HOUSTON — Houston police are sharing new details Wednesday following a lengthy investigation into the shooting death of a kidnapping victim at the hands of an FBI agent during a rescue attempt in the Trinity Gardens area earlier this year.
Ulises Valladares was killed as SWAT agents stormed a home in the 7300 block of Elbert Street near S. Finch Circle around 2 a.m. on January 25. Investigators said he was being held captive at the residence.
On Tuesday, HPD Chief Art Acevedo said the agents were informed an adult woman was guarding Valladares and a young girl was in the house as well. Therefore, the FBI made a tactical decision not to use lights when they attempted to enter the home.
The agents first approached the window of a very dark room where Valladares was being held, police said.
“As one agent was breaching the window, unfortunately, he lost control of the breaching tool, and it fell inside the residence,” Acevedo said. “At that point, the agent that actually ended up discharging his M-4 rifle, started using his rifle to try to continue to breach the window.”
Investigators said the victim, even though his hands were bound with duct tape, grabbed at the rife and started to pull it.
“We can’t…we don’t know why?” the chief added. “If I had to speculate he’s trying to get out of that room, I don’t know.”
Acevedo said the agent apparently did not know who was pulling at the rifle and thought it may be a kidnapper.
“When he felt he was starting to lose control, he intentionally discharged his rifle, striking Mr. Valladares once,” Acevedo confirmed.
Ultimately, authorities say the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will determine whether any charges are brought against the agent who fired the fatal shot.
Nicolas Chase Cunningham, 42; Jimmy Tony Sanchez, 28; and Sophia Perez Heath, 35, have all been arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping in connection to the incident. Cunningham and Sanchez are also charged with aggravated robbery.
Before the victim was found being held captive at Sanchez’ home, police were able to arrest the men accused of taking the victim from his home in Conroe.
The victim was with his 12-year-old son when Cunningham and Sanchez allegedly bound them, searched the home for valuables and then took the father away. The boy was able to free himself and went to neighbor’s house to call for help.
Investigators said a family member who lives at the home, but was not present during the incident, received a call soon afterwards from someone who demanded money for the victim’s safe return.
The Conroe Police Department contacted the FBI for assistance. The suspects were eventually tracked down and arrested at a hotel room near Webster, Texas.
The agent who fired the fatal shot has been placed on administrative leave — standard protocol — pending the investigation, officials said.