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Breaking News

INS Agents Seize Elian Gonzalez from Relatives' Miami Home

Aired April 22, 2000 - 5:15 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: There have been some developments in Miami on the Elian Gonzalez case. Let's go now to Brian Cabell, who's standing by live.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can we go live? Can we go live?

CHURCH: Brian, can you hear me? We're just waiting. We're standing by. We see there are problems there in Miami.

CABELL: Let's go.

CHURCH: Brian, if you can here me, we are actually live on CNN International.

Just while we're awaiting Brian, we're just seeing there that there seem to be problems outside of the house of the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez. We're awaiting now news on exactly what's taking place at the home of young Elian.

We don't like to speculate at this time, but there seem to be problems there...

CABELL: You tell me.

CHURCH: ... with the demonstrators. We can here Brian there.

Brian, can you hear us?

CABELL: Heads up.

CHURCH: Still awaiting actual clarification on what is going on there outside the house of Elian Gonzalez's relatives. So some disturbances there. We see some authorities taking some action, but we're awaiting clarification on what exactly that action is.

You see some federal officials there. And these pictures courtesy of WSBN.

Seems to be somebody in some -- having some problems there, but we still await clarification. We are speculating at this point, as we watch these INS federal officers taking action.

CABELL: They got the boy. They got the boy. They took the boy. They're getting the boy.

CHURCH: They have taken the boy. We can see Elian Gonzalez there has been seized from the home of his Miami relatives and is being taken away in a car by the INS federal officers.

CABELL: Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

CHURCH: We can see Brian Cabell watching and waiting, standing by. We will, as soon as we have communication with him, get some clarification on this issue.

CABELL: I can hear you.

CHURCH: We see a number of forces there who have actually taken the action and it appears that Elian Gonzalez has been taken away in a vehicle.

CABELL: All right, this is Brian Cabell. We're on the scene here. They have taken Elian Gonzalez away. They took him away about five minutes ago. They stormed in here, I would say, about seven or eight minutes ago, at least 20 to 40 -- now there are missiles being thrown at these vehicles.

As you can see, federal officers are trying to back out of here right now, but as of about 10 minutes ago, they stormed in here, they opened up the barricades, drove in a couple of vans, moved all the media back.

Now we are seeing some sort of spray. The crowd is throwing garbage cans, missiles. Federal officers -- INS federal officers are trying to back people off.

Again, we believe Elian Gonzalez was taken out of here about four or five minutes ago. We saw him rush in someone's arms into a vehicle, and I believe that vehicle has already left. It's difficult to see who's inside.

We are now -- excuse me -- we are now feeling the effects of the spray ourselves. Try to stay on the shot here. Again...

CHURCH: Just while Brian's obviously being overcome by the spray there of some sort, we'll just clarify there that it appears that Elian Gonzalez has been seized. A few minutes ago, we saw the INS federal officers go into the home of Elian Gonzalez's relatives in Miami, Florida, seize the little boy, take him in a vehicle and depart from that area.

We now understand that INS federal officers are trying to control the situation, but there's spray and missiles taking place. So we're still taking shots there live from Miami, Florida, where a number of people seem to be affected by the spray, as indeed our own CNN's Brian Cabell was.

CABELL: What's wrong with her?

Rosemary, can you hear me? CHURCH: Yes, Brian, I can. If you can just clarify the situation, we're looking at those live pictures now.

CABELL: All right., I think the gas -- I'm not sure if it's pepper gas, but it's diminished somewhat. But as you can see, some people are still suffering from it.

Let me just set the scene here. We were told about 45 minutes ago that the Department of Justice would be holding a press conference at somewhere around 5:00 Eastern time. We were waiting for that press conference. There was no advance notice of this at all.

And then suddenly we saw, about 15 minutes ago, the barricades were being brought down. It looked very innocuous at that point, but then some people started...

(AUDIO GAP)

CABELL: ... perhaps something was happening. And sure enough, within about three or four minutes afterward, we saw four or five vans race into the neighborhood here, stoop at the house. They broke the door down, as far as we could see. They went into the house, and then about four or five minutes later, we saw, we believe, Elian Gonzalez, the boy, being rushed 0ut in someone's arms, into the van and being taken away.

A number of officers were here, I would say at ;east 50 to 100. It's hard to say because it happened so, so quickly. It was not expected at all. And so at least 50 to 100 INS officers. And as a result, we now see the demonstrators, or the people who were standing vigil, now reacting to it.

Again, they were sprayed. There is some anger here. I would suspect an awful lot of people have been awakened in this neighborhood here in the last 15 minutes, and there is some real anger here because this simply was not expected. And frankly it was a brutal -- it was a brutal encounter here. Some people were hit, but they were simply told to back away. And you can see the emotion right now.

We have some anger, we have some vulgarity, because this was not expected to happen this way at this time. It happened, 5:00, when it was completely dark, when there were hardly any people standing vigil, perhaps 50 people. Earlier tonight there had been some 1,000 or so. At the point this happened, there were only about 50, but as you can see right now I would say there are at least a couple of hundred people out in the streets, and I'm sure more are getting up as we speak.

But once again, Elian Gonzalez has been whisked out of this area, and I believe the federal officers have left this area as well. The local police are still here, but the federal officers, as best we can see, have departed the scene -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Brian, of course we're looking at live pictures there, CNN pictures as well as WSVN pictures.

Now, Brian, this is really against what Janet Reno said she would -- the action she said she would take.

CABELL: This is not what she said she would do or at least what was expected she would do, but we expect what happened was the negotiations simply broke down. We were told this was a last-ditch effort over the last several hours to work out a settlement, and apparently the family here in Miami and the INS, along with the father in Washington, could not work out a settlement, and as a result the child has been taken away. They had said it would happen. We did not think it would happen in quite this manner, however.

CHURCH: Brian, just for the sake of those people that may have just tuned in, can we just go over exactly what happened when the INS officers arrived there at the scene of the home?

CABELL: Well, we saw the police barricades being taken down probably about -- it was about 10 minutes after 5:00 Eastern time. Again, it was taken down in a rather quiet manner. Nobody -- in fact, I mentioned it to our producer. I said, well, the barricades are being opened up. We thought perhaps a police vehicle was being driven inside. And then, within about a minute or so, all of a sudden a couple of vans and then a few more vans -- I would say altogether maybe five -- drove in here very quickly, probably at 30, 40 miles an hour, screeched to a stop.

We have the brother out here? Delfin Gonzalez? Delfin Gonzalez, he is the -- one of the uncles out here.

In any case, about five vans or so came in here, screeched to a halt. Federal officers leapt out of the cars, others came in on foot, raced in on foot, pushed all the photographers back, warned all those who had been standing vigil to get back, and they broke down the door as best we could see.

We heard a banging on the door, and then about four or five minutes later we saw the boy in someone's arms -- I believe a federal officer, but I didn't get a real good quick look.

You were in the house at the time, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I was right here taking the cookies back to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) over the fence.

CABELL: Who -- did they break down the door?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and they gassed me. I was walking back with a box of cookies -- you saw me giving the cookies to people.

CABELL: Did you see Elian come out of the house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't see him. I just -- I saw the gas hit me, that's all.

CABELL: Yes, we saw him come out in the arms of someone. We're not quite sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were gassed with no provocation. We were assaulted with no provocation. You saw, you had your cameras. We did nothing. We were walking and we were gassed.

CABELL: Well, you can hear it there. This was not expected. They thought it was without provocation...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Clinton, you're responsible. You gassed us.

CABELL: ... but once again, apparently negotiations for which there was considerable hope over the last several hours, broke down. And finally federal officers came in and they have taken the boy. A number of people were gassed, including ourselves. The gas has now dissipated, but once again this is an extremely angry, angry crowd because this was not expected at this time of day in this manner.

CHURCH: Brian, if you could just stand by, we're going to take another look at that tape of what we think is Elian coming out in the arms of an INS officer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: They got the boy. They got the boy. They took the boy. They're getting the boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: They managed to back out of here, and then other vans were in here, as well. And they had trouble backing out, but they, too, have managed to back out.

All of -- I would imagine this entire assault on this house took maybe 10 minutes or so, and the boy was in a car within about five minutes, perhaps even less. And it took everybody by surprise. And there were probably only 50 people standing outside here with signs, and within a matter of minutes, of course, this crowd has grown tremendously. And I think it's a fair guess to say that this crowd will grow even more in the hours ahead, and who knows what will happen?

But right now, they are stunned, they are crying, some of them are suffering still from the pepper gas. They simply don't know what to do, because this was not expected to happen in this manner. And I believe I see Lazaro Gonzalez out here.

Now we have cameras being attacked. Now there are cameras being told to back off. They are being assaulted by some very angry, very sad people here. And this -- it is not a mob, by any means, this is simply some very angry people who did not expect -- this was the worst that could have happened as far as these people are concerned, I think it's fair to say.

CHURCH: Now, Brian, we haven't seen the numbers tonight, certainly from these pictures we've looked at, the larger numbers of demonstrators that were gathering in days leading up to this event. Is that just simply because of the early hours of the morning?

CABELL: Yes, we arrived here at about 11:00 Eastern this morning, and I would estimate that there were a good 1,000 people here. They were conducting prayer vigils, there was a hunger strike, there were people holding a huge American flag, there were people holding a huge Cuban flag. Organizations were coming by offering them food, offering them drinks. It was peaceful. It was -- there was an air of anticipation about all of it. There was even a carnival atmosphere to a certain extent for a while. But then as the evening wore on into the morning, as you might expect, at midnight, 1:00, 2:00. the crowd dropped 500, 400 and 300.

And by the time this assault on this house took place, which was about 10 minutes after 5:00, there were probably no more than about 50 people within sight of the house. And as you can see, since then, this crowd has grown considerably, a number of young men, a number of angry young men, and a number of them are screaming at the media right now -- we're not quite certain why. But it's kind of an angry scene here, and what will happen next we frankly do not know.

It's still early in the morning, most people have not heard about this yet, and the pictures are not pretty. I think there's another call for...

CHURCH: CNN's Brian Cabell standing by there at the Miami house of the relatives of Elian Gonzalez . And with breaking news, we report that Elian Gonzalez has been seized by INS officials. It took about five minutes, and (OFF-MIKE) seize the boy, breaking down the door of the home.

So we will follow this story.

Let's just quickly take a break here on "WORLD NEWS," and we'll be back with more on this after that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: Get ready to get the boy. They got the boy. They got the boy. They took the boy. They're getting the boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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