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Local Tactical Expert Sheds Light on Controversial Raid

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CARY — The House Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation into Saturday's controversial raid to get Elian Gonzalez back to his father.

Many Triangle police departments have tactical units that train for these types of missions. A local commander explains what the federal agents storming the house might have been feeling.

"Everybody there was scared at least to some point. And I guarantee a six-year-old child was scared," says Sgt. Tony Godwin.

Godwin was not part of Saturday's pre-dawn raid in Miami, but as commander of Cary'sEmergency Response Team, he is well-trained in tactical operations.

"I would be a little bit more nervous going into a situation like this than going into a drug house because of all the emotions involved," says Godwin.

He says no matter the appearance of the situation, officers need to be armed because they do not know what to expect inside. Godwin contends the body armor and the swift action are also crucial to the ultimate objective -- in this case, getting Elian Gonzalez out of the house unharmed.

"To be perfectly honest, it is designed somewhat to be an intimidation factor. That's just part of it," says Godwin.

"It's kind of a fine line you walk. You try to do it and you try not to get too aggressive and try not to cause any injury to anybody. But, at the same time, you've got a whole lot of other things to think about, and you've got to get it done as quick as you can," he says.

Godwin says he cannot imagine the stress the agents felt maneuvering through a gauntlet of protesters and cameras to retrieve Elian.

He understands the controversy, but urges the public to target their opinions at those who call the shots.

"Let's face it. The agents might not have even agreed with having to do it. For all we know, those agents didn't even think they should go in and get Elian. But it's something they had to do," he says.

While White House spokesmen continue to defend Saturday's raid, they say Attorney General Janet Reno will cooperate fully with the congressional investigation.

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