Feds decline to file charges in connection with raid that ended with hostage being shot

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HOUSTON – Federal charges will not be filed against FBI personnel in connection with the fatal shooting of Ulises Valladares last year.

After an 11-month investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Texas declined to proceed with federal criminal charges.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office said it deferred to the Department of Justice on the matter because the shooter was an FBI agent.

After Wednesday's announcement that no federal charges would be filed, the Harris County DA's Office said it would present the matter to a local grand jury to determine if state criminal charges are warranted. Its civil rights division is also reviewing the case.

What Valladares' family is saying

The Valladares family attorney said the family is disappointed that no charges were accepted. The attorney said the autopsy report revealed that the shooting was not as close in proximity as previously reported.

The medical examiner reported no signs of stripling around the gunshot wound, which would have signified a close-up shooting.

What happened

On Jan. 25, 2018, 47-year-old Valladares was shot to death during an FBI investigation at a northeast Houston home.

At the time, investigators said FBI agents were conducting an operation at a home in the 7300 block of Elbert Street, in northeast Houston.

The kidnapping

Authorities said two men forced their way into a Conroe home in the 1700 block of Tyler Lane around 8 a.m. Valladares and his 12-year-son were inside at the time. When Valladares answered the door, authorities said, the men pushed their way in with guns.

The men demanded money, bound Valladares and the child, and began searching the house for valuables. They kicked in the door to a bedroom where Valladares' brother lived, according to court records.

During their search for valuables, the child told police that he heard the men say that his uncle, who was not home during the break-in, owed them $8,000.

The men took Valladares from the house, left the child and told him not to contact the police, or they would kill his father. The child was able to free himself and contact a neighbor to get help.

After a neighbor called the boy's uncle at work, he came home to speak with the police. During the meeting, the uncle received a phone call around noon from an unknown person who was speaking Spanish and said he was a part of "El Cartel Del Golfo," a Mexican drug cartel, court records said. The caller demanded $20,000 for Valladares' safe return, according to police. When the uncle told the man he did not have the money, the man told the uncle to "figure it out" and to call back when he had it, according to court documents. The man also told the uncle that the house was being watched, and they would kill his brother if they discovered that police were involved, court records said.

The uncle denied owing money to anyone.

The uncle later told investigators that he recently lent a relative money for house repairs and the relative repaid him with a car that he registered in his name.

Conroe police then contacted the FBI.

FBI gets involved

With help from the FBI, authorities were able to track the phone to a location near the relative's house.

They then tracked the phone to a Best Western on Bay Area Boulevard, where two men, Jimmy Tony Sanchez, 38, and Nicholas Chase Cunningham, 42, were detained. They are charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Investigators said they may be charged with capital murder.

Further investigation revealed that Cunningham is married to the uncle's relative, according to court documents.

Valladares was not found at the hotel, but Cunningham told investigators that he was being kept at his girlfriend's house in the 7300 block of Elbert Street in Trinity Gardens in northeast Houston, according to court documents.

Investigators and the FBI went to the house, where FBI agents made entry into the home where Valladares was being held.

Court records indicate that authorities found Valladares' with his hands bound in tape.

According to sources, FBI agents accidentally shot Valladares. He was taken to LBJ Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Who else was involved?

Cunningham's girlfriend, 35-year-old Sophia Perez Heath, was questioned by investigators.

During the interview, she told investigators that Cunningham and Sanchez brought Valladares to her home Wednesday night. She said that when Valladares arrived, his hands were bound and there was something over his head, according to court records.

Heath told investigators that Cunningham told her that he needed to leave Valladares at her house and asked her to watch him.

She is being charged with aggravated kidnapping.

Houston FBI Public Affairs Officer Christina Garza said during a news conference that several people were inside the northeast Houston home, including two children, at the time of the shooting. No one else was injured.