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Gonzalez Family Alleges INS Officials Used Excessive Force

Aired April 22, 2000 - 9:20 a.m. ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our continuing coverage of Elian Gonzalez's retrieval by federal officials continues.

We now turn to some pool video. These are live pictures inside the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, the Little Havana section of Miami. The reporter there is Kerry Sanders (ph).

Let's listen in as Marisleysis Gonzalez gives what amounts to a tour of the home.

KERRY SANDERS, POOL REPORTER: What did it smell like (ph) in here?

MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S COUSIN: It's like gas (UNINTELLIGIBLE), like you were suffocating. So the first thing we do is -- we did was that Donato picked up Elian from my father, and then we picked up my mother little 5-year-old cousin who was sleeping here as well. His mom picked him up, and the ran to the room, because they didn't know what was going on.

SANDERS: Now, you didn't know what was going on? You did not know this was the federal government (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GONZALEZ: We didn't know it was the U.S. marshals or federal people come in here with guns until they broke into the door.

SANDERS: Take me over here.

GONZALEZ: They broke into here. They kicked the cameraman and they threw him here in this sofa. And they threw all of us to the floor.

SANDERS: OK, now...

GONZALEZ: They ran here, and they had guns pointed at us. At this point my father and my uncle, my brother, I, the lawyers, were on this side, because they were hitting -- banging by the back door. And when we ran, they were already in here. So I stood in this door and I stood like this, Please! And they were putting the guns, the guns right here, We're going to shoot, we're going to shoot you (UNINTELLIGIBLE), give me the gun, boy, give me the gun, boy!

And I go, Please, we're not armed, don't shoot, don't do this. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in front of the kid, he's seen a lot, a lot, he's seen his mom die. I'll give you him, I'll give it to him, I'll give you Elian. Please, please, I begged them. I'm going to shoot you, I'm going to shoot you!

So the rest of the guys ran in this room.

SANDERS: OK. Let's get to Donato up here, because I want to have Donato show us. At what point -- you're over here against the wall now?

GONZALEZ: I was here, I didn't move from here.

SANDERS: OK, and so you're stuck here...

GONZALEZ: Because they didn't let me move.

SANDERS: OK, now, Donato...

GONZALEZ: They had a gun. If you move, I'll shoot!


GONZALEZ: So they...

SANDERS: Let me pick it up with Donato. Now, Donato, what happened at that point? She's being held over here.

DONATO DALRYMPLE, FISHERMAN WHO RESCUED ELIAN GONZALEZ: Yes, I'm going to tell you, I didn't see anybody, just heard (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GONZALEZ: Yes, because he had already ran to the room first with Elian. But while I was standing here, the rest of the other guys came in through here, and they trashed my room, which -- this is Elian's room and my room. They broke the closet door. They broke the closet door, they broke -- they broke Elian's bed. They...

O'BRIEN: We're going to interrupt Marisleysis Gonzalez as she continues her tour, an account of what happened. As you look at live pictures, Andrews Air Force Base is the location, that is the small jet operated by the U.S. Marshals Service, which contains a 6-year-old boy who is at the center of all this.

Elian Gonzalez, who, we are told, has spent most of his flight playing with toys, munching on a little bit of food, and talking with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who awaits him there on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington.

Let's return now to Marisleysis Gonzalez in Little Havana.

GONZALEZ: ... the wife of my cousin with her 5-year-old son, who also had a gun on his head, to his mother, Don't move. And he had a gun.

SANDERS: Let's have Donato (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at this point, OK?

GONZALEZ: And Elian. SANDERS: So Donato, you had scooped up Elian during this commotion?

DALRYMPLE: Yes, in the middle of my sleep, I thought I was dreaming, and I heard Elian screaming. I didn't know, and I just ran to him. I don't even know how I got him in my arms. And I grabbed him and I ran into this room.

And Angela was here, which is Marisleysis' mother, and I don't remember the other face, but I remember Alan Diaz (ph) from the Associated Press. And I said, Alan, where can we go? And Alan just didn't know what to say. He said, there's nowhere to go, Donato.

And I -- they closed the door and they put the lock there, which is -- was normal. These people had guns, and we can hear them banging all over the house. And I heard people screaming and screaming. So I (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'BRIEN: You are listening now to Donato Dalrymple, who is the fisherman who on Thanksgiving Day plucked little Elian Gonzalez out of the water, bringing him to safety.

DALRYMPLE: ... help me, help me! And -- then in one ear. And then he was looking at Angela, and he was saying, Que pasa, que pasa, que pasa? What's going on? I just held his head like this. My God, America, what did you do to this boy? I mean, I held him, and they came in with guns. Now, I don't say they were put on my brain, but the gun was pointed right to me. Give me the boy, give me the boy! And there was a lady with a blanket, and she took him, she put it over his face.

SANDERS: Did she take him from your arms? Did she pull him from your arms?

DALRYMPLE: No, the soldier -- I call him a soldier, because that's what he was -- he came here in warfare. He took -- he snatched this boy from me. That is not exaggerated or fabricated. They took this boy by force.

SANDERS: Now, as they took Elian...

DALRYMPLE: As they were, I followed them out the door (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GONZALEZ: They were wearing these, with mask. They were wearing these.

DALRYMPLE: I -- Please, I said, don't hurt this boy, don't hurt this boy. And I followed them to the street. And the guy kept on pushing me away.

GONZALEZ: They were wearing these with masks, and one of them dropped. But we're going to keep this (UNINTELLIGIBLE). With masks. They were wearing this, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in this room.

DALRYMPLE: You know what I'd like to say to Mr. Clinton and Janet Reno? You said you were going to something that was important for Elian (UNINTELLIGIBLE) community...

GONZALEZ: And you said you would never come at midnight (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to this house, and you promised that in front of the whole world, and you're a liar, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DALRYMPLE: And you took him by force, you took him by force. He took him by force. I think the way that they took him was in a way that they wouldn't even do to criminals.

SANDERS: Marisleysis, just before this happened, before the federal marshals came to the house here, you were on the phone along with the lawyers, the Department of Justice, discussing a plan. What was it in that plan that was still holding things up?

GONZALEZ: They -- they -- they -- they -- they -- they -- they wanted us to -- we were trying to see where we would reunite, not in Washington but here. And we were trying to negotiate how the boy was going to be returned. In a way (ph), she stood up and she said, He has to be returned. And then they -- they -- we -- we -- they -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my understanding, because I was trying to deal with Elian, because he was very nervous, and he was all over me, and I was trying to -- and I was hearing what they were talking about.

And all I hear was that they made -- they were -- they made some kind of a deal where they had to get back to us, and they put us on hold. He says, I'm going to tell her about that, and they put us on hold. And as soon as they put us on hold, everything began.

SANDERS: So what should your family do now? Elian is gone, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GONZALEZ: All my family wants, and I beg, and I think I deserve, to see Elian and to see that he's OK and that he's with his father, to see he's OK, because I'm sure that this boy was given some type of shot or some type of medicine to calm him down, because he left this house screaming. And he doesn't stand being without me for two minutes. If I am asleep and I wake up and he doesn't see me, he cries.

And I'm sure, I'm sure that if -- they must have given him something to calm him down. And I'm concerned, because he is allergic to some things, and if something happens to this boy, I'll raise hell. He's allergic to things, that they don't know.

SANDERS: I understand that the plan is that you, your father, and some other members of the family and community plan to go to Washington today?

GONZALEZ: Yes. We're going to go to Washington because we demand to see this boy. The way this boy was taken out of here by force, the way this boy was treated, the way my family was treated, the way they trashed my house, they didn't have to do this. I was begging them, I'll give you the boy, don't let him see this, begging. Don't move or I'll shoot you!

SANDERS: Have you been told by anybody that if you go to Washington, that you will be able to see Elian?

GONZALEZ: No, but I'll do anything. I'm not like his father. His father could have come and picked him up here. I'm going to go wherever he is, as his mother would have done if she would have been alive. And now I stand for her, as I stood for five months (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SANDERS: Marisleysis, this is very important, this was the last letter, you got to read this, please. This was the...

GONZALEZ: This was the letter.

SANDERS: Read it, please.

GONZALEZ: No, I can't.

SANDERS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), then somebody needs to read this, it's very important. If it's even (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GONZALEZ: I've read the letter, and I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SANDERS: This is the final letter in terms of the negotiations, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DALRYMPLE: Yes, and they were making -- they were in the middle of negotiations at 5:00 in the morning when they (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GONZALEZ: This is the 5:00 letter in the afternoon.


SANDERS: This is 5:00 in the afternoon.


GONZALEZ: And then...

SANDERS: This is from (ph) the Honorable Janet Reno...


SANDERS: ... Attorney General of the United States. It's dated April 21. "We propose a process to include the following. Juan Miguel's family and our family would take up temporary residence in a mutually agreed neutral site in Miami-Dade County, the, quote, `site,' on a date to be agreed. The members of the Gonzalez family would be accompanied at the site by one or more neutral facilitators, the facilitator mutually agreed upon.

"The facilitator's role would be to present at the site to help the family members get together and do what is in the best interests of the child. The facilitator would report periodically to you as attorney general and to all members of the Gonzalez family. We request that you consider the findings and observations of the facilitator in reaching any decision concerning Elian. "No one other than the members of the Gonzalez family and the facilitator, including specifically the parties' attorneys and any United States or Cuban government officials, except for U.S. marshals, would be present at the site. The location of the site would remain confidential to assure the privacy of the parties.

"We understand that you have transferred temporary custody of Elian to his father. Elian and all members of the Gonzalez family would remain in residence at the site until the resolution of all pending legal proceedings.

"The United States Marshals Service would provide security to the site and ensure that no unauthorized persons enter the site, and that Elian is not removed from the site except as his best interests may require.

"The foregoing will in no way affect any legal proceedings or be used by any party against the other in any legal proceedings. The foregoing constitutes an outline, and additional details would be needed to be resolved. We stand ready to discuss with you any suggestions that you may have which you believe are in the best interests of the child."

And this is signed by Lazaro, your father, Marisleysis, Delfin (ph) Gonzalez. So this is from you to them, and this is the final offer that you had provided to them. And as you provided this at 5:00...

GONZALEZ: At 5:00, and they took hours that we -- none of us in the house slept. The lawyers stayed here, they didn't even sleep, waiting. And when they call back, they gave us five minutes to answer. You have five minutes to tell us.

SANDERS: And what was -- what did they say? They would not accept this? That Juan Miguel, Elian's father...


SANDERS: ... would not accept this?

GONZALEZ: No, that we have to go to Washington, that the whole family had to stay in Washington. And I (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we said, Well, we wanted to be here, the boy's already here, the whole family's here. There's only one person that has to come over here, which is the father. Let them reunite here, and do the process here.

SANDERS: What was the reason why you would not travel with Elian to Washington? It sounds like this broke down over where this joint meeting would take place.

GONZALEZ: Due to the fact that we're a big family, and we've been together, and this is a family, and it's not the same to move a boy from where he's already been secured, and to bring a father who really loves his son and wants the best interests of this child, and let this happen. That's why we didn't want that to happen. And look what had to happen. SANDERS: All right. Marisleysis Gonzalez, Donato Dalrymple, thank you very much. And I notice you were joining -- both of you are going to Washington at some time later today, so thank you very much.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armando (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he can talk about that, because he was in and out.



O'BRIEN: That was a pool report conducted by reporter Kerry Sanders with Marisleysis Gonzalez and Donato Dalrymple, the former being the cousin of the Elian Gonzalez, 21 years old, and a surrogate mother of sorts during this five-month ordeal from his recovery off the coast of Florida, and his time in Little Havana. Donato Dalrymple, the fisherman who was -- plucked the young boy from the water after that aborted attempt to come to the United States from Cuba. Elian's mother perishing, among others, in that attempt.

And the family, perhaps, the bullet item coming out of that particular obviously emotionally distraught discussion, is that the family intends to go to Washington, thus setting the stage for moving the exchange of point and counterpoint, the debate, the polarized opinions to another city -- Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, ANCHOR: We're going to recap for you again what's been taking place since that 5:00 a.m. Eastern time. Right now, it's 9:30 in the East, 5:30 on the West.

You're looking at videotape that was taken earlier this morning around 5:00 a.m. when federal officials came to the home of Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives. First they had to clear away people who had been outside the home in the yard, carrying on with a vigil. Once they cleared that area, secured the area, federal agents, along with U.S. mar -- well, the U.S. marshals and the INS -- came to the door, knocked on the door, said who they were in Spanish and English.

When no one came to the door, they did make an entry into the home using a battering ram to break down the door. A female federal agent was the one who talked with Elian -- there she is -- wrapped him up in a blanket, took him out of the home, telling him, Everything is going to be OK, we're taking you back to your father, please don't worry, don't be frightened.

Once they got into the white minivan, agents had to use pepper spray to back the crowds down. As you can imagine, it was quite emotional. People were taken by surprise. They didn't know this was going to happen. Once the minivan got out of the area, Elian was taken to a helicopter, Watson's Island, a nearby island, to be taken to a hospital, checked for injuries. He was fine. He was then put on an airplane, taken to Maryland.

The plane has touched down in Maryland, where he is going to be reunited with his father. And we're going to bring that to you hopefully very soon, in addition to a press conference with the president at about 10:15 Eastern time -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: From Havana to Little Havana to Washington to the suburban Maryland location of Andrews Air Force Base, and the home of the Cuban Interest Section leader, Fernando Ramirez, we have correspondents stationed ready to give you the latest on this breaking story, Elian Gonzalez in the hands of federal custody.

Let's turn now to CNN's Kate Snow, who is in Bethesda, Maryland, outside the home of the highest-ranking Cuban diplomat in the U.S. -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, this is where Juan Miguel Gonzalez has been staying for the past two weeks. We have learned from senior law enforcement officials, though, that they will not be returning here to this Bethesda home, a senior law enforcement official telling our justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas, that the two, father and son, will stay at Andrews Air Force Base for at least several days, reacquainting themselves, getting their relationship back as father and son.

We have also learned from the Cuban government, Miles, that they expect to make some sort of an official statement, an official reaction from the Cuban government expected sometime later today, possibly at an event that's to be attended by Fidel Castro, the president of Cuba, at about 5:00 Eastern time tonight, that event taking place in Matunzas (ph) Province, which is outside of Havana. It's the same province that Elian Gonzalez and his father and family are from originally.

We expect perhaps that is when we will hear from President Fidel Castro, perhaps from some of the family members in Cuba we will hear from at that time as well.

Now, at this point, again, no plans for them to return to this Bethesda home here when they do eventually go somewhere other than Andrews Air Force Base. The -- Doris Meissner, the INS commissioner, said that she did not feel that this location would be an appropriate place for them to go because there's simply too much attention, not enough privacy here. Attorney General Janet Reno, speaking this morning, said that she felt like they needed to be together and have some privacy in order to get themselves back and to start healing.


JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it is important for us all to accept Elian's long-overdue reunion with his father. It is time to heal wounds that have divided the community. It is time to help this little boy heal from the tragedies that he has experienced. Let us give him and his father the space, the calm, the moral support they need to reconnect and reaffirm their bond between father and son.

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SNOW: Attorney for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Greg Craig, emerged a short time ago, and he said that Juan Miguel Gonzalez was -- expressed satisfaction about how things had come out this morning. Apparently this might have been a surprise for Juan Miguel Gonzalez. We're told that he had expected, and the Cuban government had expected all along, that perhaps he would be closer to the location when Elian Gonzalez was taken from the house, in other words, the plans were for him to be at some -- in some close proximity to Elian when things went down...

O'BRIEN: Kate Snow -- Kate, Kate, I'm sorry...

SNOW: ... when the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) went in...

O'BRIEN: ... Kate, I'm going to have to interrupt you for just a moment as we look at some pictures courtesy of our affiliate in Washington, WTTG. This is the convoy, the motorcade carrying Elian Gonzalez and his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. If we are to make an assumption here, we are told that Juan Miguel Gonzalez arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in that white Suburban you see sort of in the center of the motorcade in your picture. I think we can probably make the assumption that that is where the father and son sit right now, reunited.

Now, as we had just been told by Kate Snow, they will be staying on the grounds of Andrews Air Force Base for some time. And while the attorney general and the head of the INS indicated this was more related to the mental health of the child and getting the child back on even keel, Kate, I want to pose a question to you. This also removes any sort of murkiness that there might be as to whether diplomatic immunity would apply. Not only is he on U.S. soil for the time being, he's in a tightly guarded military compound -- Kate.

SNOW: That's an interesting point to make, Miles. I will point out, though, that here at the home in Bethesda, which is the official residence of the leading diplomat, the Cuban -- the highest-ranking Cuban diplomat, Mr. Fernando Ramirez, this is his home. And when Mr. Juan Miguel Gonzalez came here two weeks ago, he declared, that diplomat declared, that this property would not be Cuban diplomatic property for the time being. He made a point of saying that diplomatic immunity would be waived from this property.

And that was because the Cubans wanted to avoid any appearance of -- that they had him under their control. They wanted to counter claims and charges that perhaps when Juan Miguel Gonzalez was here in the United States, he would be under the influence of the Cuban government. So they removed the diplomatic immunity from this property.

It's a good question that you ask, whether that will be the case on the Air Force base there.

PHILLIPS: OK, Kate. Kate, we're going to bring in Patty Davis, who is also in Maryland. Patty is at Andrews Air Force Base live.

Patty, can you tell us if you did indeed see Elian and his father reunite? Do you know if they are in this caravan together? PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are being kept a very long distance away from the actual place where they're being reunited, most likely at the terminal inside Andrews Air Force Base. The Air Force, the police here don't want the media being close to the situation at all. We're being kept outside the gates.

Elian's father, however, did arrive earlier this morning. He wasn't brought in that main entrance that you see behind me, he was brought in his motorcade by police escort down to another entrance on the side. Now, we do know for a fact that Elian's plane has arrived here at Andrews Air Force Base this morning. There is also a caravan being shot from a helicopter, a news helicopter, flying overhead, most likely, as you said, that has Elian and his father in it at this time.

And we're not being allowed inside that Air Force base, so we really don't know what's going on inside -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So at this point, Patty, they are going to stay there on the compound and be spending time on the base. I thought they were going to be going to a hotel. Has that changed?

DAVIS: It appears, according to Pierre Thomas, that they will be spending a couple days here at the Air Force base. And I assume that is because we can't get in there, nobody can get in there, and protesters can't approach. There's been such a glare of media spotlight on this case. They need some time alone, and no one can have access to them here. The situation can be completely...

PHILLIPS: OK, Patty -- Patty...

DAVIS: ... controlled.

PHILLIPS: I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt you. The caravan has stopped. We have -- I don't know if you can see this or not, but we have cameras on the white Suburban. The doors are being opened. We're seeing some agents obviously surrounding the car, and hoping to catch a glimpse to see of Elian -- there, there we go. Is that Juan Miguel -- can we confirm if that's Juan Miguel Gonzalez carrying Elian? Can we confirm that?

DAVIS: Yes, I cannot...

PHILLIPS: Patty, I know you probably can't. Can I get word from anybody that we can confirm -- OK, we don't know, but we from a distance see someone carrying a child in their arms, along with a number of other people, going inside what appears some type of housing arrangement possibly there on the compound.

OK. Patty, are you still with us?

DAVIS: I'm here.

PHILLIPS: OK. Well, we did get a shot, Patty. It could have been Juan Miguel Gonzalez holding Elian. There was somebody carrying a child with a number of other agents that came out of that white Suburban and did go inside some type of -- we don't know if it's a housing barrack or -- Did you get word, possibly, on where they would be going or staying and spending some time together?

DAVIS: All right, no word here, since we're being kept outside of Andrews Air Force Base. But it would make sense. There are Air Force personnel stationed here at this base, there's housing here. As I was saying, they can control the situation here, they can control access to Elian Gonzalez and his father. They can be giving time just to be alone, to get reacquainted. It's been four and a half months at least since they've seen one another, when Elian was picked up out in the Florida Straits by fishermen. His mother was killed.

So it's been at least that amount of time that he's seen his father, perhaps more time. Some time here now for them to spend alone, getting reacquainted, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK, Patty, thank you.

And, of course, Janet Reno has been talking about how important it is to make the point that this case is about the bond between father and son, that everyone needs to sort of refocus their efforts and concentrate on this reuniting between father and son, and that Elian needs to be cherished. Janet Reno had said that earlier on today. And that they need some quiet time, and just a chance to get to know each other again -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. We're going to be taking a break. Let's take one more look at what appears to be home away from home for Elian Gonzalez and Juan Miguel Gonzalez for quite some time to come, at least as the appeal process continues its course. And we will continue the course of our coverage after a brief break.

Stay with us.



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