'Like Some Kind of Animal in a Cage': Sgt. Tahmooressi Tells His Story
Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi went “On The Record” with Greta Van Susteren in his first and only interview since being released from a Mexican prison.
The Marine spent 214 days languishing in two different Mexican prisons before his release.
See highlights below from the hour-long exclusive interview.
'They Were Very Helpful, and Then it Shifted'
Tahmooressi told Van Susteren about his experience crossing the border. He said that he immediately reported that he had guns, and that one man was initially helpful.
“I was thinking, hopefully these guys are going to be considerate and caring and understanding [...] You know, they were very helpful and then it shifted,” he said.
Tahmooressi landed in a La Mesa prison cell with 20 other prisoners, though he said the cell was fit for six or seven prisoners. He said that the other men in the cell were initially cordial, but said he was worried and feeling vulnerable.
“So they see my weakness and I think they started taking advantage of my weakness, just to maybe have fun with me. Or maybe they feel threatened by me because I was this odd-out guy, you know, kind of keeping to himself over there.”
He described a prisoner who he played tic-tac-toe with.
“He made it seem like it was the last game of tic-tac-toe that I would ever play,” he said.
Tahmooressi also described having his arms and legs handcuffed to a bed because he “wasn’t a behaved prisoner.”
“I believe they did it because they were afraid of me, afraid that I might do something again and really end up doing something like successfully killing myself or harming somebody and that they would get in trouble for it by not being able to control the situation,” he said.
Still, Tahmooressi said he tried to look at the positive that would come out of the ordeal.
“I was like this is going to bring our family closer together and this is hopefully going to bring Americans closer together and America and Mexico closer together.”
Why Did Tahmooressi Have Guns With Him?
"Because I like guns," Tahmooressi said. "I enjoy guns. You know, I grew up liking guns [...] It’s like, you’re stressed out and some people go and smoke a cigarette but some people go to the gun range and go shoot their gun and relieve some stress," he told Van Susteren.
Tahmooressi admitted that he once made a mistake in a confrontation. He said that he felt someone was threatening a family member and then pulled his gun out to get the man to back off. He said he then called the police himself.
"Us Marines have guns on them all the time. Our gun is our safety [...] And it’s easy to go from there to the civilian world carrying a gun around because, you know, you feel like going over there and people are after you. And it’s just a different world from there to here. It’s a totally different world," he said.
'Like Some Kind of Animal in a Cage'
Tahmooressi then detailed his attempt to escape from the first Mexican prison.
“I was very afraid. I felt like it would be the last night of my life right there, that these guys were going to kill me. That these guys were going to brutally kill me, I was thinking. I built up strength to run away because I thought running away was my only hope to get away from a situation like that,” he said.
The guards “beat him up a little bit,” then strapped him to the post of a bunk bed naked for eight or nine hours, Tahmooressi revealed.
“I felt like guards outside were having fun with the whole thing, like they were mocking me outside, making fun of me, so that was hard. So I’m like some kind of animal in a cage here [...] like I don’t even have life in me."
‘I Was Looking At These Light Bulbs As My Way Out'
Two or three days after his attempted escape, Tahmooressi said he tried to take his own life.
Tahmooressi said he saw two light bulbs on his ceiling.
“I was looking at these light bulbs as my way out,” he told Van Susteren, describing how he broke one over the toilet and stabbed himself in the neck.
The guards heard him break the bulb and came to his cell. They took him to the hospital, where they put some IVs into the Marine.
"I got revived, I came back."
‘Glad, Happy’: Marine Finally Heads Home
In the 214 days he was imprisoned, Tahmooressi kept thinking his release would be soon.
“I kept on getting my hopes up, you know, and it just kept on dragging on and dragging on,” he said.
When he was finally released, he said he was “glad, happy.”
Van Susteren asked if there’s anything Tahmooressi needs.
“A job would help, getting busy would help, you know, doing productive things would help. It’s not just going to see a doctor, it’s doing good things, you know, and good things for other people, being busy and just helping out.”
'We All Need to Look After Each Other'
At the end of his interview, Tahmooressi had a message for America.
“I don’t want this to come off as these people against those people, or those against these. But that, you know […] we make mistakes and […] I think if we take the lesson from this and that is that we need to look after each other, we all need to look after each other. We all should care for each other and take the time to care, pretty much,” he said.
Tahmooressi told Van Susteren that he is going to be OK.
“I’ll be just fine, I promise you.”
Catch the "On the Record" special again this weekend on Saturday at 10p/1a ET and Sunday at 9p/12a ET.