April 22, 2000: Elian Gonzalez seized by SWAT team

On Nov. 25, 1999, Thanksgiving Day, fishermen off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida found a five-year-old boy clinging to an inner tube. His mother and 11 others had drowned while trying to cross into the United States from Cuba.

His name was Elian Gonzalez.

After an overnight hospital stay, he was released into the custody of his uncle and other family members. The Cuban government sent a note on behalf of the boy’s father to the U.S. mission in Havana later that day.

Juan Gonzalez wanted his son back.

For the next five months, a custody battle raged between the boy’s father and his relatives, between Cuba and the U.S., until April 22, 2000, when a SWAT team of federal agents rushed the home of the boy’s Miami relatives with semi-automatic weapons in a predawn raid. He was reunited with his father within hours.

The Herald went to press that morning with a front page that said “SWAT team takes Elian.” Here’s an excerpt from one of the related stories:

“Crying ‘Help me! Help me!’ in both English and Spanish, the frightened 6-year-old was hurried from Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood in a predawn raid, taken by helicopter to a waiting government jet and flown to Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Washington, D. C., where he was turned over to the long-waiting arms of his father, Juan Gonzalez.

The reunion was warm and emotional, said the father’s attorney, Gregory Craig. It followed five months of anxiety and extremely harsh feelings that have consumed the case of the little refugee, whose mother drowned as he was set adrift on an inner tube in the Florida Straits.”

It would take another two months before Gonzalez returned to Cuba with his father.

See The Herald’s April 22, 2000 edition to read more of this story and others in our collection of historic front pages.

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

John Miller, congressman, author activist, has died

He was known for his dedication to the marine industry, energy and human rights.

Church takes a quiet, contemplative approach to worship

Alternative services at First Congregational Church of Maltby offer “a good deal of silence.”

Funds up for council vote would aid conservation district

District stands to receive an extra $1 million each year, if the County Council gives its approval.

Snohomish County hosts its annual Focus on Farming conference

The event features a trade show as well as talks on agriculture, jam-making and more.

Supportive housing for man accused in attacking his mother

Mental state impaired man’s ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions, judge rules.

Lynnwood mayor challenged by councilman in general election

Three City Council members also are facing challengers on the Nov. 7 ballot.

‘Horrific’ child-porn case: Former Arlington man sentenced

Raymond Devore, arrested in 2015, had a cache of disturbing photos and video on his cellphone.

500 tires go up in flames at a store south of Everett

There were no injuries. And it was nowhere near as bad as that months-long tire fire in 1984.

Most Read