'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, July 30th, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: July 30, 2015
Guest: Jessica Greif, Lonnie Phillips, Sandy Phillips
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us for
the next hour.
So, we`ve been watching a developing and pretty dramatic situation over the
last few hours, a situation that`s been taking place in one of the
America`s biggest cities on the West Coast. It has been honestly dramatic.
I`ve been watching it in my office all day long. It`s been unpredictable
over the course of the day, and it`s gone into tonight.
And I think this is the first time I`ve ever reported on something I could
describe this way, but this ongoing news event, this confrontation has been
happening all day in midair over a very busy river.
So, we`re keeping an eye on the live pictures, in order to fully appreciate
what has been happening and what continues to happen tonight, I need to
show you a map. This is Portland, Oregon. Portland, Oregon, sits along
the Willamette River, which you can see right there on the map. Because it
is relatively easy to use the Willamette River and Columbia River to get
from Portland, Oregon, out to the Pacific Ocean or from the Pacific Ocean
into Portland, Portland has always been a pretty important hub for
Lots of different oceangoing ships will travel this stretch of the
Willamette. They will often park themselves right here in this location in
downtown Portland. They`ll put into this spot if they need to unload cargo
or if they need to get some repairs done. And then once that done, they
use the same route to pull back out to the Pacific Ocean.
In order to get from that spot, from Shipyard Commerce Center in Portland,
though, out back to the Pacific, ships do have to motor up a big long
stretch of river in this busy urban area. That means they have to pass
under lots of bridges along the way, including this bridge right here,
which we`ve marked on the map which is called the St. John`s Bridge.
What`s happening in Portland, Oregon, tonight is happening in that bridge,
or more specifically underneath it. It started this weekend, when this
ship right here pulled into Portland under the cover of darkness. You can
see the ship on the left. You see lights gleaming in the darkness there.
That`s a Shell Oil icebreaker. It`s key to Shell`s efforts to try to drill
the Arctic for oil this summer. So, this is an icebreaking ship. It
breaks ice in Arctic environment, but it also holds something called the
capping stack, which would be needed as a component of the emergency spill
response if Shell`s Arctic oil drilling resulted in a well blowout or
So, Shell has been poised to start drilling the Arctic any day now. But as
it prepared to start the drilling process, as this ship here, this
icebreaker was heading out to the drilling site from where it was docked in
Alaska, this ship somehow sprung a three-foot leak. It had a three-foot-
long hull ripped into the hull somehow, and that forced that icebreaker to
return to shore. That happened earlier this month. We reported on it at
the time when it happened.
When that befell that icebreaker, Shell announced that icebreaker would
have to head all the way down to Portland, Oregon, in order to get
necessary repairs. Now, that was a big deal. First of all, it turns out
the trip from Alaska, where this icebreaker sprung its leak, the trip from
that part of Alaska to Portland took 12 days just to go one way. That
means getting the ship to and from Portland was going to cost Shell nearly
a month in lost drilling time.
The window in which he can drill is not that long because of the weather,
right, where they want to drill? So a lost month would really crimp their
plans this year. The federal government as told Shell that they cannot
start drilling for oil in the arctic until that icebreaker ship with its
capping stack and all that other equipment gets fixed and returns to the
So, over the weekend, in the dead of night, that Shell icebreaker arrived
at Portland, after 12 days at sea, and it was due to get repair in
Portland. Shell was hoping to get that thing into Portland, get it all
fixed up, and get it turned around and back out to the Arctic as soon as
humanly possible, as this window for when they can drill starts to close.
Unfortunately for them, when that icebreaker arrived in Portland over the
weekend, it was greeted by dozens and dozens and dozens of protesters,
protesters mostly on kayaks who surrounded that Shell ship called the
Fennica as they docked in Portland to get that ship repaired.
And that moment, when that happened this weekend, Shell probably realized
this was going to be trouble. I mean, Shell needs that ship back in the
Arctic yesterday in order to start drilling, but now here it is, thousands
of miles away from the Arctic, and surrounded by protesters. And these are
not the kind of protesters who just show up for a little while, make their
point and then they leave. These are the kind of protesters, these are the
kind of activists who are very happy to dig in and stay there.
Well, yesterday morning, those activists got word that that same ship,
Shell`s ice breaker, the Fennica, was fixed apparently and was prepared to
leave its dock in Portland where it got repaired so it could head back to
the Arctic for the drilling season. Hearing that, the activists basically
kicked into phase two.
Again, that Shell ship needed to leave its location there on the river in
Portland where it was docked, and needed to head west up the Willamette
River out toward the Pacific Ocean. In so doing, to take that route it
would have to pass underneath that bridge, the St. John`s Bridge. But when
the activists got word that Shell`s ship was planning to leave, they saw
that bridge as their chance to stop it, to stop that ship and thereby stop
the drilling of the Arctic.
So, the activists figured out some way to descend off that bridge in
climbing agree, essentially an aerial blockade, 13 activists rappelled over
the side of the bridge. See the cars going by up there.
They rappelled over the side of that bridge, they suspended themselves in
midair at various heights over the river, right in the path of where
Shell`s giant ship would need to go if it was ever going to see the open
ocean again. Now, there were reports yesterday that Shell scrapped their
plans to leave yesterday to get that ship put back out into the Arctic
because the activists had unfurled themselves over that bridge like flags,
right? Those activists said they were prepared to remain suspended off the
side of the bridge, for days if they needed to, in order to block Shell`s
ship from passing.
Honestly, as far as we can tell there`s no other way for Shell to get that
ship back out to the ocean without passing through there, without passing
through these activists.
Well, that was the situation heading into this morning, and then first
thing this morning, as soon as I got up, I ran to my computer to check to
see what was going on, sure enough, first thing morning, at first light,
Shell decided to make a move. At about 6:30 a.m. local time this morning,
the Fennica started to leave its dock. The activists were still suspended
off the bottom of that bridge. They were still there this morning, but
Shell decided they were going to pull out from dock anyway, and head up the
Willamette, and head in that direction.
What followed was this remarkable scene. Shell`s ship got out on to the
Willamette, got out onto the open water, that wide stretch of the river,
and it passed up one drawbridge, I think it`s a railroad drawbridge passing
without incident, but the next stop is the St. John`s Bridge, it started
slowly approaches, where all those activists got suspended.
It got closer and closer to that bridge, see the activists and this giant
icebreaker just stopped. The activists were suspended underneath that
bridge. At one point there was another commercial vessel, a barge they let
cross underneath them, but as the Fennica approached, those activists
dangling from the base, they stood their ground, right, they basically
dared the Fennica to come through them. All think kayaks as well.
It became this tense slow standoff because these activists and this giant
Shell drilling vessel, and then after about an hour of them just sitting
there and nobody knows what was going to happen, after about a half hour,
(BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we`re looking at the Fennica, is it turning around,
or is it just the helicopters? Who can we check in with?
Is Rachel still there?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it turning around?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ross, can you hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can, Rachel. Right now it`s turning around it`s
sideways, cheers from people who have been hanging here, cheers from people
out here on the dock, so unclear right now exactly what is happening, but
for now -- yes, it`s turning around completely at this point. So, not sure
what`s going to happen next. I think a lot of people who have been trying
to stop it thinking this is a small victory this morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Shell`s icebreaker faced off with those activists. And this
morning, those activists won. The Fennica literally turned around, did a
180 and headed back to the dock, so Shell can`t start drilling. Just an
incredible scene, right?
But then to make it weirder, right after that happened, right after that
happened, I`m sitting there eating my cheer I don`ts, and this rogue power
glider guy decides to buzz the whole scene. There was some confusion for a
little while about whether this guy was part of the protest. It does not
seem like he was. The Greenpeace protesters seemed as surprised as anyone,
but just random power paraglider just decided to buzz the scene as soon as
the icebreaker turned around, flying around the protesters and the bridge
and the ship and everything and, in basically his flying lawn mower. That
Flying lawn mower or not, those 13 activists suspended by rope off the
bridge -- I mean, it was a remarkable scene in terms of the human scale of
who they were versus what they were trying to stop. They stared down one
of the most powerful companies in the world, and that oil company this
morning had to blink.
Then, of course, because Shell is Shell, right? And because every minute
when that ship is in that port instead of on its way to the Arctic, that
means gazillions of dollars of lost profit for Shell, Shell responded to
them losing that standoff this morning by taking the activists to court.
They got an emergency court session.
Shell filed an emergency motion in federal court to have those activists
removed from that bridge. Late this afternoon, a federal judge ruled in
Shell`s favor. The judge ruled that Greenpeace would be fined $2,500 per
hour for every hour they continued their protest. The judge said if those
protesters were still there tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., that fine would
increase to $5,000 an hour. The day after that if they were still there,
it would increase to $7,500 an hour. And the day after that all the way up
to $10,000 an hour.
But in the face of that legal action, the activists stayed on that bridge
today and they continued to remain there tonight. Now, as we speak, just
within the last few hours, police and firefighters in Portland started to
physically remove those activists from the bridge one by one. First of
all, they shut down the entire section of the river, and then they started
taking down the protesters one after the other. That police action
continues at this hour, although we`ll find out in just a moment.
Then just in the fast few minutes, the Fennica got on the move again.
About 30 minutes ago, this icebreaker departed dock once again to try to
make it out of Portland. As they remaining activists dangled and as kayaks
in the water tried to stop them, and as the coast guard and local law
enforcement tried to stop the kayakers and continue flocking the activists
off the bridge, the Fennica in the last half hour, did make it under and
through the St. John`s Bridge with a sea of kayakers in their path, about
ten of the activists still suspended from that bridge, those activists held
that ship back all day.
But just tonight, just now, the Fennica went through. Look at the scene as
it went through, look at all those people in the water.
Honestly, though, even though the Fennica has made it under the bridge,
there`s no reason to believe the rest of their journey is gong to be easy.
Just an hour ago, local they were forced to remove another activist who had
chained himself to a different bridge actually, to the railroad drawbridge
that Shell ship needed to pass under before it got to the St. John`s
Bridge, and they were -- that guy apparently used a bicycle u-lock to lock
his neck to a portion of the bridge so it couldn`t go up again. They
apparently were able to cut that log off apparently and stop that guy one
man protest. He`s apparently not with Greenpeace, but must have been
inspired by what he saw today.
There were other vessels that shell will need be able to pass under now
before it makes its way out to the Pacific Ocean, as it goes out the
Willamette and ultimately I think out the Columbia River. What`s going to
happen at those bridges now that the Fennica has gotten through the St.
John`s after this huge day-long drama?
I mean, this is obviously, the drilling of the Arctic, right, this is --
this is a big issue, it`s a political issue, global warming, and the
drilling of the Arctic, these are global issues. But even for very big
issues, even for issues this big, you often find that there are tiny
logistically specific choke points, where even people equipped with ropes
and plastic boats can have incredible leverage if they are willing to use
it. And these activists today found one. They found a choke point here at
They found a bottleneck in this process, in this huge global multibillion
process, this one spot that that one ship needed to go through on this one
day, and for the entire day, and until just now, those activists stuck a
cork in it as Shell`s opportunity to be the first company to drill offshore
in the Arctic started slipping away from them like sands through the
Joining us now from near the St. John`s Bridge in Portland is Jessica
Greif. She`s a reporter for "The Oregonian" and OregonLive.com.
Ms. Greif, thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate having you here.
JESSICA GREIF, THE OREGONIAN REPORTER (via telephone): Thank you for
MADDOW: So, when the Fennica just went through a little while ago, was it
-- did it appear to be safe, or did it appear to be a physically dangerous
confrontation with all those boats in the water and those activists hanging
off the bridge?
GREIF: You know, I think we`re all watching in awe. I couldn`t believe
that the kayakers were really putting themselves out there. You know, they
weren`t moving out of the way, and you saw the coast guard boat coming and
physically pulling them out of the kayaks, towing their kayak out of the
It definitely didn`t look safe. They were definitely, you know, risking
their safety out there. As the ship was going under the bridge, there were
still about nine or ten rappellers dangling from the bridge.
GREIF: A couple dozen kayakers just on the side of the river, and as soon
as the Fennica started pulling through, moving towards the middle of the
river. Definitely a scary situation. I was worried about the safety of
those kayakers out of the middle of the river there.
MADDOW: Jessica, we`ve been watching from the various live shots that we
can get. As far as I can tell, are there -- I can`t actually tell if there
are still rappellers hanging off the bridge now even though the Fennica has
passed. Are there still people hanging off the bridge?
GREIF: You know, I haven`t heard otherwise, but when the ship passed
under. There are still, like I said, nine or ten, I don`t have the exact
number, but at least nine or ten still hanging.
And when the ship went through, you know, the crowd actually still cheered
for the people dangling. They lowered themselves a bit from the slings
they had been sitting in, like you said, more than 36 hours, and to remind
you, it is 103 degrees in Portland today, this is no easy task.
MADDOW: Oh my God.
GREIF: They have been in some pretty intense conditions. People bringing
them water, supplies. It is hot. So, yes, they`re still there that I know
of, but they did lower themselves a bit after the ship passed, and you
could hear the crowds cheering, cheering for them and the kayakers saluting
them, just for what they`ve been through.
MADDOW: Just a remarkable activist action, a remarkable law enforcement
and public safety challenge for authorities in Portland, and such a wrench
in the works for Shell -- just almost hard to get your head around the
scope of this, the scale of this confrontation.
Jessica Greif, reporter for "The Oregonian" and OregonLive.com, thank you
for helping us understand. Really appreciate your time tonight.
GREIF: Thank you for reaching out.
MADDOW: Yes, amazing. I mean, as you know, I`m obsessed with all things
that happened in Oregon, because this is apparently the year of Oregon
But looking at the human scale of what these activists decided to do today,
and literally how dangerous it was and how the authorities had to handle
this, and seeing the ship get through, after a whole day standoff and
yesterday pulling it off when every second means money to Shell, just very,
very dramatic. Politics very rarely gets this physical and this dramatic
in the United States of America.
All right. Lots still to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re going to keep an eye on the situation in Portland, Oregon,
tonight. But we have a big show to come tonight beyond that, including
news from the campaign trail that on the surface makes absolutely no sense,
but I think I figured it out.
Plus, we`ve got some very important puppies.
Plus, the interview tonight is something very special.
Stay with us. We`ve got lots ahead tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRMS PRODUCER ISAAC-DAVY ARONSON: Do we have a tape of John Lewis with the
puppies? Because whenever he talks about anything, he just sounds like
really serious and historic.
ARONSON: If there`s a tap of him. Too long have these puppies --
MADDOW: You`re adorable puppy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was on our news meeting today. Producer Isaac-Davy Aronson,
it`s his birthday today.
It turns out despite Isaac`s request on his birthday, we do not have tape
of John Lewis with puppies today, but we do have pictures. Behold,
congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis with a very adorable puppy.
Here`s another one, same John Lewis, different puppy.
One more? One more, do we have one more? Yes, judging by the adorable
little blue collar with the white bones on it, I think this little puppy is
the same guy from that second picture just from a different angle. He and
John Lewis here are either in deep communication or quite possibly, they
have just fallen in love.
Congressman John Lewis today with rescue puppies that have been brought in
from the ASPCA.
And that -- those pictures, those you are yew gratuitous really nice thing
in politics today. Just so close in, right? You may need them as a
vaccine to protect your good feelings about politics from other things that
are not as cute as John Lewis with puppies that might make you feel bad
Anyway, so here`s Donald Trump today, the clear front-runner for the
Republican presidential nomination, arriving at one of his golf courses in
Scotland. And I don`t know, maybe Donald Trump always goes to Scotland
this time of year. It`s wicked hot and humid in New York, maybe he always
likes to get away to cooler climbs this time of year, I don`t know.
But the fact that he is running for president has not stopped him from
taking this trip to Scotland. The first Republican presidential debate is
in a week. Donald Trump and his campaign staff has made a big deal out of
pointing out that Donald Trump does not plant to do any preparation for
that debate. And this long weekend of golf that he took off for today, in
part I guess showcases that he is not working to prepare for the debate.
He`s just doing his Donald Trump thing.
And, you know, honestly, maybe he doesn`t need to worry about the debate.
It seems like no matter what else happens on his campaign or what he says,
or what anybody else does on their campaign, he keeps winning all the polls
anyway. Today, the latest national poll came out putting Donald Trump as
the distance front-runner to be the Republican presidential nomination.
It`s out from Quinnipiac.
It`s his biggest lead in -- look at that, his biggest lead in that poll by
far. It`s actually the biggest lead that anybody has had by poll by far.
Donald Trump leading with 20 points. He`s nearest rival with Scott Walker
at 13, Jeb Bush, the only other candidate who hits double digits is at 10
This is the sixth straight national poll that`s put Donald Trump in first
place for the Republican presidential nomination. But oh happy day.
This latest Quinnipiac poll did not just poll within the Republican Party.
They also polled head-to-head matchups for theoretical contests in the
And so, for the guys who are polling a distant second and third place for
Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, for Scott Walker and Jeb Bush,
those head-to-head polls end up interesting and sort of close matchup
between each of them and the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton.
For the man who is the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination,
though, the front runner by a big margin, when you match him, Donald Trump,
against Hillary Clinton in theoretical general election matchup, well, in
that case it`s not close at all. Hillary Clinton absolutely spanks him,
beats him by 12 months.
In this poll, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush do OK against Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump loses to her by a mile, even though he`s way ahead of Walker
and Bush for the Republican nomination. He loses in a general election
matchup so badly to Hillary Clinton.
He loses so badly to a general election matchup he wouldn`t only lose if
Hillary Clinton were the nominee for the Democratic Party, he would lose if
Bernie Sanders were the nominee for the Democratic Party. I mean, in this
hypothetical general election matchup, Bernie Sanders, Democratic nominee,
beats Donald Trump, Republican nominee, by eight points in the general
And that keeps happening in poll after poll after poll. Every time they
poll these general election matchups, no matter how all the other
candidates do, you know, Jeb Walker, Scott Bush, Marco Rubio -- I said that
wrong on purpose -- no matter how any of the rest of them do, Donald Trump
always loses big to Hillary Clinton, usually to Bernie Sanders, too.
But Republican voters keep saying they don`t want any of those other guys.
They don`t want Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or Marco Rubio or any of the rest
of them. They keep saying, despite this, who they want is Donald Trump.
It`s kind of weird, right?
It turns out it is weird, but it`s also explicable, it can be explained.
There is a really simple decoder ring for that. And that`s next.
MADDOW: So, I have a possible explanation for what otherwise looks like an
inexplicable thing in presidential politics right now. It`s pretty simple.
Here`s how it goes: this weekend, when NBC and Marist polled New Hampshire
and Iowa, Republican voters against in those states said they love them
some Donald Trump. Mr. Trump was way out ahead and way out ahead in New
Hampshire, and he was a very close second to Scott Walker in Iowa.
But the pollsters at NBC and Marist did not just ask Republican voters who
do you like for president? They also asked them one crucial follow-up,
which I think maybe kind of explains everything. They asked them this --
this is more important, a Republican nominee for president who shares your
positions on most issues, or a Republican nominee for president who has the
best chance of winning the White House?
In both Iowa and New Hampshire, by a 2:1 margin Republican voters said they
want a nominee for president who they agree with rather than one who can
win -- 67 percent of Republicans say that in Iowa, 67 percent of
Republicans say that in New Hampshire.
And so, yes, it otherwise looks like this conundrum, right? Donald Trump
loses not only to Hillary Clinton in general election matchups, he would
lose to Bernie Sanders if he made it to the general election, but
Republican voters do not care. They want their Donald Trump.
He`s the only top tier who loses by double digits not only to Hillary
Clinton, but also to Bernie Sanders. Republican voters want him anyway.
And that ends up not being an interesting thing about Donald Trump. It`s
an interesting thing about Republican voters. They keep picking him, and
they know he would lose, but they like him anyway. They know he`s going to
lose, but they don`t care. They love this guy.
So, all this beltway analysis that says that Donald Trump`s star is going
to fall, because all of the ways in which he is not electable, right,
there`s the reason all that punditry, and all that beltway common wisdom
keeps getting proven wrong with each new passing day and each new poll
showing Donald Trump on top, because Republican voters do not give a flying
comb over about who is electable. They just want somebody to fall in love
with, and they have fallen in love with him.
They know he`s not electable, they do not care. And so, the Republican
nominating process, as head toward the first debate, looks likely to remain
the Donald Trump show for a long while yet, even though the beltway keeps
telling us it`s about to be over.
It doesn`t look like it`s about to be over. And so, he`s at the center of
the Republican news. Today, the Donald Trump news was from the way state
fair. Today, the Iowa state fair had to clarified publicly that Mr. Trump
will not be allowed to use his helicopters to give children helicopter
rides at the Iowa state fair as a way of promoting his candidacy. He
apparently promised he would do this.
But the state fair has now had to put out a statement saying, "Mr. Trump is
welcome to land his helicopters anywhere, and take people on rides or
whatever he would like to do, but that will not be happening on Iowa state
That`s the kind of thing you have to clarify when don`t Trump is your
We also learned today that Governor Rick Perry of Texas is keeping up his
campaign strategy of trying to become relevant, trying to get press, trying
to get his poll numbers up by continuing to pick fights with Donald Trump.
Governor Perry`s latest gambit is that he has now challenge Donald Trump to
a pull up contest, like chin ups, he wants to chin ups to prove that he is
physically strong enough to be president, because apparently, Donald Trump
keeps calling him a weakling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said you don`t belong on the debate stage on August
6th. He questioned your energy, toughness and, quote/unquote, "brainpower"
that might require to run a successful campaign. What would you say to Mr.
Trump if he were standing here saying that in your presence?
RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s get a pull-up bar out there
and see who can do pull-ups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nothing measures brainpower like --
Texas Governor Rick Perry and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham are the
two bottom tier candidates who have tried to use fighting with Donald Trump
as their strategy, and the beltway press totally cheered them on in
choosing this as a campaign strategy. That will work.
It has not worked. Both Lindsey Graham and now Rick Perry look like
they`re increasingly out of running when it comes to trying to get on to
the FOX debate stage next week.
"New York Magazine" published some new details about that debate today,
including that FOX News now told the candidates already organized according
to their polls numbers. So, not only do of to make the top ten in national
polls in order to make it on stage, so Rick Perry won`t even be there. But
the highest polls candidate, Donald Trump, will apparently be in the center
of the stage for the debate.
So, it really will be the don`t Donald Trump show. This whole Republican
Party presidential nominating process has become the Donald Trump show.
Thanks in part to national polls being the grounds on which people are
allowed to participate in the nominating process or not.
A week from tonight, the fact that this is the Donald Trump show will not
only be official, it will be on display physically on that stage when he
stands in the middle like Gladys, surrounded by a whole bunch of pips on
FOX, are you sure you want to run the presidential primary like this?
MADDOW: Seventeen was the number worn by Boston Celtics Hall of Famer John
Seventeen is how many numbers have to already be filled in with you start
your Sudoku puzzle if you want any hope of solving it.
Seventeen is also the atomic number chlorine.
Seventeen is the number of syllables in a proper haiku. It`s five and
seven and -- 17.
But tonight, 17 is the surprise new important number in the race to be
president of the United States. And that story is coming up tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, today, authorities in Louisiana released the 911 tapes and
police dispatch tapes and a number of other reports about the shooting that
happened a week ago tonight in Lafayette, Louisiana. They have edited the
911 tapes so they don`t give out personal or identifying information or
anything. But other than that, what they release today is very raw.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, LAFAYETTE SHOOTING 911 CALL)
OPERATOR: 911, what are you reporting?
FEMALE CALLER: There is a shooting at Grand 16.
OPERATOR: Ma`am, do you have a description of the person with the gun?
FEMALE CALLER: He was wearing a white polo, I don`t know. He`s an older
OPERATOR: OK. Do you know, is he white, black or Hispanic?
FEMALE CALLER: He`s white.
OPERATOR: Do you know what kind of pants he has on?
FEMALE CALLER: Khaki shorts.
OPERATOR: (INAUDIBLE) I`ll connect you with the dispatcher. One moment.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That 911 call released today, obviously, that was early on in the
crisis a week ago tonight. A woman who had been in the theater, she`s
apparently running out and making that call while under duress. She was
close enough to what happened to be able to give that detailed description
including the clothing description of the man who was doing the shooting.
Police today also released the dispatch tape, which is a reporting not of
civilians calling 911, but it`s police officers and dispatchers
communicating among themselves as the shooting happened. Now, this audio
is remarkable. I think it`s an incredibly newsworthy insight into what
happened and how it unfolded, and what first responders knew that night.
I want to tell you, though. You`re not going to hear actual violence here.
You`re not going to hear actual gunshots in this audio, but you will hear
police officers coming upon all of this in real time. It`s not gory or
graphic in a literal sense, but I will tell you that this is -- or at least
it can be unsettling.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, LAFAYETTE PD RADIO TRAFFIC)
OFFICER: Give me the description one more time. I`m about to go 97 back
towards the back of the theater.
OPERATOR: White male, white shirt, khaki shorts.
OFFICER: 330, OK, we definitely have two victims. One is near my unit,
the other one is in the front.
OFFICER: Everybody hang on. 330, be advised, they said he`s inside, he`s
in number 14, he`s reloading, he has a weapon, we have an active shooter
OFFICER: Yes, just start setting up a perimeter, don`t forget the exit
doors and then we`ll start making our way inside to get people out.
OFFICER: All right. Everybody just hang tight, stay off the radio.
Units, we have (EXPLETIVE DELETED) come over here, I need units to the
back. All we know is a white male I think with khaki shorts and a white
OFFICER: All right. Headquarters, we are making entry. We have reports
of first hall to the left inside the theater.
OPERATOR: 10-4, he`s in theater 14 I`m advised.
OFFICER: (INAUDIBLE) on route.
OPERATOR: OK, we were just advised the suspect shot himself.
OFFICER: What number? What number theater? We`re in the theater.
OPERATOR: Fourteen, number 14.
OFFICER: We`ve got one subject down.
OFFICER: All right. We`ve got several more victims inside. Suspect is
down. Suspect is down. We have several more victims inside with gunshot
Headquarters, we need multiple Acadian -- number 14, number 14.
OFFICER: 331 tango, dispatch -- read (INAUDIBLE). Get an ambulance, get
EMS here, ASAP.
OFFICER: Yes, all right, they`re coming.
OFFICER: We`ve got additional four, five victims in number 14.
OFFICER: Actually six victims in 14.
OFFICER: 51 Tango, headquarters we`ve been one subject down with a black
OFFICER: OK, 330 to all units, we have the suspect, he is down. We need
more units inside to start helping triage. Also, bring first aid kits
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those tapes just released tonight.
As you heard at the end of that dispatch tape, by the time police officers
were in that theater and had arrived on the scene and were closing in on
the shooter, they found they had killed himself as they were closing in.
And now, part of the investigation into what happened there, of course, is
to figure out how that shooter was able to obtain the semiautomatic handgun
It was a gun he had bought fairly recently, last year apparently at a
pawnshop in Alabama. He was apparently considered a legal purchaser of
that weapon, even though these once in the recent past he was denied a
concealed permit because of concerns about his arrest record.
He also had well documented long-standing mental health issues, including
having been sent to a psychiatric hospital by a probate judge at one point
after complaints and request for help and protection from his own family.
But despite all of that on the record, being on the record, he bought the
gun, he bought multiple ammunition magazines for that gun, and that`s how
he was able to kill two people and wound nine other people in that movie
theater a week ago tonight before he killed himself. All that raw material
from the response to the shooting has been publicly released this afternoon
into this evening. Tonight, if you want to see or listen to that for
yourself, we have posted everything that`s been publicly released at our
website at MaddowBlog.com if you want to access it there.
But meanwhile, today, on the same day that all of that was released in
Lafayette, Louisiana, in Aurora, Colorado, today, jurors started
deliberating in one of the worst mass shooting cases that`s ever happened.
It is almost exactly three years ago now. It was another movie theater
shooting that happened in Colorado. It was committed by a young man with
profound mental illness.
Today in Colorado, the jury in that case started deliberating basically the
importance of that young man`s insanity. He`s already been found guilty of
the shooting. He tried to use his insanity as a defense for those crimes.
But the jury found him guilty. The question now is whether he`ll be
sentenced to life in prison or whether he`ll get the death penalty in
Today, that jury started deliberating whether or not his mental illness and
other facts of his life somehow outweigh the horrors of his crimes enough
that he should be spared execution and should instead get life behind bars.
It has to be a unanimous verdict from that jury if they want to send him to
be executed. We`re told that we`ll get a two-hour warning basically, a
two-hour window to prepare to cover it when the jury finally reaches its
decision on the death sentence in that case, as to whether or not the
Aurora theater massacre gunman will get life in prison or death row.
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips are the parents of one of the 12 people who was
killed in the Aurora shooting. There were so many victims in the Aurora
shooting. There were so many people hurt and killed. There are so many
people who are members of victims` families and friends of the victims in
that case, it`s almost impossible to get your head around the scale of that
tragedy, the human scale.
But Lonnie and Sandy Phillips lost their 24-year-old daughter Jessica
Ghawi. She planned to be a sports reporter. She was in the theater that
night in Aurora. She was shot six times. She died in the theater that
And Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, her parents, have been in the courtroom
almost every day of this trial for months now to stand for their daughter
But this is the thing you need to know. On top of that, on top of
everything they have gone through in the past three years that started with
losing their daughter, that`s included day after day after day of this
incredibly grueling trial, in which everything about the death of their
daughter and the deaths of those other people has been gone through second
by second and bullet by bullet, with all of the witness statements, all of
the descriptions about what happened and who survived and how, and who did
not survive and how -- on top of all of that, Sandy Phillips and Lonnie
Phillips have just been ordered by a judge to pay more than $200,000 to the
businesses that sold the ammunition that killed their daughter.
I`m not kidding. We have covered this story once before on this show. The
feedback that we got when I told this story was that people basically did
not believe the story could be true it was so horrifying. It is true, and
the Phillipses are here next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In the weeks leading up to July 20th, 2012, the Aurora massacre
shooter bought several thousand rounds of ammunition online, and a 100-
round drum magazine for his assault rifle, and body armor and teargas
grenades. He legally bought that equipment that he used for his massacre,
he bought it all online, no questions asked.
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica was killed in that
theater, they sued the online vendors saying it was negligent to sell that
stuff no questions asked. A Colorado statute designed to protect the gun
industry from any kind of lawsuit like that, and, in fact, punish anyone
who dares to bring that kind of lawsuit against the industry.
That statute not only resulted in the Phillips` lawsuit being dismissed, it
has also now resulted in a judge ordering them to pay more than $200,000 to
these companies which are the exact businesses that sold the several
thousand rounds of ammunition and 100-round drum magazine and body armor
and teargas grenades to the 24-year-old who used that equipment to injure
70 people and kill 12 people, including Lonnie and Sandy Phillips` own
The Phillipses are joining us now tonight for the interview. I should tell
you also, their attorney is standing by in Washington, D.C., Jonathan Lowy.
Thank you all for being here.
And, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, I really appreciate your being here.
SANDY PHILLIPS, MOTHER OF VICTIM: Thank you for having us.
LONNIE PHILLIPS, FATHER OF VICTIM: Thank you for having us.
MADDOW: Am I right that you guys have been living in a camper outside of
the courthouse in order to be there for the trial?
S. PHILLIPS: Yes, we sold everything we own, except our home and we rented
that out and sold all of our furniture, downgraded my wardrobe drastically,
and bought a trailer and a truck and moved to Colorado, so we could be
here. It was the right decision to make.
MADDOW: Do you know -- the jury is considering the sentencing phase of the
trial. He is found guilty. Do you know what turn your lives will take
when this trial is over?
S. PHILLIPS: Yes, we do.
L. PHILLIPS: Yes. We have already made plans to stay in Colorado until
October. We have friends there that we`re going to house sit for them
until October and stay in that area because we have a lot of connections
with political people there and it`s just a place for us to be for right
now. But when that`s over, we will know where we are going to go, but we
don`t know yet.
MADDOW: When you brought this lawsuit against the online retailers that
sold the equipment that was literally used to kill your daughter and all of
those other people, did you know that it was a possibility that not only
would the lawsuit be dismissed but you would be held accountable for the
legal fees of these retailers?
L. PHILLIPS: Yes.
MADDOW: You decided to do it any way?
L. PHILLIPS: Of course. Didn`t have a choice.
S. PHILLIPS: It`s important that most of America doesn`t realize the
online sale issue in the country when it comes to weapons and guns and ammo
and incendiary devices. It`s so easy to do, obviously. And we needed to
stop. We need them to take responsibility and say, there`s a better way of
This person was able to order all of this stuff and not even give his
license. So, they didn`t even know if he was of age to buy this stuff.
MADDOW: And that`s legal, right? That`s not these companies breaking the
law. That`s them following the law. The goal of your lawsuit presumably
was to try to get the law changed.
S. PHILLIPS: Right. It was not a lawsuit for money at all. It was a
lawsuit to try to get them to change their business practices.
MADDOW: I know that you have worked with Brady Center for Gun Violence.
S. PHILLIPS: In the past, yes.
MADDOW: And the gun industry has said you should be seen as activists more
than you should be seen as grieving parents and this was an activist stunt,
not something --
S. PHILLIPS: So, you can`t be both?
S. PHILLIPS: Is that what they are saying you can`t be both? We have been
accused of standing on our daughter`s grave for our own agenda. The answer
to that is yes, we are. Our daughter would want us to be fighting. It`s
too late for us, but it`s not too late for other parents out there. So,
we`re -- we took this on to change it.
L. PHILLIPS: We asked them to consider changing their practices, at least
making some attempt to find out who they are selling this armament to. I
mean, this is military-grade equipment.
The bullets that went through the seats our daughter was trying to hide
behind because she didn`t know he was using armor piercing bullets. They
sold 4,000 to him without asking for his driver`s license. That is wrong.
It has to be brought to the attention of the American people to know that
now, unless we are rich, we can`t afford to sue. Unless we are willing to
give up everything we have, which we are willing to do and have done. If
they want to take the rest of our worldly goods from us, so be it.
MADDOW: Do you feel like this might change? Do you feel like the specific
thing you are asking for -- you are not asking for the world --
S. PHILLIPS: No.
MADDOW: The specific thing that you`re asking for about what this online
retailers, do you feel optimistic that it could change?
L. PHILLIPS: I know it`s going to change. Hope I am alive to see it.
It`s not going to change overnight, but I`m not going to stop until it is
S. PHILLIPS: You know what we discovered the NRA has been very good at
weakening existing laws and sliding in laws through appropriation bills and
that`s how this PLCAA law and the Colorado law happened. So Americans have
to fight for that.
It`s a public safety issue. It`s no longer just about guns. It`s not
about armament. It`s not about ammo. It`s about the entire package and
how unsafe we are in our own country.
L. PHILLIPS: Don`t get us wrong, we want background checks passed. That`s
the most important thing right now because that`s the closest thing to do.
We only missed it by four votes the last time. It`s going to pass first
and then we are going after this law. We`re going after it now.
MADDOW: Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, parents of Jessica Ghawi, your attorney
Jonathan Lowy from the Brady Campaign was standing by. We didn`t go to Mr.
Lowy. But thank you for being here.
But most of all I thank you for being willing and able to talk about this
in public. Thanks.
S. PHILLIPS: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I just want to show you some live pictures right now from
Portland, Oregon. The reason this bridge doesn`t look like it normally
does is because this was a scene tonight of an amazing standoff between
activists trying to physically stop Shell`s efforts to drill the Arctic,
activists who put themselves in the way of a Shell ship trying to head to
the Arctic so Shell could start to drill, and that giant ice breaker vessel
trying to head out the Willamette River into the Pacific Ocean.
These activists who were dangling from this bridge today and in kayaks on
the river, they did manage to turn back that huge Shell ship early this
morning. They held it back all day today in Portland.
It was just about an hour ago, this ice breaker from Shell managed to make
it past those protesters in a very dramatic physical confrontation. But
that icebreaker is now on its way to the Arctic. It`s got a couple more
bridges to pass before it gets there though.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
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