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INS commander has 'no regrets' over Miami raid

INS Operations Commander Goldman planned and led the raid to seize Elian from his Miami relatives' home on April 22  

April 29, 2000
Web posted at: 1:22 a.m. EDT (0522 GMT)

MIAMI (CNN) -- This week Jim Goldman is preparing for congressional hearings on the INS raid that took custody of Elian Gonzalez. But last week, this 22-year veteran with the Immigration and Naturalization Service was drawing up the plans to take Elian and return him to his father.

In an interview with CNN's Susan Candiotti, Goldman shared his insight into the raid, his thoughts about the small Cuban boy who has captured a nation's attention, and his response to the Miami relatives' claims of unnecessary force.

In an Easter Sunday interview, Marisleysis Gonzalez had been quick to complain about the federal raid. Describing what she heard, Marisleysis said, "You hear banging all over the door, you don't know who it is, we didn't know who it was. God forbid, we thought it was the Cuban government coming inside my house."

VideoCNN's Susan Candiotti speaks with INS Operations Commander Jim Goldman about the Elian raid.
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But in his interview with CNN, Goldman, the raid commander, was adamant that he gave appropriate requests to enter the house. "I gave commands in English and Spanish," he recalled while watching a videotape of the raid. "I said open the door, we're United States immigration officers. We have a federal search warrant."

While a family spokesman insists no one heard the agents identify themselves before they barged in, cameras recorded about 20 seconds from the time agents approached the door to when they used a battering ram to force their way inside.

As he watched the video of the raid, Goldman provided a play-by-play: "This is us fighting through some of the crowd, propelling people back just to try to get me to the door."

'We did the right thing,' says Goldman, who adds 'I have no regrets whatsoever'  

Then, on the video, the agents enter the house.

Marisleysis Gonzalez has said that when they entered the house, agents "... told me, give me the boy, give the boy or I'm going to shoot and they said a bad word, give me the ... boy."

"I know of no instances where any agents used foul language," Goldman said, adding, "I know of no situation where any guns were pointed at anybody's head."

Goldman, wearing a baseball cap, is easy to see in the video. He brushes past an onlooker and hustles with his team to the front door. By then, a family friend has grabbed Elian and run to a bedroom closet with the 6-year-old.

"They finally found the room Elian was in," Goldman said while watching the video. "They signaled on the radio 'bingo, bingo, bingo,' which was the code word Elian was found."

On the video the agents outside the house can be heard yelling the word "bingo." As the signal spreads some agents seem to reposition around the van the boy will be brought to.

Then Goldman watched the now-familiar image of the female INS agent carrying Elian out of the house in his underwear, rushing him to the van.

"That looks like a terrifying moment, does it not?" Goldman was asked.

"I think that the whole event could be perceived as, or be defined as, being terrifying, to a certain extent," he replied. But, "nobody was hurt, no one was shot. That has to be taken into consideration.

"We did everything possible to minimize any kind of emotional or psychological trauma."

Goldman recalls the flight to Andrews Air Force Base and the reunion with the boy's father.

He recalls Elian, his chin resting on his hands, staring out a window. "He is a precious child, there's just no doubt about it."

"He just looked so relaxed and so calm, it's just something I ... have been thinking about since that day."

And the man who planned the Elian raid has no regrets.

"I have no regrets whatsoever. We did the right thing, and my agency -- and the agencies that cooperated with us -- feel good about it."


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