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Special Event

El Paso County, Colorado Sheriff Holds News Conference on Capture of Final Two Texas Fugitives

Aired January 24, 2001 - 2:11 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live quickly to El Paso County. The Sheriff's Department is holding a briefing about the Texas fugitives in Colorado.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN ANDERSON, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF: ... with temporary license plates. What did we see on the license plates yesterday at the Hungry Farmer, for those who were there? It wasn't temporary plates. They switched those plates. Why do you suppose they left it there? My speculation, since you're allowing me the opportunity to do that, is they were afraid. They were afraid to go to a gas station and pump gas in that van. They were afraid to go anywhere. My belief is that they saw this as no options. There was no where for them to run and no place for them to hide.

I also think that Special Agent Mark Mershon did an exceptional job in coordinating a lot of the message, knowing full well that the most two important people in the country that are going to listen to that is the suspects. When he spoke with reality and the truth that if these guys think they're going to go to Mexico and, you know, disappear into that country, what a stupid belief, that they're going to be standing -- not only are the borders intensified, but there's nowhere for these people to hide. Their options were absolutely, in my belief, zero. And that's why I think we saw them cooperate to the extent that they didn't want to take any other option.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) timeline last night? I mean, you get us to they might be in the Holiday Inn. Can you kind of lead us through how you went through that tip, confirming that it was indeed them?

ANDERSON: That is important to do, but it's not my role to do that. Again, I want to emphasize that the lead federal agency was a cooperative effort with the FBI, with the U.S. Marshals Office. I was not present last night. I was present in Teller County. We were in a support capacity with our SWAT units. But the Colorado Springs Police Department and the federal authorities are the once who brought that to an exceptional conclusion -- the hostage rescue people. We only -- to be honest, we only had one detective, a fugitive detective, that was involved in that operation last night. So, again, I think that was not our event to step forward. And I can't speak for those other agencies except to commend that successful partnership.

We had a question going this direction. Yes.

QUESTION: Was there any concern at any point that the use of the media, the role of the media may have backfired last night, that the fact they saw -- they were watching it on television, that may have felt more desperate, that they may have used that opportunity on live television to make not only a statement but perhaps act in a violent way. You said these were not gentleman were...

ANDERSON: They were not.

QUESTION: ... (OFF-MIKE) any type of religious conversion. Why do you think they behaved the way they did? And how do you defend your office as well as other agencies that took that risk last night and put these gentlemen on television?

ANDERSON: I don't know that it was a risk. If it was, it was calculated. I think it was, what do we have to lose? I think if anyone were to speculate if it was a risk, is it a risk that we could trust the media? Well, quite frankly, if we in law enforcement can't trust the media, how in the world are you going to trust us? This, I think, was an effort for us to say, let's try to bring this together collectively in a partnership to a successful conclusion. And once containment was established, I think it was a very responsible and, frankly, courageous thing to do, for the media to step forward and say, this is the best we can do. We can at least offer this opportunity and step forward there.

So I'm not critical. Actually, I'm very thankful and very appreciative in respect to that process.

QUESTION: Can I take you back on that, though, because there is some criticism that you gave those guys who are being called "slime balls" by probably some of the prison officials inside, five minutes of fame that they probably didn't deserve.

ANDERSON: Well, I watched that many times, as many of you probably did as well. Again, that was a very one-sided statement that we let go with raw footage, unrehearsed. This was two statements that we allowed to go unscripted for one reason, frankly. The one reason was to meet that demand so that we can get to the next step, which was a successful, peaceful surrender without bloodshed from them or from us, or from some innocent bystander. We would have crawled through broken glass to allow that to happen. So that was a responsible thing, for the decision to be done in that fashion, in my opinion, since you are asking me.

We have a follow-up question. Let me ask one of somebody who has not gone yet.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Sheriff, why did the two separate from the group (OFF- MIKE)?

ANDERSON: I do not have first-hand information on that so I will not speculate.

Sir.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll take one more question.

ANDERSON: Let's get one over here.

QUESTION: There's some conflict now about exactly how many guns there were in total. Do you have that figure?

ANDERSON: I do not. I think that's a responsible figure for people to know. We will try to work with the ATF, who I believe is tracking each of the guns and the numbers. And, in fact, I'll direct my staff to try to make this for you the best opportunity we can for this media conference that we'll do...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 3:15.

ANDERSON: ... at 3:15.

Are we going to do it here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we'd probably prefer to do it inside, actually.

ANDERSON: We will -- we'll just make a command decision. The next press conference at 3:15 will be right across the street.

ALLEN: That's the sheriff from Colorado Springs County expressing his thanks to the public and to the media for helping bring in these dangerous fugitives from Texas. All of them are in custody, the last two arrested this morning early in Colorado Springs after police surrounded their hotel. Police figured out they were at that hotel because of yet another tip from a citizen, a hotel worker who thought the man looked suspicious.

So that's the latest on that story.

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