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

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on Interstate 405, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Bothell, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans Tuesday to try to decrease congestion on I-405 in answer to commuter complaints that the new express lane tolling system is making traffic worse. The governor said he would not be shutting down the tolling system as some people have called for. But the state transportation department is making plans to add new northbound general purpose lanes to ease some of the congestion and also plan to make it easier to move into and out of the express lanes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
After a 2-year trial, are I-405’s toll lanes here to stay?

Lawmakers will decide whether to keep them or end the experiment and try something else.

Weary drivers using toll lanes say they have little choice

Congestion continues to be a tedious reality for commuters on I-405, which is as clogged as ever.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Terrace woman held following collision in Everett

The three occupants in vehicle were transported to a local hospital in serious condition.

Information sought on drive-by shooting in Everett

Debris from an apparent crash, evidence of gunfire found in the 2800 block of California Street.

Crews recover body of man who fell over Wallace Falls

The area where the man fell is called Sky Valley Lookout, 2.4 miles from the parking lot.

Herald photos of the week

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

This week’s Herald Super Kid is Nathan Nicholson of Snohomish High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
‘The future is biotech,’ but for now he’s busy with everything

Snohomish senior Nathan Nicholson is a student leader and media master.

Most Read