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Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg Reviews Seizure of Elian Gonzalez

Aired April 22, 2000 - 1:44 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Within the hour, these pictures released by the United States government, pictures taken by marshals, U.S. marshals, at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. Six-year- old Elian Gonzalez reunited after almost five months with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. The two -- this is a scene, we assume, that was the case just a few hours ago. And it was taken, this picture was taken, several hours after young Elian was forcibly removed from the home in Miami where he had spent the last few months with his relatives, Gonzalez relatives, in Miami.

Also in the picture you can see, if we widen out, young Elian's stepmother Nursi (ph) and his half-brother Jianni (ph). Nursi is the second wife of Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and their child, the child between the two of them, is young Jianni, and he is the half-brother of Elian. Here's another picture of Elian with his half-brother.

These -- we're told that the reunion between father and son was -- at least after a few moments -- was -- there were smiles, there was rejoicing, there was embracing, and overall a mood of celebration, very different from the scene that we saw and was described a few hours earlier, when the young boy was forcibly removed from the home in Miami.

And more on that -- Gene.

GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: For some insights into what happened this morning in little Miami and how it happened, we turn to Matthew Fogg. He is chief inspector and a deputy U.S. marshal and has taken part in government operations at Ruby Ridge and during the Los Angeles riots.

Mr. Chief Inspector, should people be at all alarmed or concerned that weapons were used in this morning's seizure of the boy.

MATTHEW FOGG, DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL: No, I don't think they should be alarmed. I mean, I think people have to understand, whenever law enforcement comes into position of this nature, weapons are part of law enforcement. So certainly we would have weapons if we would go into a situation like this.

RANDALL: The Justice Department says there was intelligence that there might have been weapons inside the house. In that situation, was there any alternative to a show of arms? FOGG: No, absolutely not. The officers' safety as well as the safety of the civilians in that house are very important. And officers are trained and know how to use those weapons. So certainly the weapon would be with that officer.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Fogg, if that's the case, if you look at this picture here of one of the marshals -- or the picture we were showing a moment ago with the officer -- here it is again -- with the large gun -- I don't know what gun it is, maybe you can tells us what weapon that is?

FOGG: Yes, that looks like an MP-5 automatic weapon.

WOODRUFF: Why would he be holding it in that position at that point?

FOGG: Well, it's certainly very difficult to say. I was not a part of this operation, so I could not begin to tell you, but certainly the officers -- I'm sure they were briefed on how to tactically approach this situation. It was a tactical operation. I'm sure things were moving pretty fast, so I cannot tell you why the officer had the weapon at that position. But certainly, I'm sure they had the -- they were able to do the job without any shots fired, so that's the main thing.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Fogg, we want to tell our audience, you're chief inspector deputy U.S. marshal. You have experience with these types of operations, although we all recognize this was a unique situation.

What goes into a situation, a preparation for a movement like this one?

FOGG: Well, basically they would have briefings on top of briefings. In a situation like this, they knew ahead of time that this was something that possibly they would have to do. So certainly -- and these officers are well trained. I mean, I've trained at federal law fellow enforcement training center in Glenco (ph). Georgia, other locations. These officers were well equipped, well trained to do this job.

RANDALL: Do you think this took some special training, given the circumstances that surrounded this operation in Miami?

FOGG: I don't think so, not really. I mean, I think certainly to understand the perimeter and know exactly the position that you're going to go in, I think they may have certainly had briefings on that. But not anything really out the way. This operation went very smoothly. It was within three minutes they were in and out.

RANDALL: Put us in the minds of the agents who took part in this operation. What is it you have to be prepared for? What's the worst- case scenario?

FOGG: Well the worst-case scenario would be shots fired, an officer down, someone being shot or rounds being transferred. In this case, it wasn't, but you have to be always cognizant that that might take place. So the officers came in, they set up a perimeter with the local P.D., cordoned off the area, go in and do what you have to do and then come out.

WOODRUFF: How do describe the mission, Mr. Fogg, of the officers? How did they -- what do they believe and know their mission to be when they go in in a situation like this?

FOGG: Well, they believed their mission was to go in and get Elian and bring him out, certainly. I mean, that's exactly what happened here. So from that standpoint, they went in. As I said, it was -- normally these type of operations take a lot longer, but in this situation they went in, it was smooth.

WOODRUFF: We were told that there was a female agent who was involved in physically at least bringing the boy out of the house. We don't know if she was the first to hold him inside the house. Do you have that information?

FOGG: No, I don't have any information on it?

WOODRUFF: What would that be? What would that involve? If you're dealing with a minor in a situation like this, the agent would have -- we know that she was Spanish speaking -- is Spanish speaking.

FOGG: Right.

WOODRUFF: She would have been briefed ahead of time as to what to say to reassure...

FOGG: Yes.

WOODRUFF: ... the child?

FOGG: I would think so. But once again, things went so fast and so smoothly that once they were in, they went right in, grabbed the little boy and came right on out of the house. So I don't know if there was a lot of dialogue in that process.

WOODRUFF: I believe...

RANDALL: When you have a...

WOODRUFF: I just want to say, Gene...

RANDALL: Go ahead.

WOODRUFF: ... this, I believe, this picture we're showing right now is of the female agent holding Elian. And then, of course, they're surrounded by other agents. The child is obviously frightened at best at this point.

RANDALL: Would there be a new level of preparation necessary because there was such a young child involved?

FOGG: Well, I don't -- I don't think so. I mean, I think just the preparation of going in. The main thing that I think the officers were concerned about was who would try to resist and stop them from going in. Once that perimeter was broken, then it was simply just go in, take the child, and say we're going to execute this court order and continue right on moving all in one process.

WOODRUFF: Who -- the agents that were involved, Mr. Fogg, represented what government agencies?

FOGG: Well -- from -- and I -- once again, I can only go on the pictures that I've observed, but it looked like INS U.S. Border Patrol agents.

RANDALL: If you were part of today's operation in little Miami this morning, would you have completed that and then said to yourself and to your colleagues, job well done?

FOGG: Certainly. Certainly I would have. When you go on an operation of this type of nature and it only takes three minutes, you go in, no shots fired and you're out, it's a great job.

RANDALL: Mr. Fogg, thank you very much. Thanks for the insights.

FOGG: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, we appreciate it.

RANDALL: And we will be back in just a moment.



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