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Mail Truck Hostage Released; Interview with Mayor Alex Pelenas

Aired January 31, 2003 - 15:32   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're back now with our coverage, which has taken yet another turn, and a turn, we should say, for the better. It is confirmed now that the female postal worker who was the victim of this carjacking, and who had to take this gunman on a wild ride through the streets of Miami, ultimately leading to the scene we see right now. We find isolated the actual moment of her release. There you see it, right-hand door opens, out she comes, right-hand door shuts.
I am going to guess, Mike Brooks, looking at the way that unfolded that -- well, it's hard to say. Did she bolt or was that part of a negotiation?

BROOKS: Again, purely speculation. But from my experience, I would say that it was probably part of the negotiation.

O'BRIEN: OK. So some deal, we're going to take care of you, but you've got to release the hostage. That kind of thing.

BROOKS: And again, I think that's a great sign. That's a fantastic sign. But there are times that a hostage like this woman, if she gets a chance to bolt, she's going to go ahead and bolt. But it seems like that in this particular case, that most likely it was negotiated that she would come out of the truck.

O'BRIEN: OK. Let's get the mayor on the line. Mayor of Miami- Dade, Alex Pelenas. Mr. Mayor, good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: All right. Tell us what you know from where you sit.

PENELAS: Well obviously what I know is that there has been extreme negotiations taking place between our negotiators and the hijacker. It is most likely that the postal worker was freed as a result of those negotiations. But, of course, we have not finished the job. Two out of our three objectives have now been obviously accomplished. The third one being getting the suspect out of the situation, hopefully unarmed as well.

Obviously, the chase scenario was our first priority, which, you know, my hat goes off to this lady who must have been under just incredible pressure. Fear for her life and taking instructions from what was probably a deranged individual. And she just did a miraculous job of maneuvering that mail truck throughout the traffic there in north Miami-Dade County, didn't hurt one individual, didn't crash into anything, which is really incredible. The second objective, of course, was to get her out unharmed, which has now occurred. So the negotiations continue to take place. There's really no time pressure on the police now. They basically have as much time as they need to make sure we defuse the total situation and no one is harmed.

O'BRIEN: So we're going to show the release one more time. As you look in the upper part of the screen, there she is as she walks out. With some haste, but as the mayor just pointed out, as Mike Brooks pointed out, we feel that this is all part of the ongoing negotiations.

Mr. Mayor, you're in close contact with the authorities there. You say that time is on your side. Is there anything that would prompt anyone there to take any action right now? Are you just going wait it out?

PENELAS: I think at this point, you wait it out. Again, if this had different phases while the postal worker was in the truck, what would have required us to move quickly was if we felt that her life was imminently at danger. In other words, that this man was going to immediately do something to harm her, we would have taken quick action.

Right now there's really no reason to do anything of the sort. Some people have been complaining about traffic situation. That, quite frankly, with all due respect, that's really a minor factor at this point. And it was certainly a very minor factor while she was still inside the truck.

So at this point, it's really just a matter of continuing the negotiations, figuring out what's inside this person's head, why is he upset, how can we help him walk through this situation. You certainly don't want him to walk out of that truck firing his gun and having this thing ending tragically.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this, Mr. Mayor. Have you had any opportunity to learn a little about this suspect and the situation that led to this carjacking?

PENELAS: We actually do know a lot more about him at this time. And that's information that will be coming out, I'm sure, in the next few hours.

O'BRIEN: Is there anything you can share with us right now, just to give us a sense?

PENELAS: Well we know more about his background now, we know more about what took place at 11:00 this morning when there was a robbery situation.

O'BRIEN: The robbery at Fort Myers?

PENELAS: No. I'm talking about a robbery scenario this morning that led to the hijacking situations. Obviously, his criminal background has also been investigated, but... O'BRIEN: So there is a criminal background?

PENELAS: It has been investigated, and we, of course, at this point, there's not a whole lot more we want to say until the suspect is taken out of that truck.

O'BRIEN: And was the mail truck the target of the robbery or was it some way of getting out of a scene where some other target was intended by the perpetrator?

PENELAS: You know, we're not totally clear. It could potentially actually be both. You know both may be correct. We think, though, that the mail truck was the subject or the target of that crime; whether there was another target, we're not totally sure of yet.

O'BRIEN: All right. Mayor Alex, Penelas, thank you very much on a very busy day for joining us. The mayor of Miami-Dade, we appreciate you being with us. And we should underscore the point that all today we've been helped out by our affiliates, WSDEN (ph), WPLG (ph) and WFOR. And in particular, we want to underscore thanks to WFOR for providing us the picture of the day, which is this shot that you see right here.

The door opens. She walks away, and lives to tell the story. Of course, the story isn't completely over yet. We're watching it. Stay with us.



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