackout At Nuclear Site; Police Officers Accused Of Using Excessive Force On Army Officer. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 11, 2021 - 15:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, the U.S. breaks a new coronavirus vaccine record as a surge in Michigan becomes a real reality check for the nation. The C.D.C. announcing that more than 4.6 million people received a shot on Saturday, shattering last weekend's record. The U.S. administered nearly 22 million doses in one week, which is more than the population of the single State of Florida.

But the threat from the coronavirus remains high. Michigan is in the middle of another wave. Nearly 7,000 new cases just yesterday, and now there's word that F.E.M.A. is sending a new batch of vaccinators, in personnel that is, to the state.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Detroit for us. So, Polo, Michigan Governor Whitmer is really begging the Biden administration for more vaccines. Are there any indications that that might happen on the horizon?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They say that, at least not right now. What we know is, we have actually heard from Governor Whitmer this morning on CBS's "Face the Nation" in which she basically echoed what she said on Friday that they are not giving up on those efforts to try to convince the Federal government to try to increase the amount of doses -- vaccine doses -- that they are receiving here in the State of Michigan, especially as they continue to see these numbers, infection rate currently at about 18 percent.

So when you look at the graphic, when you look at the chart, you can see that that -- those trends continue to go up, but it's not just infections, but hospitalizations as well. Those numbers that we're seeing right now at the hospitals now getting very close to what we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.

So what we heard from the Governor right now is that she will continue to try to convince the government to increase their doses, though the Biden administration has said that perhaps right now is not the right time to do so especially with the potential impact on vaccine supplies. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): And by and large, it is working and

they're doing a great job. I would submit though, that in an undertaking of this magnitude with such consequences, it's important to recognize where there might need to be some adjustments along the way.

Right now, we know we've got even greater capacity. We could get more vaccines in arms. And when there is a surge, we think that it's important that we go to -- we rush in to meet where that need is because what's happening in Michigan today could be what's happening in other states tomorrow.


SANDOVAL: Governor Whitmer really using this opportunity to try to get that message across to the Federal government, and this comes after just last week. They readjusted their daily goal of vaccinating about 50,000 people a day to 100,000 people a day and Michigan State officials say that they've been able to successfully meet that goal recently.

And of course, they want to aim even higher. But in order to do that, and they're going to need more vaccinations, as you mentioned a little while ago, Fred, they did receive word yesterday that they will be getting more boots on the ground here courtesy of the Federal government, more F.E.M.A. vaccinators.

Folks here in Michigan saying thank you for that, but what we really want are more vaccinations to cover more ground and try to counter these numbers that continue to rise even today.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval in Detroit. Thanks so much.

Let's talk more about all of this. Joining me right now is Dr. Rob Davidson. He's an emergency room physician based in Michigan. Dr. Davidson, so good to see you.

So you're on the front lines of this pandemic. So what does this surge in Michigan really look like? Who is it impacting the most?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE: Yes, we're getting just more numbers. You know, our hospitalizations in our hospital system in West Michigan have gone up fourfold in just the last two weeks.

We know in our emergency department, we're seeing more and more folks, you know, older folks, over 65 largely had been vaccinated at least with one dose.

So we're seeing younger people now, people in their 50s, certainly with preexisting conditions, but when they get hospitalized, they are just as sick as the people we were seeing in the fall, the people we're seeing in the summer.

This is still a very real pandemic. This is still a very dangerous virus. So we're advising people to continue to do the public health measures we've been saying all along.

WHITFIELD: And I know we're going to talk about the shortage or the request for more vaccines, but have vaccines opened up to everyone or at least including those under 50 in your state.

DAVIDSON: They're open to everybody 16 and over, so everybody where it is approved through the UAE, they're open. I have a 17-year-old son who is getting his first shot on Wednesday.

And you know, so hopefully, as that opens up, we can get more shots in arms. You know, I concur with the Governor, more doses would be great, but getting some more people doing vaccinations on the ground is helpful, and probably reallocating because we have pent up demand in some parts of the state.

But in rural parts of the state, you know, largely Republican, conservative parts of the state, they are having some challenges filling up vaccination slots. So you know, there's still that resistance out there that's kind of the hangover from the Trump messaging and the Republican messaging we've seen for the last year.

WHITFIELD: So you and Governor Whitmer want more vaccine, but in the meantime, the Biden administration says they are sending more C.D.C., more F.E.M.A. personnel for contact tracing and testing.

Is that good enough, at least for the short term?


DAVIDSON: Listen, like the Governor, I'm thrilled with what has happened thus far, and if they say they'll send 50,000, we will want 100,000. If they say 100,000, we want 200,000. So we always want more, because we think we can get more in arms and we can do more good.

But understanding this is a country of 50 states, and we want to avoid outbreaks in other states as well. So, you know, getting those people on the ground is helpful. And hopefully, we can free up some doses and get more vaccinations here so we can get them in arms.

WHITFIELD: All right, so let's broaden it out because many states are beginning to fully reopen their economies for the first time, since the pandemic began. I want you to listen to what Texas Governor Greg Abbott had to say about all of that today.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): When you look at the senior population, for example, 70 -- more than 70 percent of our seniors have received a vaccine shot, more than 50 percent of those who are 50 to 65 have received a vaccine shot.

I don't know what herd immunity is, but when you add that to the people who have acquired immunity, it looks like it could be very close to herd immunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: So I know you're nodding no, that is incorrect. I mean,

Texas with a 19 percent full vaccination rate is not anywhere near herd immunity. So what do you do with information like that that seems to permeate and confuse a good number of people?

DAVIDSON: I mean, he should have stopped with I don't know what herd immunity is, because that's true, he doesn't know what it is.

Herd immunity is where 70 to 90 percent of the entire population is vaccinated. So it would be great if the senior population in Texas were all walled off in their own space, and only coexisting with one another, then they would have herd immunity.

The problem is they're not protected until the community is protected, and that doesn't happen until we get that 70 to 80 or so percent number.

So, you know, I disagree with Governor Abbott. I disagree with other governors who have decided that they just want to open up and pretend like we're at the end of the tunnel when we're in it, we see the light, but we're just not going to get there as quickly as we could unless they listen to the public health experts and do what's right.

WHITFIELD: Yes, listen to those of you in the science and medical arenas still need 70 to 80 percent in order to have that herd immunity.

Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. Be well.

DAVIDSON: Thanks, Fred. You, too.

WHITFIELD: All right, and this breaking news. CNN is learning more about an incident which caused a blackout at an Iranian nuclear facility. According to Iran's Atomic Energy organization, the incident was a quote, "terrorist action."

CNN senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen live for us right now from Berlin. Fred, what are you learning?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Fredricka. Well, terrorist action is what the Iranians believe -- that some sort of foreign power is behind all of this in an effort they believe to try and derail some of the things that the Iranians have been doing with their nuclear program.

Of course, we know since the Trump administration put those heavy sanctions in place against Iran, the Iranians have actually been expanding their nuclear activities rather than curtailing. They've been enriching more uranium. They've been enriching the uranium to a higher level.

And one of the things that happened yesterday, Fredricka, is that Iran had its National Nuclear Day, and there, what the Iranians did is they unveiled some new and they say more powerful and more efficient centrifuges, which they say would let them enrich even more uranium even faster and more efficiently.

Now, the Iranians, for their part have not officially blamed any other country for what happened. They did acknowledge obviously that there was an incident there. They are calling it terrorism. In fact, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Association, who is doing that, Ali Akbar Salehi, who is calling it terrorism and saying that Iran reserves the rights to retaliate.

There is some chatter going on in Israel with some folks saying that it might have been the Israelis who were behind it, maybe some sort of cyberattack, maybe some sort of other attack, impossible to confirm that at this point in time.

But of course, Fredricka, it comes at a very, very important time right now with the Iranians unveiling new things about their nuclear program, but at the same time, at least negotiating in the same place, once again, with the U.S. in Vienna to try and bring the Iran Nuclear Agreement back on track to try and bring the U.S. back into that agreement and lift sanctions against Iran, but also to bring Iran back into compliance.

And we know, of course, Fredricka that the Israelis have been very much against bringing that nuclear agreement back into full swing, bringing Iran back into compliance and bring the U.S. back into that agreement as well.

So certainly, this incident comes at a very, very important time right now between the U.S. and Iran. And generally, of course, the whole situation around Iran's nuclear program in that entire region -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Complicated indeed. All right, thank you so much, Fred Pleitgen. Appreciate it.

All right, still ahead, a U.S. Army officer suing Virginia Police after they pointed guns at him, sprayed him with pepper spray during a traffic stop. Video of the encounter straight ahead.

And Texas lawmakers preparing to consider sweeping election bills that would restrict voter access. I'll speak with the election administrator of Harris County on what's at stake.



WHITFIELD: A black and Latino Army officer is now suing two Virginia police officers alleging they used excessive force during a traffic stop captured on body cam video.

Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario seeking more than a million dollars in damages after the police pointed guns at him, pepper sprayed him and pushed him to the ground. One of the officers said he pulled Nazario over because he didn't have a license plate. Although, the officer later became aware of a temporary plate taped to the inside of the rear window based on his police report. CNN's Natasha Chen joining me now. Natasha, the video of this incident

is very difficult to watch.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. Our viewers should know that this video can be disturbing and you're going to see it from three angles. Two of the angles from body cameras worn by the two police officers in Windsor, Virginia about 30 miles west of Norfolk, and the third angle from the personal cell phone of the man they pulled over, a man as you say, who is black and Latino, as well as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.


CHEN (voice over): At 6:30 p.m., December 5, 2020. Lieutenant Caron Nazario driving in his Army fatigues through the small town of Windsor, Virginia, saw flashing lights in his rearview mirror. He wasn't sure why he was being pulled over.

According to his lawsuit, he slowed down and put his blinker on indicating his intention to pull over, but didn't do so for another minute and 40 seconds, which he later explained was in order to find a well-lit area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Driver, roll the window down. Put your hands out in the window. Turn the vehicle off. Put your hands out the window.

CHEN (voice over): Hearing these different commands while sitting in his car with his seatbelt on, Nazario began recording from his own cell phone and put his hands out the window as ordered.

It turns out, Officer Daniel Crocker had not seen the temporary license plate taped to the back window of Nazario's brand new Chevrolet Tahoe and seeing tinted windows and a driver not stopping right away, Crocker decided it was a high risk traffic stop.

But this was never explained to Nazario, who for several minutes continued to ask why he'd been pulled over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many occupants are in your vehicle?

NAZARIO: It's only myself. Why are your weapons drawn? What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car now.

NAZARIO: I'm serving this country and this is how I'm treated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, guess what? I'm a veteran, too. I am going to obey. Get out of the car.

CHEN (voice over): Body camera footage shows Officer Joe Gutierrez gun drawn, unfastening the Velcro around what may be his Taser at this time.

NAZARIO: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on? You're free to ride the lightning, son.

CHEN (voice over): The lawsuit says Nazario thought "ride the lightning" meant he could be killed.

NAZARIO: I'm honestly afraid to get out. Can I --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you shoot me. Get out now?

NAZARIO: I have not committed any crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're being stopped for a traffic violation. You're not cooperating at this point right now. You're under arrest for -- you're being detained. You're being detained for obstruction of justice.

NAZARIO: For a traffic violation, I do not have to get out of the vehicle. You haven't even told me why I'm being stopped.

CHEN (voice over): About two to three minutes in, Officer Crocker tried to open the driver's door. In his report he wrote, quote: "When I attempted to unlock and open the driver's door, the driver assaulted myself by striking my hand away and pulled away from Officer Gutierrez's grip."

But in his own body camera footage, Nazario is not seen striking anyone. Crocker's report also says that at this point, Gutierrez, quote: " ... gave several more commands to comply with orders or he would be sprayed with his OC spray." But no such warnings could be heard.

Gutierrez just sprayed Nazario still without either officer having told Nazario what exactly he was pulled over for.

NAZARIO: This is [bleep] up. This is [bleep] up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car now.

NAZARIO: I don't even want to reach for seatbelt. Can you --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your seatbelt off and get out of the car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made his way more difficult than it had to be. Get on the ground. Get on the ground.

NAZARIO: Can you please talk about what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground. Get on the ground now.

NAZARIO: Can you please talk to me about what's going on? Why am I being treated like this? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you're not cooperating. Get on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lie down or you're going to get Tased.

CHEN (voice over): The officers handcuffed Nazario, then stood him back up. He told them his dog was in the backseat and was choking from the pepper spray.

Medics arrived and the conversation mellowed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what have been a two-minute traffic stop turned into all of this.

CHEN (voice over): Nazario explained why he didn't immediately pull over.

NAZARIO: I was pulling over to a well-lit area for my safety and yours. I have respect for law enforcement.

CHEN (voice over): But Gutierrez said that wasn't the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The climate we're in, with the media spewing with the race relations between minorities and law enforcement? I get it, okay.

So like I told you, as far as you not stopping, you weren't comfortable and you wanted a well-lit spot, Lieutenant, that happens all the time. It happens to me a lot.

And it is -- I'll say, 80 percent of the time, not always, 80 percent of the time, it's a minority.

CHEN (voice over): And while the officers couldn't understand why Nazario didn't get out of the car as instructed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why wouldn't you comply?

CHEN (voice over): Nazario said he didn't know why he was being stopped.

NAZARIO: I've never looked out the window and saw guns blazing immediately.

CHEN (voice over): Gutierrez eventually told Nazario that he had a conversation with the Chief of Police and was giving him the option to let this all go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't need for this to be on your record. I don't want it to be in your record. However, it's entirely up to you if you want to fight and argue, and I don't mean that disrespectfully, okay. I mean, you have that right as a citizen. If that's what you want, we'll charge you. It doesn't change my life either way.


CHEN (on camera): He says, it doesn't change his life either way whether the lieutenant is charged, but now clearly with this video wildly shared online, all three of their lives are inevitably changed.

CNN has not yet been able to reach either officer at this time. It's not clear if they have legal representation for this lawsuit. CNN has also reached out to Windsor Police and Windsor town leaders, and we have not yet heard back -- Fred.


WHITFIELD: Let us know when you do. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

All right, joining me right now to discuss, Chief Charles Ramsey, a CNN law enforcement analyst. He's also a former Police Commissioner of Philadelphia and former Washington, D.C. Metro Police Chief as well.

Good to see you, Chief.


WHITFIELD: Oh, boy. I mean, how disturbing is this video? How does it hit you?

RAMSEY: Well, it is disturbing. I mean, you know, first of all, it's not uncommon for people to want to pull over in a well-lit area, particularly minorities, black, Latino, what have you, women. I actually told my wife that if she is ever stopped, try to find a well- lit area in order to pull over.

He didn't increase the speed, he put on his flashers. That's an indication to me that he is trying to send a signal that he is going to pull over. I guess, it was less than a mile when he did pull over.

And of course, the officers, you hear them toward the end of the video trying to explain everything, if they had done that upfront, I mean, that's how you de-escalate. Just tell, you know, this is why you're being stopped. I mean, that's not hard to do.

WHITFIELD: Yes, the idea is the de-escalation happens before the pepper spray, before the handcuffing, so the order seemingly is all wrong is what I'm hearing you say.

RAMSEY: Exactly right.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So, you know, of course, we all understand that being a police officer can be a very dangerous job, but what does this exemplify to you about the actions and the words that are recorded. And how was Lieutenant Caron Nazario perceived to be a threat?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, words matter, and it's easy to escalate a situation as a police officer. I understand the need to be cautious. It is nighttime, you know, you don't know exactly what it is that you have.

But you know, initially, Mr. Nazario who is complaining, he does put his hands out of the window, which should lower the temperature at the time, you know, this is why you're being stopped and so forth. That really didn't happen. Just the commands that were being given, guns drawn.

You know, he is seeing it from one perspective, they're seeing it from another, and the whole thing could have been avoided had they actually taken time to really explain why he is being stopped. He actually had a temporary tag in the rear window, and apparently they missed that.

So what the motivation for the initial stop was, I have no idea, but it certainly could have been handled better.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it was a brand new car. So new paper tags and Nazario has filed a million dollar lawsuit and we have reached out to -- CNN has reached out to -- Natasha Chen has reached out to the city, the jurisdiction and the officers for response. We have not received that.

All right, let me ask you now about the Derek Chauvin trial resuming tomorrow, and we saw an unprecedented number of police officers, you know, take the stand against Chauvin. Listen to what Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family told me yesterday.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: I pray that it sets a precedence that more police officers who have come from behind that blue wall of silence and tell the truth. You know, they say that people in our communities, marginalized minority communities all the time, we want you to tell the truth when you see something bad happen, when people commit criminal acts, where we're saying to the police officers, we want you to show us how it's done.


WHITFIELD: Do you believe that these testimonies that we saw in Minneapolis do help set a new tone and perhaps promise, you know, a change?

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, there's more testimony against fellow police officers than you would imagine. But normally, it happens during arbitration hearings, which are not televised, they are not criminal; serious misconduct, but certainly not criminal.

This is a very high profile televised criminal trial. Derek Chauvin's actions were so far out of line with policy, with training that, you know, I just don't see how a police officer could actually testify and say that that's okay, what he did was acceptable. It's not.

Now, I'm sure the defense will try to find somebody and I mean, I guess you can find somebody to say anything. But you know, yes, I'm not surprised that they testified against him.

WHITFIELD: So especially in the midst of this Derek Chauvin trial, this is notable now to Maryland becoming the first state to repeal powerful law enforcement officers Bill of Rights, setting new rules for when police may use force.

How significant is this? And is this kind of the beginning of you know, possibly reform in other states, too? [15:25:07]

RAMSEY: It could be. You know, the Police Officers Bill of Rights, I've never been in favor of it. I've always opposed it. It really does create a lot of problems, in my opinion, in a lot of areas.

I'm not familiar with Maryland's particular Bill of Rights. Everyone is a little bit different, but in some cases, for an example, your ability to be able to question an officer who has been involved in an incident like a shooting or any other incident is very, very limited.

All those kinds of things, officers should have rights. There's no question about that. But that's what the United States Constitution affords. To go beyond that, in my opinion, is where we start to run into problems.

WHITFIELD: And apparently that move in Maryland means civilians would now for the first time be able to play a role in police discipline and would also mean restrictions on no-knock warrants just to name a few.

All right, Chief Charles Ramsey, thank you so much. Always good to see you. Appreciate it.

RAMSEY: Thanks, Fred. Okay. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up. The murder trial of Derek Chauvin moves into its third week. We expect some-- at least one member of George Floyd's family to take the stand. More on that next.



WHITFIELD: Tomorrow, we will begin week three of the murder trial for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd.

The prosecution may wrap up their case this week, which could include calling a member of George Floyd's family to the stand. Adrienne Broaddus has been following this trial for us from Minneapolis.

So, Adrienne, family attorney Ben Crump told me, Floyd's brother may testify. Who else might the prosecution call starting as early as tomorrow?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, tomorrow we know a medical doctor who was supposed to testify on Friday is expected to take the stand, so we will hear from that doctor.

But by calling a member from the Floyd family, the prosecution is essentially ending as it prepares to rest its case. The prosecution will end how it started.

They will remind jurors, this family member who takes the stand that this was not an incident, but someone's life ended. This family member will be able to speak about George Floyd on an intimate level. He was a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a boyfriend, a father.

We've all heard the video. It's been played repeatedly throughout the trial over the last two weeks, and on that video we heard Floyd call out not only pleading for his life saying he couldn't breathe, but also saying, "Tell my children I love them," and the family member will be able to speak about his love for his daughter intimately.

The family member will also talk about Floyd's upbringing and why he relocated from Texas to Minneapolis, and that family member can talk about his chronic pain because keep in mind, defense attorney Eric Nelson has been arguing the case that Floyd's drug use paired with underlying health conditions led to his death.

Chauvin-- Derek Chauvin that is, has been charged with second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter and he has pled not guilty -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Adrienne Broaddus, thanks so much, from Minneapolis. We'll be watching all week, of course.

All right, still ahead, a Texas Republican official calling for an army of poll watchers in predominantly minority communities in Houston as State lawmakers prepare to vote on sweeping election restriction bills. I'll speak with an elections administrator from a key Texas county, next.



WHITFIELD: In Texas, new concerns about repressing the vote as one proposal that critics say restricts access to the polls was passed in the Texas Senate. This, as video from a presentation by a Harris County Republican official is surfacing online leaked by the voting rights advocacy group, Common Cause.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to build an army here of 10,000 people in Harris County, that are motivated and highly competent folks to serve as election workers and poll watchers.

I'm trying to get, you know, encourage and recruit as a precinct chair about 30 people in my precinct that will have the confidence and courage to come down in here in these areas where we really need poll workers, because this is where the fraud is occurring, right.


WHITFIELD: So those areas highlighted with the red dot are predominantly minority communities in Houston that that person described as the problem areas.

The Harris County Republican Party says the video quote, "blatantly mischaracterizes a grassroots election worker recruitment video to bully and intimidate Republicans." Currently, Texas has 49 bills moving through the State legislature

that could potentially change or at least limit voting rights.

I spoke about this with Chris Hollins, a former Harris County clerk who came to national prominence after fighting to expand voting rights during last year's election cycle.


CHRIS HOLLINS, FORMER HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS CLERK: Not only are the Republicans recruiting poll watchers to go in and intimidate folks in black and brown communities, and calling this a 10,000-person brigade, you know, with obvious sort of military connotations there. You know, the other thing that's troubling is that they ask people to have courage as if these areas are dangerous for regular folks to go and spend time. And so, this is troubling on so many levels.

But what's even worse is that these laws that are being considered in the state legislature would empower these poll watchers to actively intimidate voters without any sort of consequence.


WHITFIELD: I want to bring in now Isabel Longoria, Harris County Elections Administrator.

Isabel, your position was just created last year. So how concerned are you about at least this one measure that did pass the Texas Senate? What are your concerns about where it's going next and what your job is going to be like from this point forward?

ISABEL LONGORIA, HARRIS COUNTY ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR: Yes, I came in last year under former Clerk Hollins to head up things like the 24- hour voting, which will be eliminated with these bills to head up things like drive-thru voting, which will be eliminated with these bills. To head up things like just getting people mail ballot applications in the middle of a pandemic, which will be eliminated by these bills.

Things in Texas are hard already for Elections Administrators who are nonpartisan and sworn to uphold the law, and they're only getting worse with these measures going through the Texas Legislature.


WHITFIELD: And so let's expound a little bit more on what you just spelled out in this bill, which is also called Senate Bill 7, and how it would limit early voting hours, ban drop boxes and drive-thru voting, among other things.

How would that your view impact voting in Harris County, which, I mean, in terms of square miles, it really is quite sizable, and I think a lot of people don't understand just how big Harris County is.

LONGORIA: Yes, Harris County, we have about five million residents, about 2.5 million registered voters, which is larger than some of our smaller states here in the country and we don't take that lightly.

You know, the responsibility of getting 2.5 million people voting safely in the middle of a pandemic is one we took very seriously by offering things like drive-thru voting.

The idea came because if you can do groceries drive-thru, if you can do banking drive-thru, why can't you do that in-person voting drive- thru.

A hundred twenty-seven thousand people used that in November, and we used it in July of last year. We used it in December of last year, we're going to use it in May of this year. It's something that is working that voters like and it's being taken away without explanation.

We also had -- go ahead, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, no, I was just going to -- you know, no, you go ahead, because your point is probably much better than my question.

LONGORIA: Twenty-four-hour voting, it is something we expanded in those late night hours, again, just like grocery stores and other entities, we are doing to say, hey, with the pandemic, how can we get temporal equity? How can we make voting accessible, even in those late night and expanded hours?

We had shift workers on our side, election workers who are trained following every step of the law. I stayed up for 36 hours straight to make sure that every law was followed. And we saw that of those over hundreds of thousands of folks that used that voting after 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. or into the late night hours, medical workers, first responders, Port of Houston welders.

The majority of those voters, same with drive-thru voting and same with mail ballot voting were black, Latino, or Asian-American in here in Harris County, and that's what I'm concerned with, is that the things that are being attacked are not -- no one has asked me what are all the things you've done, it is just the things that were used publicly, the things that were used safely, the things that our voters love, and are desperately asking us to protect.

For some reason, elections administrators who are being creative, who are following the law and keeping our voters safe are somehow about to be punished with both Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6, on top of which, you know, to that former clip, are going to allow those partisan poll workers who are our poll watchers, who are already allowed in polls, to have hidden cameras and to act with reckless abandon.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that is intimidating to a lot of voters. I mean, I can't imagine anybody wanting to be videotaped as they are asking questions, or are about to vote.

So with all of that, and what you and many others experienced in this last election cycle, no proof of widespread fraud, usually legislation addresses a problem. What do you see these 49 proposals addressing? What are the problems that they are proposing to fix? LONGORIA: Nothing here in Texas that needs to be fixed, frankly, and

concerningly, I think it's a race to the bottom that we're seeing across southern states like Georgia, and like other laws in other states that are just saying, I'm not quite sure what problem they're fixing.

But they're saying something, some conspiracy theories happen, so we're just going to scattershot this across the south and hope for the best.

WHITFIELD: Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria, thank you so much. All the best to you, and be well.

All right, coming up, an officer's split second decision that saved a man's life as his wheelchair was stuck between the tracks as a train approached, that heroic moment straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: Tonight, in a new CNN original series, "The People v. the Klan," the story of Beulah May Donald's fight after the lynching of her son, Michael in Mobile, Alabama in 1981.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That morning, one of my cousin's called and said, they believe it was Michael.

It was him.

That's all I could say was, "It's him."

I was just numb. I couldn't believe that this was happening. And listen, I looked outside my mom's door, and it was people everywhere. I mean, everywhere in the neighborhood. They had come from far and near.

My sister, Cynthia Hamilton, she went to identify the body with my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All he had done with left his mom's house that night to walk to the service station to buy a pack of cigarettes not knowing what was waiting for him?

I can only imagine what Mrs. Donald went through.



WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, Erica Armstrong Dunbar. She is a Professor of History at Rutgers University and the National Director of the Association of Black Women Historians, so good to see you. I mean, it's unbelievable and just so disturbing. We're talking about

the 80s, not that there was ever a time that anyone should accept, but it's been 40 years since Michael Donald, who was just 19 years old, killed, lynched by the KKK in Mobile, Alabama. What do you want people to learn about this very painful crime?

ERICA ARMSTRONG DUNBAR, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Yes, well, first, thanks for having me on. I think that this documentary comes at a very sort of important moment, where we're wrestling still with this issue about and surrounding black life. How black life manages somehow to survive through centuries of attack of intimidation.

In so many ways, we see Michael Donald's murder, his lynching, we think about something that happens in the 80s. It's far from surprising that it happened.

It might have been, of course, traumatic, devastating. But the centuries' long history of black men, women and children being lynched as a form of intimidation is far from new, so it wasn't surprising. I think it's a way for us to help contextualize anti-black violence in 2021.

WHITFIELD: And, I mean, this is enlightening for so many generations, because as you say, I mean, it is history repeating itself. And, you know, the form of lynching is seen in so many different ways depicted in so many different ways in black America's lives.

So, especially now, in the midst of this trial, Derek Chauvin trial and people describing George Floyd's death as a modern day lynching. What parallels do you want people to see?

DUNBAR: Yes, I think -- well, I think there are a couple of things that we've got to sort of remember. This documentary is a way to memorialize Michael Donald's life. It's also a way to memorialize the courage and the strength and the power of his mother, of Beulah May Donald. She is the one who was left after his lynching, after his murder, to put together the pieces of her life and to demand justice, to demand that the men accountable for the murder of her son would be held to task.

And she did it in a moment in time when -- and realistically as the sort of lowest person on the socioeconomic ladder, a black woman in the war in Alabama, she was not ever expected to bring down the Klan.

But we take a lesson from that now and we see black women and black mothers doing the same thing.

WHITFIELD: Yes, what an exhibition of strength and power in Beulah May Donald.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, thank you so much for joining us and helping us to see very clearly through this entire story. And as you can see this CNN original series, "People v. the Klan" which premieres tonight, back-to-back episodes starting at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.

And this, juxtaposition with just moments to spare, a police officer's quick actions to save a man's life from an oncoming train.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has a story in this week's beyond the call of duty.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With just two and a half seconds to spare, Police Officer Erica Urrea saved a man from certain death.

OFFICER ERICA URREA, LODI POLICE: I didn't have any other thought in my head, it was just get him off the tracks.

ELAM (voice over): Urrea, a 14-year veteran of the Lodi Police Department was on morning patrol when something caught her attention.

URREA: Kind of out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gentleman in the tracks. He was sitting in his wheelchair. It kind of looked like he was wiggling in his chair.

ELAM (voice over): As soon as she made a U-turn.

URREA: That's when the railroad arm started going down.

ELAM (voice over): Immediately, she is out her cruiser running to the man.

I looked to the south and I could see the train off in the distance, so initially I thought, okay, it looks like it is a little ways away.

ELAM (voice over): As the railroad crossing bells clanged, the approaching train whistle blows.

One of the motorized wheelchairs tires is wedged in the train tracks.

URREA: It wouldn't budge at all.

ELAM (voice over): But then Urrea sees what the man can't.

URREA: Out of my peripheral view, I can actually see the train now a lot closer, and it was coming down pretty fast. So I just kind of grabbed him and I pulled.

He just kind of fell down and I bent over, tried to pick them up and grabbed him and he slipped, then the train was there.


URREA: My initial thought was I didn't get him.

OFFICER CHRIS DELGADO, LODI POLICE: She saved that man's life. There's no question about it.

ELAM (voice over): Officer Chris Delgado was working traffic enforcement one block away.

DELGADO: It was tremendously close and I thought they'd both been struck by the train.

ELAM (voice over): But as Delgado arrives, Urrea is pulling the man further away from the tracks.

DELGADO: I could tell he had a traumatic injury to his right leg. It appeared that his foot was completely, if not almost completely severed.

ELAM (voice over): The man is 66-year-old, Jonathan Mata, part of his right leg was amputated.

In his statement to CNN, his family said in part: "Her bravery and courage saved someone's father, grandfather and friend. We are beyond grateful for her life and for her selflessness."

ELAM (on camera): Does that scare you a little bit thinking about how close that train came to you guys?

URREA: Yes. I mean, now in hindsight, yes. And you look at the video and it was really close.

ELAM (voice over): Really close, but worth it for a woman dedicated to serving and protecting a community near where she grew up.

URREA: That's why I became a police officer was to help and you don't know what impact you have in someone's life, and at least in this situation, you know, I can say okay, I did help him.

ELAM (voice over): Stephanie Elam, CNN, Lodi, California.


WHITFIELD: Wow, close call, indeed. Bravery on display all the way around.

All right, thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Jim Acosta.