(CLEVELAND) — “Two- Adam- 23,” croaked the police radio, the officer’s voice brimming with emotion. “We found them! We found them!”
Officer Anthony Espada , the first Cleveland Police officer to arrive at 2207 Seymour Ave., the scene of last Monday’s dramatic rescue of three kidnapped women imprisoned as sex slaves for a decade, described discovering the women as “very overwhelming” in the first public account of their discovery by police.
“You saved us! You saved us,” screamed one victim, Michelle Knight, who upon seeing the officer jumped into his arms.
Espada and his partner were the first two officers to arrive at the modest two-story home, showing up just two minutes after Amanda Berry was pried out of the locked door and neighbor Charles Ramsey called 911.
“We pull up, we see a crowd, like on the porch. We see this girl. She’s like raising her hand, holding a child. I’m looking at my partner — ‘Is it her?'” Espada said, wondering if the woman they saw really was Amanda Berry, kidnapped off a Cleveland street when she was 17 in 2003.
“We were pulling up closer and as soon as we pull up, my partner was driving, so she came up to the driver’s side. He looked up at me and he’s like, ‘It is her.’ Just the emotion from that point that he confirmed it was Amanda was overwhelming,” Espada said in an official account of the rescue released by the Cleveland Division of Police.
All three women — Berry, Knight and Gina DeJesus — were independently abducted within miles from each other in Cleveland between 2002 and 2004. The home’s owner Ariel Castro has been charged with their kidnapping and rape and more charges are expected.
Berry delivered a now 6-year-old child while in captivity, who was also freed in their escape.
Berry alerted the officers that the other two women were in the house.
“It was like another bombshell with overwhelming force just hit me. I believe I broadcasted, ‘Gina might still be in the house,'” Espada said.
Espada described the home, later nicknamed the “house of horrors,” as “quiet” and “peaceful” as he entered the building.
As he went up stairs he heard a noise and within seconds he saw Knight, the first woman abducted in 2002 and perhaps the most severely abused.
Knight later told investigators that through forced sex with Castro she had become pregnant “at least” five times. In each instance he caused her to have abortions by starving her for a couple weeks and then punching her in the stomach, according to a police report. Castro also threatened Knight with death if the baby Berry delivered in a plastic kiddie pool died in childbirth, the police report stated.
While holding Knight, another woman appeared from a bedroom and Espada says he immediately knew who it was — Gina DeJesus, abducted when she was 14 and one of the most sought-after missing persons in Ohio.
“I asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ She said, ‘My name is Georgina DeJesus.'”
It was “very overwhelming,” Espada recalls. “I mean it took everything to hold myself together. It was like one bombshell after another.”
Espada says he does not feel like a hero and the rescue was a result of everybody being “in the right place.”
“I feel so happy for them. It is just unbelievable,” Espada said, still moved by the rescue.
“It goes through my mind every day. I couldn’t imagine the past 10-12 years what they went through. It just keeps playing back, in my mind, you know. …I just keep replaying it and replaying it every day since it happened. I’m just glad just to be a part of it, all of the officers there on the scene that day. Everything just went so awesome, and well.”
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