THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 14, 2014
Guest: Mark Thompson, Tiffany Mitchell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, thank you for that update on this
historic day in Iraq, because my head has been in Ferguson, Missouri, all
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: I know the feeling. Absolutely.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: I will be joined tonight by an eyewitness to the killing of
Michael Brown, and you will hear that the facts as this witness presents
them support the charge of murder in the first degree.
PROTESTERS: Justice for Mike! Justice for Mike!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new protest in the streets of Ferguson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Begin to make our point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A major change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My boots are going to be on the ground.
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: The Missouri Highway Patrol will be the
directing team that provides security in Ferguson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was hugging people. He was apologizing to people on
behalf of the police for what happened last night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night`s jarring images of police clad in military
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tear gas clouded the night sky.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No excuse for police to use
excessive force against peaceful protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tanks rolling down the street like they would see in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With equipment that was designed for use on a
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I think that it`s very important we
demilitarize the response.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole picture is being painted a little bit
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Surreal I think for a lot of people to watch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can still smell and feel it in the grass here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Started getting rocks, bricks, bottles thrown at us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you give them a hammer, then everything looks like a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re sick. They`re stressed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are wondering whether this is 2014 or 1964?
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: It`s just unreal.
NIXON: That was yesterday. Tonight`s tonight, and tomorrow is tomorrow.
O`DONNELL: Night has fallen in Ferguson, Missouri, and it`s a very
different situation from last night. There`s a new face of law and order
on the streets of Ferguson tonight. State Highway Patrol Captain Ron
Johnson is now in charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MO STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: You can stay out here all
night. The only thing I ask is that we pull back a little bit so that the
traffic, our family members and our friends can travel up and down West
Florissant. They can come by and yell out the window, blow the horn and,
give you support, but we`ve got to move back on the sidewalk.
But you can stay as long as I want. I want to visit with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In a fast-moving sequence of events today, finally involving
elected officials, President Obama got personally involved this morning,
speaking to the Missouri Governor Jay Nixon who after that phone call
became convinced something had to be done in Ferguson.
The governor went to Ferguson and held a press conference announcing a big
shakeup in the chain of command of the police presence in that area.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIXON: Today, I`m announcing that the Missouri Highway Patrol under the
supervision of Captain Ron Johnson, who grew up in this area, will be
directing the team that provides security in Ferguson. Over the past
several days, we`ve all been deeply troubled by this crisis, as the pain of
last weekend`s tragedy has been compounded by days of grief and nights of
conflict and fear.
What`s gone on here over the last few days is not about -- is not what
Missouri is about, it`s not what Ferguson is about. This is a place where
people work, go to school, raise their families and go to church -- a
diverse community, a Missouri community. But lately it`s looked more like
a war zone and that`s unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Then, Captain Johnson made some promises that he so far has
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: We`re going to start from today. We`re not going to look back in
the past. When we talk about boots on the ground, my boots are going to be
on the ground. And actually I plan on walking to the QuikTrip, that has
been called ground zero and meeting with the folks there myself tonight.
So, we are going to have a different approach, and have the approach that
we`re in this together. So, that`s going to be the approach we`re going to
I grew up here, and this is currently my community and my home. And
therefore, it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of
violence, diffuse the tension, and build trust, showing the utmost respect
for every interaction with every citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Adolphus Pruitt, president of the NAACP St.
Mr. Pruitt, I have to tell you I`ve been studying things like this for 30
years and I have never seen such a quick change in the -- in what`s going
on in a situation like this than we`ve seen today with Captain Johnson
What is your sense of what the feelings are tonight on the streets of
We`ve lost our connection to Mr. Pruitt.
We have Jim Cavanaugh joining us, who has been with us analyzing the law
enforcement aspects of this. Jim, I`ve got to say, this is as quick a
turnaround as I`ve ever seen in a situation like this.
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I agree. I think I
watched the governor today, Lawrence, in the press conference, and, you
know, he`s been getting a lot of criticism, but he did the main thing today
which was to make the change to get people in charge there that will treat
the residents with respect and dignity and operate with restraints. And I
think the captain brings all those things.
His demeanor -- look at the way he talked in the press conference and the
way he talks to people at the scene. He`s a nice guy. He`s a leader.
He`s ranking, he`s a captain in the highway patrol.
So, I think he`s going to bring a different inflection. This is all people
are asking for. They didn`t want the police to go away. They need the
police to protect them. But they want that kind of leadership, calm,
collective. That`s what we want from our police, and I think he`s going to
deliver that tonight.
O`DONNELL: It`s a great example, Jim, of the value of police officers
actually knowing the community that they are policing.
CAVANAUGH: Exactly. You have to draw your police from the community, and
you`ve talked about it, Lawrence, and a lot of people on MSNBC about the
diversity of Ferguson. And that has to be worked on because you have to
have local people policing you, because they understand the community and
relate to the community.
And people in the community want to know the cops and the cops want to know
the people. That`s how you solve crime. That`s how you help people.
That`s how you enforce the law. That`s how you don`t curse at a guy
jaywalking when you`re the local guy and every cop and people know you.
It`s more of a community policing atmosphere if you have the right people
doing it. I was thrilled to see the captain take over and he`s keeping a
lot of the same community officers there, but he`s leader and he`s going to
set the tone and they`re going to back off all those SWAT tactics, which we
talked about last night in your show extensively.
SWAT tactics are not for civil demonstrations, protests and disobedience
like this. That`s not where SWAT should be deployed. That was the mistake
they made. They were too heavy-handed, arresting all those dangerous
"Washington Post" reporters, they can be extremely dangerous, and clearing
out the McDonald`s.
So, they made some poor decisions and it`s hurt them. Now I think we have
a good change -- a good change coming forward tonight. I hope tonight is
quiet, and seeing those people walking -- I mean, it`s going to be
O`DONNELL: One of the people who is no longer in charge there is Ferguson
Police Chief Tom Jackson. He did a press availability where because they
had not released as the law requires the incident report in the case,
which, of course, would include the police officer`s name who did this
shooting, the question of who that police officer is has become ever more
important and ever more important to the media.
And I just want to show this exchange at his press conference today about
the name of that police officer. Let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM JACKSON, FERGUSON POLICE CHIEF: Anonymous put out this morning, Brian
something. That`s -- that is not -- that`s not the name.
REPORTER: Chief, protesters who are just here another name was announced,
and the first name there was Darren.
JACKSON: Well, I`m not going to comment on it right now until --
REPORTER: They gave the name Darren Wilson. Is that true?
REPORTER: Chief, what do you think about that? I mean, are these guys
just running name after name after name?
JACKSON: I think that`s probably what they`re doing. They`re taking the
name of everybody and just throwing it out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It was an amazing moment because he got himself trapped in the
process of elimination and he absolutely was very emphatic that it`s not
that name, the first name that they mentioned. And he`s offered another
name and he stammers and he cannot answer, and he doesn`t give any answer
at all, leaving it wide open that it could well be that name.
And then he`s saved by one of those friendly reporters to police that are
always in those news conferences, cutting off the real question and saying,
you know, do you think they`re just running name after name? That was one
of those helpful moments that the local police reporters often give you in
But it`s a very unprofessional handling of this name situation from start
to finish, including today when he allowed himself to be drawn into the
process of elimination, where if you give him a name that he doesn`t deny,
then that must be the guy.
CAVANAUGH: Right. You have to be transparent, especially when you get a
big case in the national focus and you have lots of media, national media.
You have local people that are worried. They have a dead young man. You
have to be very transparent. Like you said, you follow the law. You
release the incident report.
If you`re not operating in secrecy, people are going to start to trust you
and stand behind you. Remember that what this is all about here between
the police and the community is one word, it`s trust. The trust is broken.
It was broken when Michael Brown was shot.
Maybe it was broken before. But it has certainly been broken since.
They`re hiding or the public sees them as not being forthcoming. Of
course, the heavy tactics all hurt the trust the community needs with its
To reestablish that, the captain from the troopers is a big step.
Releasing that incident report would be a big step. Making an arrest in
the Michael Brown murder would be a step.
And those would be big steps to get past this thing and move on, make
things better in Ferguson.
O`DONNELL: Jim Cavanaugh, you used the word murder there. We`re going to
hear from an eyewitness later in this program, who as you listen to the
facts, as this witness lays them out, that is exactly the charge that is
supported by what this witness is going to say.
Jim Cavanaugh, stay with us. I want you to analyze that witness` -- what
that witness has to say after you hear it.
We`re going to have more coming up. You`re going to hear from President
Obama, what he had to say today.
It was actually a historic day. The president of the United States has
never stepped forward before in a situation like this, and I don`t mean
just this president. I mean every one of them.
O`DONNELL: Presidential history was made today. No president prior to
Barack Obama, has ever stepped forward in a situation like this faced with
an obvious violation of civil rights at the hands of a police officer at
this stage of this kind of a situation.
We`re going to be back with more on what President Obama had to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`ve already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI to
independently investigate the death of Michael Brown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And you have just seen the first and only time the president of
the United States has ordered a Justice Department investigation of the
police killing of an unarmed black man in circumstances that, according to
some eyewitness testimony, suggests an egregious violation of civil rights.
And I`m not just talking about President Obama. I`m talking about every
president of the United States. There have been unjustifiable killings by
police during every presidency, all 44 of them and every president has
managed to look the other way and say nothing in the immediate aftermath of
President Obama was not the only one to break the precedent of silence by
Washington politicians in such cases today. The Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid released this statement, "It is hard to think that the scenes
unfolding in Ferguson are taking place in an American city in the year
2014. The nation`s eyes are on the city of Ferguson and we will be
watching closely. The public deserves a full disclosure of the facts
surrounding the heart-breaking death of Michael Brown and the events that
followed. Every community in America deserves equal justice and equal
protection under the law."
I have not yet completed a thorough search of this, but it is my belief
that you will not find another statement by a senate majority leader or a
minority leader commenting about a police shooting that did not occur in
his state and commenting with full sympathy for the victim of that
shooting, as President Obama did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic
circumstances. He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in
their arms again. And when something like this happens, the local
authorities, including the police, have a responsibility to be open and
transparent about how they are investigating that death, and how they are
protecting the people in their communities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Democrats weren`t the only ones expressing sympathy for Michael
Brown. Rand Paul said the shooting of Michael Brown was, quote, "an awful
tragedy." Again, another unprecedented comment.
And in another unprecedented comment by a president today, President Obama
said there is no excuse for what we have all seen police doing in Ferguson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There`s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against
peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising
their First Amendment rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is the host of MSNBC`s "THE REID REPORT", Joy
Reid, and from Ferguson, Missouri, Mark Thompson, host of "Make It Plain"
on Sirius/XM Radio.
Joy, I have been struck today by the historic nature of the president`s
position on this and I may be the only one, because I`ve been study thing
subject for so long, and I have watched cases like this come and go over
the years without ever even getting a word of attention from presidents.
This is something new.
JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: Well, it is and it`s interesting, because
President Obama is obviously weighted down by the expectations and in some
cases the outside expectations that because he`s the first black president
that he is going to do unprecedented things when it comes to talking about
But to your point, Lawrence, the history of police brutality, is that
presidents try to step back from it. There is the issue of not bringing
the awesome power of the presidency to bear on local officials or
prejudging cases. But the nearest thing I could find to a president
addressing an issue of police brutality would be George Bush the first,
George Walker Bush about 19 days after the Rodney King beating describing
the video as sickening.
And then, you know, before that, you have to go back to President Clinton
commenting on the Amadou Diallo killing. Of course, Rodney King wasn`t
killed on the attack on him. You have to go back to the Amadou Diallo
incident in which Bill Clinton spoke out and said quite frankly, had Amadou
Diallo been white and been in a white neighborhood it wouldn`t have
happened. But that was one year, a full year after that incident took
place and 56 the police officers had been acquitted.
So, I think to your point, President Obama, for all the brick baths that
he`s taken for not speaking out forcefully enough, has spoken earlier than
any president I`ve been able to find myself.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and, Mark Thompson, we had that case in 1979 in Miami,
Arthur McDuffie beaten to death by Miami police officers. That became
pretty obvious within days of the event. Jimmy Carter didn`t have a word
to say about it until the next year, after Liberty City basically burnt
down in the worst rioting we had seen in many years.
That has been what it has taken in the past to get any notice by
MARK THOMPSON, HOST, SIRIUS/XM`S "MAKE IT PLAIN": Yes. You know, I think
too this is consistent for the president. He spoke out about Trayvon
But this incident last night that was so terrible. You know, Lawrence, as
I was watching your broadcast last night, I thought I was looking at
something in Birmingham and I thought you were Walter Cronkite. It was
almost a time machine, very similar images. I think the president really
had no choice but to speak out, because the police were out of control.
You know, there`s been a lot of imagery, a lot of stereotyping of this
community, claiming that everyone here is rioting. Well, the fact of the
matter is, last night, the police rioted. The police have been rioting
since Michael Brown`s death.
Now, grant it tonight, the situation is a lot different. It`s a lot
calmer, at least in terms of the police. People behind me, as you can
hear, are honking their horns, walking down the streets and raising their
hands in the surrender motion, and fairly peaceful. As a matter of fact, I
was greeted as soon as I pulled up by a couple of African-American police
officers who were very kind and wanted to be helpful.
And so, things do need to calm down and I think they have for the moment.
But they won`t be fully calm until there`s a name released. Until there
are charges made.
And as we always, you know, there can`t be any justice without peace, even
if there`s not as much violence on the part of the police and not as much
angst on the part of the community. It was Dr. King who said true peace is
not merely the absence of tension. It`s the presence of justice.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, what a difference a day makes. The images we`re
seeing behind Mark Thompson there in Ferguson, which we`ve seen this in
many cities and many times before, people peacefully protesting, honking
horns. That would have got them tear gassed last night in Ferguson.
REID: Yes. And it`s interesting, because I took my children when our own
colleague, Reverend Al Sharpton did a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, in
-- you know, looking at the aftermath of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin
case. I was downtown and saw police actually walking across the bridge
with citizens walking in normal uniforms.
And that`s sort of the way when you look at protests, they normally go.
When people are out exercising their First Amendment rights, you normally
do see police. Obviously, there`s a presence.
But what you saw in Ferguson last night was something completely different.
It actually looked like an army, an occupying army responding to protests,
I mean, if you think about it, what must they have been anticipating? It
almost look like an anti-terror operation rather than the policing of an
American small town. This is a city of like 22,000 people.
So, I think it was unprecedented. And for that reason, the president
indeed did have to weigh in.
O`DONNELL: Mark Thompson, Joy Reid, I wish we could continue this
discussion, including the unprecedented comments by Rand Paul today, saying
that if you don`t think race is a factor in these things, you don`t
understand what`s going on there. I`m trying to make as much time as I can
later in the broadcast for the eyewitness testimony that`s coming up in the
So, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
REID: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
I will be joined by an eyewitness to these events. You will want to hear
every word of this. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: We are now joined by an eyewitness to the shooting death of
Michael Brown. She is Tiffany Mitchell. She`s here with her lawyer, Peter
Tiffany and Peter, thank you very, very much for doing this tonight. I
appreciate your time now.
Tiffany, I just want to begin with a simple fact. Did you know Michael
TIFFANY MITCHELL, EYEWITNESS TO MICHAEL BROWN`S DEATH: No, not at all.
O`DONNELL: And you`re not from that neighborhood where this took place?
O`DONNELL: And why were you there?
MITCHELL: I was on my way to pick up an employee. She lives right in
front of where it happened.
O`DONNELL: And tell us what you saw as you came into that area.
MITCHELL: OK. As I come around the corner, I hear tires squeaking and as
I get closer, I see Michael and the officer like wrestling through the
window. Michael was pushing like trying to get away from the officer, and
the officer was trying to pull him in.
As I seen this, I pull out my phone, because it just didn`t look right, you
never just see an officer and someone just wrestling through the window.
So, as I pulled out my phone, the first shot was fired through the window
and I just tried to get out of the way. I pulled into the parking lot me
side where the cop car was. And that`s when Michael kind of broke away and
started running down the street.
The officer gets out of his vehicle and he pursues him. As he`s following
him, he`s shooting at him. And Michael`s body jerks as if he`s hit. He
turns around and he put his hands up and the officer continued to walk up
on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down to the ground.
O`DONNELL: Tiffany, how far away from the police car were you when you
first started looking at this?
MITCHELL: I was really close, like, I was feet away. Like I can`t say
exactly. I was about 10, 20 feet from the car.
O`DONNELL: So, were there any cars between you and the police car?
MITCHELL: Not at all.
O`DONNELL: OK. So, you had a clear line of sight of that car?
O`DONNELL: OK, I just want you to listen to something that the St. Louis
County police chief said about what happened when Michael was standing at
the car. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: One of those individuals at the time came into -- as the officer
was exiting his police car, allegedly pushed the police officer back into
the car where he physically assaulted the police officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tiffany, is that what you saw?
MITCHELL: No. I didn`t see the initial -- whenever they pulled up on --
whenever the cop pulled up to them. But what I saw was Michael trying to
pull away from the cop through the window.
O`DONNELL: And could you see if the police officer was touching Michael
when he was trying to pull away?
MITCHELL: Yes, he was. He was pulling him in.
O`DONNELL: And so, he was trying to -- what you saw was the police officer
trying to pull Michael into the car?
O`DONNELL: Did Michael`s body stay out of the car the whole time?
O`DONNELL: And the first shot, tell us about the first shot, what you saw
when the first -- when you heard the first shot.
MITCHELL: When I heard the first shot, they were still like in a tug of
war, like he was pulling in, and he was pulling out. And then the shot
came through the window. And that`s when Michael kind of pulled back and
he yanked away.
O`DONNELL: So, Tiffany, could you see Michael`s hands when the first shot
MITCHELL: Yes, they were up against the SUV pulling away.
O`DONNELL: So you saw his hands outside of the car when the first shot was
O`DONNELL: And so what the police chief said there about the -- Michael
getting inside the car somehow and assaulting the police officer inside the
car, you didn`t see that happen?
MITCHELL: No, I did not.
O`DONNELL: OK. I want to play you something else a little bit more of
what the police -- about police chief said, chief Delmar (ph), said about
what happened in the struggle over the officer`s where he says was a
struggle over the officer`s weapon. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is our understanding at this point in the
investigation that within the police car, there was a struggle over the
officer`s weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tiffany, did you see anything that could have been a struggle
over the officer`s weapon?
O`DONNELL: Because you just said that when you were looking at it,
Michael`s hands were outside of the car.
O`DONNELL: And he says -- the chief says there was one shot fired within
the car. We`re not sure what he means by that. You and the chief agree
that that first shot was fired while the police officer was still in the
O`DONNELL: Yes. But we`re just not clear. The chief seems to think
possibly Michael`s body or part of his body was inside the car also at that
time. Did you hear anything said by Michael or the police officer?
MITCHELL: No, not at all.
O`DONNELL: And I want you to listen to something else that the -- there`s
another statement by a police officer. I`m not sure we have it. But the
chief of police, of the Ferguson police department, said that the officer
had to go to the hospital afterwards because his head had been banged on
the side of his head and they -- and the police story, they seem to think
Michael had something to do with that. Would that make any sense to you
based on what you saw?
MITCHELL: It doesn`t. And don`t these guys supposed to have dash cams on
their vehicles or something like that?
O`DONNELL: Well, they apparently not. But if they do have a dash board
cam it wouldn`t be aimed up the side of the car probably.
MITCHELL: You could have heard what was going on.
O`DONNELL: Yes. That`s right, it would have picked up the sound. What
did the police officer look like?
MITCHELL: He was a white male, tall white male.
O`DONNELL: And did he have a hat on when he got out of the car?
MITCHELL: No, he didn`t.
O`DONNELL: OK. And what did he do -- tell us again what he did when he
stepped out of the car, how far away was Michael from the police car when
the officer stepped out of the car?
MITCHELL: Michael was like right behind his car, and like the next car
that right behind. There was a white car right behind the police car that
was stopped behind him because it can`t get by. And he was probably like
passing that car at that time. And that`s when the police got out and was
firing right at him. As soon as like Michael like yanked away and started
running, the police got out right after.
O`DONNELL: And so, how was the -- what position was the police officer in
when he started firing for the second sometime
MITCHELL: He was running after him.
O`DONNELL: So he was not -- he didn`t stop to fire, he was actually,
physically moving and running and holding the gun while firing?
O`DONNELL: And this was a hand gun, right? It wasn`t a long barrel
MITCHELL: Yes, it was a hand gun.
O`DONNELL: OK. And how many shots do you think were fired?
MITCHELL: I didn`t count the shots, but I know it was more than five or
O`DONNELL: Well, the police chief said it was more than a few, which is
probably in agreement with you on what that number is. Well, that`s a fact
we`ll know as soon as they release that information. There won`t be any
questions about that. Was Michael facing the officer while the officer was
shooting once he started running and shooting?
MITCHELL: When he started running and shooting, no, he was running away
from him. His body jerked like he was hit. That`s when he turned around
and faced the officer.
O`DONNELL: Did his body jerk on the first shot the officer fired?
O`DONNELL: So it`s possible some of those shots missed Michael and the
body jerking was the first one that hit him, that might be the case?
MITCHELL: (INAUDIBLE). They went into one of the neighbor`s house as the
officer was shooting. They had to go in and remove the bullet from the
O`DONNELL: You actually saw that after the fact that they had to remove a
bullet from the neighbor`s house?
MITCHELL: My employee did. She lived right next door to where they have
to remove the bullet.
O`DONNELL: Were all the -- was Michael`s back to the police officer during
all of the shots that were fired?
MITCHELL: No. After his body jerked he turned and faced him and put his
hands up. That`s when the police continued to shoot until he went down.
O`DONNELL: And so when he turned and faced them and put his hands up, was
he standing still at that point?
O`DONNELL: And do you know how many more shots you think the officer fired
after he stood and put his hands up?
MITCHELL: Several. I didn`t count, but it was several.
O`DONNELL: Several more.
O`DONNELL: How long did it take for Michael to go down as you said?
MITCHELL: It was seconds. It wasn`t that long at all.
O`DONNELL: And did the officer stop as soon as Michael was down on the
ground, any shots fired when Michael was on the ground?
MITCHELL: It stopped as soon as he was on the ground.
O`DONNELL: And what did the officer do immediately after stopping firing
MITCHELL: He got on his radio. I don`t know what he said, but he got on
his radio. And then like at that time, there was another cop pulling up.
O`DONNELL: And did the officer who shot Michael then approach Michael`s
MITCHELL: He just paced back and forth in front of his body.
O`DONNELL: OK. And did he go back to his police car at any point?
MITCHELL: I can`t say that. I don`t know if he did or not.
O`DONNELL: And how long did you stay in your car watching this?
MITCHELL: I got right out of my car immediately.
O`DONNELL: Immediately, Tiffany --
MITCHELL: After I pulled in, I got right out of my car.
O`DONNELL: So, was that, you got out of the car before or after the
MITCHELL: I got out the car while the shooting was going on.
O`DONNELL: OK. Tiffany, we`re going to take a quick break. We`re going
to come back and I want to hear about what you did in the area after the
shooting. And we are going to stay a quick break. We`ll be right back.
MITCHELL: All right, thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with more with eyewitness Tiffany Mitchell. She was
an eyewitness to the killing of Michael Brown.
Tiffany, you`ve talked about the details of what you saw there. I would
like to know what it felt like to be in the middle of this gunfire
situation. Suddenly you come around a corner, going to pick up a friend to
go to work, and suddenly you`re in the middle of this gunfire. What did
that feel like?
MITCHELL: It was shocking. I couldn`t believe what I saw. It didn`t
register that he was dead until like I saw the blood pouring from his body.
I couldn`t understand why and what exactly what was going on. It was
really, really shocking for me.
O`DONNELL: And you said that right away you knew something was off here in
the scene that you were seeing. Did that feeling get worse as this
situation kept going and as --
MITCHELL: When the shots continued to be fired after he put his hands up,
I thought is he shooting rubber bullets like am I dreaming? Like what`s
going on? like it just -- none of it just seemed right at all. For him
not to check his pulse after he went down, like -- I mean, did you already
know he was dead?
O`DONNELL: Tiffany, how long was it before anyone reached Michael or
anyone tried to touch Michael or help Michael in any way?
MITCHELL: It was about 30, 45 minutes before an ambulance came and checked
O`DONNELL: And so, the police officers on the scene, none of them who
responded did that?
MITCHELL: No. Not at all.
O`DONNELL: And what did you do there in that area after the shooting?
MITCHELL: I went up to PJ` house, my employee, who was I`m on my way to
pick up, and I started calling the police. I called the news -- I mean,
yes, the news station. And I called my fiance. None of it seemed right.
I just called everybody I could. I am going to have to stay there until
what I saw.
O`DONNELL: And Tiffany, the police officer who did the shooting, according
to the police department any way, feels himself in danger, the police
department feels him to be in danger and they don`t want his name released
in any way. I`m wondering how you feel about in your own situation?
MITCHELL: I feel like I`m in danger. Who am I supposed to call when I
need help? And like something going on with me, like who do I call after
seeing this? I don`t trust cops anymore.
O`DONNELL: Well, it`s not just a matter of you having seen it, but what
about the fact that you are now on the other side of the police in this
story. It`s basically your story versus the police story. And do you have
any fear of what might repercussion, what might happen to you as you go
through your life in that area, given that you are a key witness against
the police story?
MITCHELL: I think about that all the time. But I feel like I have to tell
the truth. Whether I`m scared or not, they need to know what happened.
O`DONNELL: And you have Peter Cohen with you tonight, your lawyer. And
I`m sure he`s been giving you good guidance on this. Has anything he has
said or anything anyone else has said made you feel a little less scared
about taking a public position in this case?
MITCHELL: I think about it all the time. Well, he is going to have to
give me counseling and we`re going to work through this, I`m taking it day
by day like even with him telling me like OK, we`re going to make sure
everything is OK, and like I still think about it.
O`DONNELL: And Tiffany, I`m just wondering if you can think of anything
that you saw on that street before the shooting started or during the
shooting that you thought in some way was a threat to the life of that
police officer who was doing the shooting?
MITCHELL: I didn`t see anything that could have threatened his life at
that time. Not at all.
O`DONNELL: When you first saw the police officer, as you put it trying to
grab Michael and try to pull him toward the car, Michael trying to pull
away from the car, what did you anticipate this was going to become?
MITCHELL: I didn`t know what it was. It didn`t look right in the
beginning. And I just didn`t know what it was. I just wanted to record
it, because I never seen anything like it.
O`DONNELL: And you tried to do a video, make a video of it?
MITCHELL: Yes, I tried to, but when the first shot was fired, I just got
out of the way. I didn`t try recording anything.
O`DONNELL: Tiffany Mitchell, I thank you very much for coming in tonight.
And Peter Cohen, your attorney, I thank him also for having you share your
story with us. It`s obviously a very, very, very important perspective on
this case. And we`re all very glad you were able to share that with us.
Thank you very much, Tiffany.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Peter.
We are going to be back with more, especially some legal analysis of what
you just heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: It was shocking. I couldn`t believe what I saw. It didn`t
register until he was dead like I was the blood pouring from his body. I
couldn`t understand like why and what exactly was going on. It was really,
really shocking for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Some legal analysis of what you just heard. We`re joined now
by James Cavanaugh, MSNBC law enforcement analyst and retired ATF special
agent and Lisa Bloom, NBC legal analyst.
Lisa, what I heard in that testimony, if it stands up in court, is a first
degree murder charge.
LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST, TODAY SHOW: Absolutely. If Tiffany Mitchell is
believed, she tells the story of a police officer shooting a man who is
running away, shooting a man with his hands up. You know, the police
officer is responsible for each bullet that has fired. So we don`t know
what happened with regard to the first bullet. The police officer says
there was a scuffle in the car. Let`s give him the benefit of the doubt
for now on that one, because we don`t know what happened. But multiple
witnesses now tell a story that Mike Brown is running away, he`s shot in
the back, he turns hands up and he shot again. That`s first degree murder.
That`s intentional taking of human life with premeditation.
O`DONNELL: And Jim Cavanaugh, according to what we just heard from
Tiffany, who is the only witness we`ve heard from about exactly what
happened at the car at that moment from that perspective, we have a first
degree murder charge in the first shot, because she says that Michael`s
hands were outside the car when that first shot was fired, and that his
hands were actually on the side of the car. And the police story, that is
impossible in the police story.
CAVANAUGH: That`s right, Lawrence. Only technically, it might not have
been a fatal shot, the first shot.
O`DONNELL: Right. Exactly.
CAVANAUGH: But Lisa is right and you`re right. That was a great
examination of Tiffany, a very brave young woman. And think she is very
credible and truthful. And I agree with Lisa on first degree murder.
Because remember, in first degree murder, there only has to be a pause. I
mean, there only has to be a slight pause. It doesn`t have to be planned
for months or years. It is pre-planned or pre-thought out, but that can be
a few seconds as well.
I don`t think that all the witnesses together really kind of tend to -- if
they hold up, the preliminary information that the chief of police gave
that there was a struggle over the gun. What happened was, there was a
physical interaction that only occurred through the window of the police
SUV cruiser and nothing more. So the police SUV cruiser is where this
interaction takes place. The door never really opens.
O`DONNELL: And there`s absolutely nothing from the police, nothing, not
one word that contradicts a word that Tiffany said about what happened
after the police officer got out of the car. In fact, let`s listen to the
chief Delmar (ph) talking about what happened after the police officer got
out of the car.
I guess we don`t have it, but we have it before. I`m going to read it to
you. He said, after the officer went back, came back out of the car, he
exited his vehicle and there was a shooting that occur where the officer,
in fact, shot the suspect and they were fatal injuries.
That`s all he says that happened. They don`t have one word contradicting.
He said the shell casings all match that one weapon. Lisa, there`s not a
word coming from anyone on the police side about why shots would have been
fired after the first shot.
BLOOM: That`s a very important point. Add to that that everyone seems to
agree that Mike Brown was left in the street. The police did not render
first aid. They didn`t render CPR. He was laying there 30 to 40 minutes,
at least, before anyone rendered any medical care. Doesn`t that sound like
a shooting in anger to you? Doesn`t that sound like the police officer was
acting out of rage, out of anger, as human being so often do when they
shoot each other and didn`t want to help Mike Brown, unarmed, lying in the
O`DONNELL: And you know, it actually sounds worse than that to me. It
reminds me of a case in New York in the 1970s where the officer actually
successfully pleaded temporary insanity because he simply shot a kid
younger than this at point blank range with witnesses watching.
We are going to be back with more of the legal analysis in this case.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to another witness to the killing of Michael
Brown and this is, of course, his friend Dorian Johnson who was with him
during this event. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DORIAN JOHNSON, MICHAEL BROWN`S FRIEND: It definitely was horrible to
watch. It was horrible to be front center to that whole situation. I seen
it in his eyes. It looked like it hurt him a lot. It hurt him a lot. I
see it in his eyes. It hurt him a lot. But it wasn`t registering, because
he was trying to tell the officer that he`s unarmed and he cannot do
nothing to stop it. He couldn`t do nothing. Like he couldn`t feel the
shots, but he knew he was being shot. And he shot and telling him to stop
shooting him. And he continuously shooting him point blank range. He`s
not trying to reach for his belt line. He`s not trying to run towards the
officer. He stood and turned around towards the officer with his hands up.
It was definitely like being shot like an animal. It was almost like
putting someone on execution without remorse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Lisa Bloom, two very valuable witnesses there, Dorian Johnson
and Tiffany Mitchell. Tiffany Mitchell has the advantage, though, of not
being a friend of Michael Brown. Juries, when they hear you`re talking
about your friend, they`re going to assume often that you might shade it a
BLOOM: That`s true. And I can tell you, as a practicing trial lawyer, who
assesses witnesses every day for a living. Tiffany Mitchell is excellent.
I give her an A. Why? Because she`s very clear about telling her story
and then she stops. She doesn`t embellish when she doesn`t know in
response to your questions, Lawrence. She says, I don`t know. When you
asked her the same thing repeatedly, she told exactly the same story.
She`s calm. She`s factual. And
she doesn`t overstate. I think she`s a terrific witness.
O`DONNELL: And Jim Cavanaugh, as the police reveal absolutely nothing
about what happened on that street, relentlessly continue to reveal
nothing, the evidence continues to develop from witnesses who were there,
that this was first degree murder.
CAVANAUGH: I agree, Lawrence. And I thought Dorian was very credible, as
well and watched his interviews. And when he talked about going behind the
car there after Michael was first shot and he couldn`t move his leg, you
know, that is a fear response, natural or the brain makes you do that.
I`ve felt like that in shootouts. Your legs feel like they are led and you
have to consciously move them. Nobody can make that up.
A 22-year-old guy cannot make that up. He really experienced that
neurological fear. And when I watched him say that, I said, you know, this
is a truthful recount, because nobody could make that up. It`s a feeling
you can`t even describe and he described it. And he was so scared that he
stood still. But he also described the officer had tunnel vision and went
right for Michael. And that`s another thing we get in a shootout is tunnel
vision or a shooting situation.
So I think they`re both very credible. I think the young woman on the
balcony is very credible. I could draw up a criminal complaint for murder,
for civil rights violations on this case in an hour and have that officer
arrested. And the evidence is strong and it`s not going to change.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and it actually could have been done that day.
Lisa Bloom and Jim Cavanaugh, thank you both very much for joining me
BLOOM: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is next. He`s live now from St. Louis.
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