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Another Suspect in Custody in Mail Truck Situation

Aired January 31, 2003 - 15:19   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're live from the CNN newsroom.
We're watching that situation in Miami. Not a lot new to report to you, except to tell you that what appears to be an ongoing hostage negotiation continues there in the northern fringes of Dade County. That postal vehicle behind that power pole, the concrete power pole in the foreground, is the focus of just about everybody's attention in Miami right now and a good deal of our attention right now.

Authorities have ringed around it. They are, the SWAT team, well-evidenced, carrying all kind of automatic, semiautomatic weapons and in bullet-proof vests.

It all began about 11:30 in the morning with a low-speed chase through the streets of Miami. Apparently, two people in a Honda Civic approached the vehicle brandishing a weapon. One of the gunmen got into the vehicle, when, somehow, things went bad. The accomplice was arrested. Apparently, this was all witnessed by a law enforcement officer.

That led to the chase. The chase led to police putting out some spike strips that punctured the tires. It ended here. And this is when the negotiation begins. We are told that we just heard from the father, apparently, of one of the suspects, the suspect who is actually inside this vehicle. And we should tell you -- excuse me, the father of the female postal worker. It's very important to point that out. That's a big difference. We're talking about a female postal worker who is inside here who is held captive at the moment.

Let's listen to what her father had to say just a few moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You better take him out if he has my daughter! If he hurts my daughter, you better take him out!



O'BRIEN: Obviously a very emotional scene there.

Look at this still picture. This was captured at some point during the low-speed chase. And you can see the postal worker there driving the vehicle. As you know, the postal vehicle, the steering wheel on the right-hand side there, looking through the passenger area or the area without the seat. And then there's a shadow behind her. I can't really make out what that is.

We're told by witnesses who saw this low-speed chase as it unfolded, including a minister who was able to get a cell phone to her when she asked for it, implored him of it, that she seemed certainly frightened and yet also composed and was able to respond to the instructions of the gunman who was behind her. The reverend, who talked to us and gave us a sense, Reverend Marc Cooper, described him as dark-skinned, bald, shaven, wearing a skull cap, about 5 feet, 10 inches, 5 feet, 11 inches, or thereabouts.

And another witness, who is actually a reporter, Liv Davalos with WFOR-TV, gave us some indication that he was barking out a series of instructions to her, perhaps directions, perhaps, who knows what.

Mike Brooks has been watching this with me. And we were able to piece together a little scenario here where this might have began as a foiled robbery attempt on a postal vehicle.

And one of the things that police would be looking at is the time of month that this is. And when those checks come out, right, Mike?


What we were hearing from Liv, from one of our affiliates there in Miami, was that there was another subject in custody where this all started. And it seems that this is the other person who attempted to get away -- and, apparently, carjacked this postal vehicle after maybe trying to rob it.

As we know, this is the 1st of the month, Social Security checks being delivered being delivered for tomorrow. This has happened before. In my 26 years as cop in D.C., we used to see things like this happen, older folks being prey to robberies on the 1st of the month. But this, again, is a little bit easier to deal with than, let's say, someone who took someone for other reasons, such as if there were a political motive to this.

So, I think it looks the motive was robbery here, from what we're hearing. We're going to try to also find out if there's any connection. We're hearing about an incident in Fort Myers, Florida. So, we're trying to check into that right now, too, Miles.

Liv also talked about the mother of the hostage-taker, of this guy being brought to the scene. Now, normally, negotiators don't like to bring in third-party intermediaries. But when it comes to negotiations...

O'BRIEN: Mike, as you say that, that third-party intermediary, I'm gathering that this might be a third party here that the authorities talking to. You see people in bullet-proof vests. They're all talking to this person in the lighter shirt -- just pointing that out.

BROOKS: There's a possibility.

But third-party intermediaries are brought there sometimes to talk to, to try to find out more about the mental state, to try to find out more about the person who is holding this woman in the postal truck.

O'BRIEN: Oh, it's another -- it's some sort of postal worker.

BROOKS: It could be.

But one of the things that -- nothing is in concrete anymore when it comes to hostage negotiation in tactical situations like this. And one of the things we always say is, never say never. It used to be, we never negotiate for certain things. We never bring in a third party. But that's not true anymore. And sometimes, if we have to, we will.

O'BRIEN: What exactly are we seeing?

Control room, can you help us out? Who are we seeing here?

It is the victim. I'm very sorry.

BROOKS: Yes. That's what it looks like.

O'BRIEN: We have missed the obvious story here. We have the victim walking, talking to police, safe and sound. And I missed what happened.

Mike, did you see what happened?

BROOKS: No, I didn't see what happened.

O'BRIEN: Oh, we're going to try to get the tape back and give you a sense of what happened that caused this.

BROOKS: But I can tell you, the person with her right now is most likely a negotiator. He's going to talk to her, find out exactly how all this happened, find out a little bit more about the person. And this is a great sign, Miles. This is...

O'BRIEN: Well, this changes the dynamic. It's like night and day.

BROOKS: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: We have confirmed this is, in fact, the female postal worker. And she's safe and sound and walking away and telling authorities what she knows. And it turns from a hostage standoff into an entirely different scenario.

Mike Brooks, how does the tactics, how does the strategy change?

BROOKS: Well, now, one of the other important times during a situation like this is a negotiated surrender.

So, now that we have the woman out, the victim out, I feel really good that this is going to end in a very good way. But it's a very, very, very touchy situation now. The person is by himself. And, again, police want to get the perpetrator. They want to get him out of the vehicle as much as they wanted to get her out of the vehicle. They want this to end safely.

And they are going to do everything within their power to have a negotiated surrender and to have him come out of there and everyone walk away unharmed. And that's the goal of what they're doing right now. And this, again, sometimes can be one of the most dangerous times. Sometimes...

O'BRIEN: Really?

BROOKS: Yes, you can be talking, develop a rapport, and then something happens and the person says, no, I'm not coming out. And then you're back at square one.

But it sounds like the negotiators here have done a fine job. They're a extremely professional team there in Miami-Dade. And I'm glad to see that we did get the victim out. Now we want to make sure that the perpetrator is brought out unharmed also.

O'BRIEN: Score one for the good guys on this one.

Is it likely, Mike, that her release was part of a negotiated settlement that might be in work? Like I say, I missed the actual moment when she left the vehicle. Don't know whether she bolted or whether she left with the knowledge of the gunman.

BROOKS: Well, most likely, if -- most likely -- I'm, again, speculating here as a former negotiator. But most likely, it was negotiated for her to come out.

It didn't look like there was any -- a lot of activity around the vehicle, because it happened so quickly. And we missed the shot. We were not on a wide shot at the time. But she seems very calm. The negotiators seem very calm. The tactical team, as you see, they are still in place. Negotiations continue. And I think it will turn out extremely well.

But one of the things right now is very important. And what law enforcement is doing right now, they're trying to get him to come out. When he does decide to come out of the vehicle, they will give him specific instructions. They'll tell him exactly what he'll see, how many officers will be approaching the truck, exactly what they want him to do. And it will be spelled out point by point.

O'BRIEN: All right, Mike, we're going to some tape right now. And let's -- I didn't see her actually leave the vehicle. I see her there walking. She's in the lower part of that -- right down in that area there. You see that.

If we can get the telestrator up, it will help people, because I give them a sense of where to look. She's right there, if you can see that on the air. I don't know if you can see that. You can't see that on the air. Well, it's a good thought, anyhow.

But, in any case, if we could back up the tape up just a little more, I think we might be able to see a little more for you and give you some sense of what happened.

But these things can happen quite instantly, can't they?

BROOKS: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: So, backing up to your point, before I interrupted you -- and we're back with live pictures now. And, clearly, they have a whole 'nother level and layer of intelligence. And that is to say the information from the postal worker.

Oh, here's some tape now. Once again, that tape picks it up a little bit late, though. Here. You can see her right there. But we don't see how she got out of the vehicle. So, let's try to get the tape on that shows her actually leaving the postal vehicle. We'll try to get that to you in just a little bit.

Now, where I was before was, they obviously have a whole new level of information and intelligence on this person's disposition. What's the series of question she's being asked right at the moment?

BROOKS: She's being asked exactly, in the beginning, what did he say? How did this start? All of the different elements when the -- when the incident happened initially. And how did he treat her? What exactly did he say to her before they were able to get a phone in there?

Trying to get into his -- see what his mental state is and see -- find out a little bit more about him. As negotiations go along, a lot of times, it's not always: We'll give you this if you give us that. It's not that. They want to try to find out about this person. They want to try to find out who he is, where he's from, what are his likes, what are his dislikes.

And, again, time is on their side. There's no rush now. This person is still in the truck. They're not in a big hurry. It's not like: OK, we got her out. Now we're going to have to try to get you out. It's not like that. They slow it down, go back, talk to him some more, and make sure that they do have a peaceful and successful negotiated surrender.


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