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'Please don't let me go,' Cleveland kidnap victim told officers

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
May 19, 2013 -- Updated 1537 GMT (2337 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The first officers to arrive at the house speak about the emotional rescue
  • "It took everything to hold myself together," one officer says
  • Cleveland police release interview with the officers involved in the rescue

(CNN) -- When officers arrived at Ariel Castro's home in Cleveland, a crowd had formed on the porch.

But where was the woman they came for? Where was Amanda Berry?

Then she stepped forward, holding a crying child. It was really her, the missing girl they had searched for for 10 years.

First responders honored in ceremony
Deborah Knight, the grandmother of kidnapping victim Michelle Knight, participates in a community balloon-release service in Michelle's honor on Thursday, May 9, in Cleveland. Four females were found in a home on Seymour Avenue in the Clark Fulton neighborhood on Monday. Since then, the neighborhood and the nation have wondered how they were held captive without anyone noticing sooner. Deborah Knight, the grandmother of kidnapping victim Michelle Knight, participates in a community balloon-release service in Michelle's honor on Thursday, May 9, in Cleveland. Four females were found in a home on Seymour Avenue in the Clark Fulton neighborhood on Monday. Since then, the neighborhood and the nation have wondered how they were held captive without anyone noticing sooner.
The Clark Fulton neighborhood
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The Clark Fulton neighborhood The Clark Fulton neighborhood
John Douglas on the mind of a criminal
Amanda Berry speaks in a video released on YouTube on Monday, July 8, thanking people for support and privacy. Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped from a Cleveland home on May 6 after being held captive for nearly a decade. Amanda Berry speaks in a video released on YouTube on Monday, July 8, thanking people for support and privacy. Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped from a Cleveland home on May 6 after being held captive for nearly a decade.
Kidnapped teens found decade later
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Photos: Kidnapped teens rescued Photos: Kidnapped teens rescued

It is Amanda Berry, Officer Michael Tracy said.

"Just the emotion at that point of my partner confirming that it was Amanda ... It was overwhelming," Officer Anthony Espada recalled.

Source: Michelle Knight was Cleveland suspect's main 'punching bag'

Cleveland police this week released the emotional video interviews of officers Espada, Tracy and Barbara Johnson, who helped in the May 6 rescue of the three women from Castro's home.

The 11-minute video, which is posted on YouTube, provides the most graphic detail to date of the harrowing rescue. It's also a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at the raw emotions of officers involved in the ordeal.

Once they had Berry, they wondered who else was in Castro's home.

Was the suspect in there? They asked Amanda, as the child continued to wail.

"She says yes, Gina DeJesus and another girl," Espada said. "It was like another bombshell with overwhelming force hit me. We immediately started running toward the house."

When they entered the home, it almost seemed peaceful, Espada recalled.

As if nobody else was there. Nobody was in the basement. Nobody was downstairs.

How the abductions happened

And then they heard the sound of scurrying feet upstairs.

"It was Michelle (Knight). She kind of popped out into the doorway," Espada said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"She came charging. She was like. 'You saved us. You saved us.' And I am holding on to her so tight. And within a few seconds, I see another girl come out of the bedroom."

He immediately recognized the girl, Espada said, probably from missing posters that date to 2004. But she looked thinner than he remembered. He asked the girl to say her name.

Gallek: Castro was so secretive
Attorney: Ariel Castro 'is no monster'
Amanda Berry vanished a few blocks from her Cleveland home on April 21, 2003. She was 16. On Monday, May 6, she was found with two other missing women blocks from where she disappeared. Click through to see more miraculous stories of lost children who were found months or even years later. Amanda Berry vanished a few blocks from her Cleveland home on April 21, 2003. She was 16. On Monday, May 6, she was found with two other missing women blocks from where she disappeared. Click through to see more miraculous stories of lost children who were found months or even years later.
Amanda Berry
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She said her name was Georgina DeJesus, he recalled.

"It was very overwhelming," Espada said. "It took everything to hold myself together."

Inside Cleveland's haunted house

One of the women also jumped into Johnson's arms, screaming at the female officer.

"She was saying 'please don't let me go. Please don't let me go,'" Johnson said. "I said, 'Honey don't worry, I am not going to let you go."

Johnson said Espada stared at her with an unreadable expression.

We found them, Espada said.

"I can't even explain the emotions we felt," Johnson said. "It was just unbelievable. It was surreal. The heaviness in the heart just lifted."

Castro, 52, was arrested quickly after that. He is in jail on charges of kidnapping and rape, and is accused of snatching the three women between 2002 to 2004, and holding them ever since.

His attorney has said he plans to plead not guilty.

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