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Judge Rules Against 13 in Elian Raid Suit

May 6, 2005

MIAMI (AP) _ Thirteen people who were tear-gassed during the raid to seize Elian Gonzalez five years ago lost a lawsuit Friday in which they had sought $3.25 million in damages from the government.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore issued a 19-page decision saying that the demonstrators and bystanders failed to show enough credible evidence that federal agents’ use of force during the raid was ``unreasonable under the circumstances.″

The 13 people claimed they had been sprayed at close range while on their own property or behind barricades. Three neighbors testified that an agent gassed them without warning from 2 to 4 feet away as they stood alone in their fenced front yards.

Justice Department attorneys had said the tear-gassing of bystanders was ``an unavoidable consequence″ during the April 22, 2000, raid, which led to the 6-year-old boy’s eventual return to Cuba with his father.

Elian was rescued from the Atlantic Ocean on Thanksgiving Day 1999 after a shipwreck killed his mother and others trying to reach Florida by boat. The then-Immigration and Naturalization Service turned him over to relatives in Miami, who balked when the government decided he should go back to Cuba.

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