Bystanders decry force in Elian raid
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 11:54 p.m.
MIAMI - A trial opened Monday in a $3 million-plus lawsuit by 13 people who say they were injured or traumatized when federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives' home.
The opening witness was neighbor Maria Riera, who testified that she clutched her chest and thought she was dying when an agent doused her with tear gas during the April 22, 2000, raid to reunite the 6-year-old boy with his father in Cuba.
The 13 neighbors and protesters are seeking up to $250,000 each, claiming that agents used excessive force during the armed raid, leaving them injured and emotionally distraught.
"I was stopped by a gentleman on my left approaching me with a shotgun," said Riera, who lived across the street from the home where the boy had lived since shortly after he was rescued from a shipwreck on Thanksgiving Day 1999.
A total of 108 people sued over the raid. However, U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore limited the case to people who were not on the Gonzalez family property and were beyond police barricades.
Elian, now 11, was one of three survivors of a November 1999 shipwreck that killed his mother.
The Easter weekend raid took place after Elian's family in Florida refused to return the boy so he could be taken back to Cuba.
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