Kidnapping victim killed during FBI raid grabbed agent's gun, chief says
HOUSTON – A kidnapping victim who was shot and killed by an FBI agent during a raid last week had grabbed the agent’s gun as authorities were entering the house, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
The chief discussed his department’s investigation of the shooting that killed Ulises Valladares, 47, who federal agents were trying to rescue after he had been kidnapped.
Acevedo said FBI agents had developed information that Valladares was being held at an Elbert Street home in northeast Houston, where a woman was guarding him. A child was also in the home, Acevedo said.
According to Acevedo, two agents were breaching a window of a darkened room at the back of the home where Valladares was being held while another team entered the front of the home. The tool being used to break the window fell inside the home and one of the agents used the front of his rifle to continue the breach, Acevedo said.
Acevedo said that for reasons yet unknown a bound Valladares grabbed the agent’s rifle and began pulling it. The agent felt that he was about to lose the gun and fired, hitting Valladares, Acevedo said.
Valladares later died.
“It’s truly a tragedy for everyone involved,” Acevedo said.
Doug York, Valladares' family attorney said the FBI agent should have been trained better.
"Apparently what happened in the FBI's mind is, 'I'm gonna stick this rifle barrel in a dark room that I have no idea who's in there and decide it's a good thing to start pulling the trigger on something that I don't know.' Where was that training? I have no earthly clue what went through their mind and why they decided to pull their trigger not once, but twice into a dark room into something where you have no line of sight," York said.
Acevedo said that once his department’s investigation is complete, the case will be sent to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to determine if it will proceed to a grand jury. That decision could take several weeks.
Police said they arrested Jimmy Sanchez, Nicolas Cunningham and Sophia Heath in connection with Valladares’ kidnapping.
The chief said that the people who kidnapped Valladares should be culpable for his death.
"These kidnappers started the process and the FBI unfortunately finished it the wrong way," York said.
Acevedo said the FBI agent’s name will not be released because the agency asked to protect his identity.
York and Valladares' family members are looking into a possible civil action for wrongful death violations.
"I'm sure the deceased was pretty surprised that these FBI swat agents who were there to help him ended up killing him. You would think that at the very bare bones of this, is that the FBI would give their agents enough training to avoid something like this. This is either a complete failure to train or they went and did something that they should not have done," York said.
Perrye Turner, special agent in charge of the FBI Houston field office on Tuesday released the following statement about the investigation:
"The FBI takes very seriously any shooting incident. We look forward to working closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office, as well as state and local officials, in the review of this matter. Because there is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to provide any additional details."
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