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Captor Releases Hostages and Surrenders to Police

Aired July 4, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: With an ocean view, food stands, arcade games and other amusements, the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California can be a carefree place to head for the Fourth of July celebration. Not this year though, it was the site of a gunfight and a hostage standoff.

CNN's Jim Hill is in Santa Monica.

Jim, tell us what happened?

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, a man who's described as a very hardcore gang suspect is now in custody, charged with 15 counts of kidnap and four counts of attempted murder: all from a shootout and a hostage crisis that unfolded on the Santa Monica Pier: this famous tourist attraction you see behind me in Santa Monica, just west of Los Angeles here along the coast.

Now this began about 1:00 in the morning and ended about five hours later with the suspect, identified as 25-year-old Oswaldo Amezcua, taken into custody, climbing through a window in an arcade and being led away by police. Police say he is a gang member who was wanted, sought on a warrant charging him with three separate killings. He along with a man police described as an accomplice had been confronted on the pier shortly after 1:00 in the morning west coast time.

One suspect, the alleged accomplice, was taken into custody without incident. However, police say Amezcua ran into the arcade and took 15 people hostage. Those people were released little by little in small groups during the morning as negotiators talked with the suspect. Finally, at about 20 minutes to 7:00 west coast time, the last two hostages were released. Negotiators convinced the suspect, Amezcua, to come out, which he did as we reported. He laid on the ground and was taken into custody.

Now this was a very tense situation, not only because he was armed with at least one handgun and had fired at police, wounding three of them, wounding an innocent bystander; none of them seriously by the way, but he was a suspect in three separate killings. And police say he is a known gang member and what they describe as a very hardcore gang member.

All of this, of course, happening early in the morning, the Fourth of July, a day which usually sees crowds of people, throngs of people, really, here at the Santa Monica Pier. But really a dark cloud over it today -- Lou.

WATERS: Any chance those folks will be allowed back around the pier before the day is over?

HILL: Well at this point police had roughly 100 people who were not directly involved in this, but who were on the end of the pier, essentially blocked from leaving by all of this. Those people who spent the night on the end of the pier, waiting for all this to conclude have finally been allowed to go home. Police are continuing to sweep the pier for evidence and so forth.

We're not sure at this point if they're going to have their normally festive amusement park-type activities on this Fourth of July. But I'm sure a lot of people here, including the Chamber of Commerce, certainly hope that's the case.

WATERS: All right, that's the story, CNN's Jim Hill on the Santa Monica Pier.

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