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Police Confirm Phone in Mail Truck

Aired January 31, 2003 - 15:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's now been 3 1/2 hours since the situation in Miami first began unfolding.
We're talking about a situation that began with a carjacking of a U.S. Postal Service vehicle, led to a low-speed chases, led to the tires being punctured by authorities using a special device that does just that, led to the vehicle being stopped in this intersection, led to authorities encircling it, heavily armed SWAT teams members, negotiating teams on the scene, a robot which brought a cell phone, inside, we're told, the female Postal Service employee, and at least, we're told, one gunman who is holding everyone at bay at the moment. There may have been an accomplice involved in all this.

And, as we get to that point, let's bring in Liv Davalos, who is with WFOR Radio in Miami. She's on the scene.

Liv, what can you tell us from the scene?

LIV DAVALOS, WFOR REPORTER: Well, we are at the scene right now, where this standoff has continued for several hours.

We joined the whole situation at about noon this afternoon when we heard about the chase, the slow-speed chase. As we got to the area, the postal truck pulled right in front of us and we got a bird's-eye view of the postal worker with a very frightened look on her face driving very calmly and very slowly, turned right in front of us.

And right next to her, crouched next to her, wearing a hat and it appeared a black T-shirt, we saw the suspect holding a gun next to her head. As they made this turn, very slowly, we were able to get a very clear shot of this. And she seemed very calm. And she kept driving. And we followed the whole caravan, basically, of police officers lining streets, turning corners.

And, finally, we're here at this situation at 183rd Street and 27th Avenue, where the standoff continues with SWAT teams. A robotic machine just delivered a cell phone, we understand, to the suspect. And the negotiations continue.

O'BRIEN: Liv, I'm interested in that encounter you had. First of all, can you tell us, was it a handgun?

DAVALOS: It appeared to be a handgun. It was kind of a shadowy kind of a sight that I saw. I could see that it looked like a handgun, like a revolver, that he was holding up next to her.

And they turned right in front of us slowly, slow enough so that we could get a look at it, but not a very long look at it.

O'BRIEN: Did you have the sense that he was saying anything at the time? Was he giving her instructions? Was he saying anything to her?

DAVALOS: Yes. Yes.

It appeared that his lips were moving, that he was talking to her saying something. And I understand that, throughout this whole thing, the herky-jerky movements that the driver was making basically is because, throughout the situation, he was telling her which way to turn, to stop, to go.

And, also, we could also comment on right in front of us, after they turned, they stopped. And these pedestrians went right up from the median and started talking to the suspect and the hostage. We don't know what they said, because when we tried to talk to them, they took off. They didn't want to talk with us.

O'BRIEN: Liv, hang in there for one second. I know you've got to take care of your employer as well. But if you could hang with us for just a moment, I've got Mike Brooks here, who has been watching this.

Mike, I don't know if you have anything specifically for Liv, but that point to be made here that he was sort of barking out instructions to this poor, frightened postal worker, can we read much into that about his disposition, his state of mind, or are we getting too far out on a limb here?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think we're getting too far out on a limb here. It's really kind of tough to speculate exactly what he was saying, what the relationship between the driver and the hostage-taker is.

Liv, has law enforcement on the scene there told you anything at all about this person, any of his background, anything at all? Are they making any statements?

DAVALOS: No. They are really not commenting on it.

All they say is that, earlier, there are two men, one with a Honda Civic, inside a Honda Civic, and a gentleman that was next to the postal truck. And they have the other man in custody. They're questioning him. But they really haven't released any information on this suspect inside the postal truck.

I did talk to some people from this neighborhood here who say they know of the man who's in the postal truck, because they recognized his mother, who's here at the scene with police, trying to communicate to her son via cell phone.

O'BRIEN: And, Liv, can you tell us anything based on those sources and what the mother might be saying, what they are saying about this person? DAVALOS: Well, what those sources say is that they heard that she was trying to talk him into giving himself up, so that this didn't come to a violent end. Basically, that's what we heard. That, of course, is not confirmed by police.

O'BRIEN: Mike.

BROOKS: Liv, do they believe now, apparently, with another person involved in this, that the motive is robbery and that this is not a domestic or this is maybe a robbery gone bad?

DAVALOS: That's what it appears to be. But police -- we talked to Lieutenant Commander Linda O'Brien, Miami-Dade police. And she said that she didn't want to speculate right now what the motive was.

Again, we talked to some people here on the scene who say they heard, via the street, that he possibly was trying to get some checks from the postal truck. But, again, that is not confirmed by police.

BROOKS: Well, as we see now, it's the 1st of the month. And many Social Security checks do arrive via the Postal Service during the 1st of the month. And there have been robberies like this in the past.

I know other places, in my 26 years with D.C. police, this would happen on a regular basis, sometimes with the postal trucks, postal facility, and also some elderly folks who get their Social Security checks.

O'BRIEN: Potentially, an easy mark. Basically, it's got as many checks as a Brinks truck without the fortification. Interesting point. I think we're starting to piece something together here. Let's see where it leads.

And, by the way, we just want to point out, we made a mistake. It's WFOR Television that Liv works for, Liv Davalos with WFOR Television. And we want to thank WFOR and all the other affiliates, WSVN, WPLG, for all the assistance they've given us as we've been covering this unfolding event.

Down on the ground, not far away from Liv, we trust, is CNN's John Zarrella.

John, what do you have for us?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Miles, we just finished talking with Metro Miami-Dade police spokesman Dennis Morales (ph). And he was able to confirm a couple of things for us.

He confirmed for us that in fact they did deliver a cell phone using that robot to the hostage-taker. So, they have done that. We've also been able to confirm that in fact there were two people apparently involved here. They pulled up next to the mail truck. One man jumped out. He jumped into the mail truck.

The second man, somehow or other, was ultimately caught. He was ultimately caught by the -- we're hearing some news over here from somebody, but we'll get the details on that -- was apparently caught and is being questioned by police.

Who is that? Pardon me?

The father. The father of the man who took the -- well, we don't know. That's what we're being told, Miles. A development over there. We'll try to get the details on that as soon as we can.


O'BRIEN: Yes. Why don't you get some new guys over there? We'll let you go and...

ZARRELLA: And as far as the hostage, Miles, an important point, police are telling us she is OK right now. She's obviously very tired, but is unharmed at this point, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Oh, good way to end this report. All right, John Zarrella, stand by there.

Real quickly, Mike Brooks has a thought here about the nature of this, the fact that this may be a crime that kind of went south.

Good, bad, indifferent from a law enforcement perspective?

BROOKS: From a negotiator's perspective, it's better.

You have your main hostage-taker. You basically have three main types of hostage-takers. You just call it the three C's: criminals, crusaders and crazies, if you will, people will altered mental status. And then you have separate, which is prison takeovers. And that's a whole separate animal of itself.

But a crime gone bad, it's usually a little bit easier to negotiate with someone. Usually, you are talking about someone who is an asocial personality who is a criminal. And they don't want to get hurt. They don't want to hurt anybody. They had committed the crime or attempted to commit the crime and were trying to get away. And this is what happened.

So, I think it's a positive for negotiators. And when I was negotiating myself, I would rather have talked to someone who had -- when it was a crime gone bad, rather than domestic or any other situation like that.

O'BRIEN: Yes. It eliminates that terrible scenario we've heard about: suicide by cop.

BROOKS: Right, victim-precipitated homicide. That doesn't seem like this is playing as this at all.

O'BRIEN: Mike Brooks, we are going to leave it there for minute. You are not going far. I know that.


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