Police officers in Cleveland described the scene they came upon as they rescued Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight on May 6. Three officers, Barbara Johnson, Anthony Espada, and Michael Tracy all spoke publicly about their experience and the pain they saw firsthand.
"Michelle hugged me first, then clutched me and said, 'Don't let me go.' You can't really describe how I felt … it rips the heart out of my chest," Johnson told the press during a conference at the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association headquarters. "You try and forget about this, but you can't ever forget something like this."
"When I heard there were people in the house, I ran up to the door, but it was locked from the inside," Simon explained. "So I grabbed the hand rail by the stairs to use as a prying tool … but the other officers kicked the door in. Once inside, I felt evil in the house."
Once inside, they found a torture chamber where Berry, DeJesus, and Knight had been held for over 10 years. The three women had been beaten, raped, and tortured in numerous ways over the years. Knight in particular was the subject of brutal abuse; police said that she will require surgery to help heal her wounds, but that she was also left partially deaf due to the beatings.
"We'd all seen the flyers for Amanda and Gina, but I was experiencing both disbelief and excitement when I saw Amanda in the window. Our first thought was to safely get inside, make sure the girls were OK, and then get them out. That day I also felt excitement and happiness for the girls and for their families," Tracy said.
Two of the three women have been reunited with their families; Knight is allegedly refusing to see her family. However, all three have requested privacy as they adjust to their new lives.
"Those three girls are my heroes … after what they went through in that house all those years," Espada said.