Missing 2-year-old girl safe, standoff over

Suspect now in police custody

By Amanda Perez, Samantha Ptashkin - Reporter, Gianna Caserta - Reporter

HOUSTON - A missing 2-year-old girl, who was the subject of an Amber Alert Friday night, has been released from a hospital where she was taken following a standoff involving her father and law enforcement officers.

The suspect, Jesse William Thomas, 33, is in custody after the standoff Saturday morning in northwest Harris County. The more than two-hour standoff came to an end just moments after hostage negotiators convinced Thomas to surrender his daughter.

Law enforcement officials initially issued an Amber Alert Friday night, believing Cheyenne Infinity Johnson, 2, was in grave or immediate danger, authorities said.

Austin Police said Thomas' mother had been awarded custody of the girl and Thomas kidnapped the child after he broke into his mother's home Friday afternoon.

The standoff began around 7 a.m. at Highway 249 and Spring Cypress Road. According to Trooper Stephen Woodard with the Texas Department of Public Safety, a trooper spotted Thomas at F.M. 1960 and Kuykendahl Road on Saturday morning and a chase ensued.

The chase ended in the parking lot of the Tomball Crossings shopping center, where the trooper then tried to make contact with the suspect who remained in his vehicle.

"The gentleman said some sort of phrase," Woodard said. "I'm not sure what he said, but it led the trooper to believe that this would be a dangerous situation. From there, the trooper asked for the assistance of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

A team of officers and negotiators from the Sheriff Department's High Risk Operations Unit responded to the scene and began attempts to make contact with the suspect. Those negotiations ended just before 9:30 a.m.

"We asked him to give up the 2-year-old and he did comply at one time with that and gave us the child," said Thomas Gilliland, a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Gilliand said after Thomas gave up the child, two deputies used a taser on Thomas simultaneously while another fired a non-lethal beanbag-type munition in order to take him into custody.

"At that point, when we got the child, we decided to end it there. We knew we could end it peacefully and we went ahead and executed that plan," said Gilliland.

Thomas now faces charges of burglary, kidnapping, and endangering a child, according to the Austin Police Department.

Woodard said Thomas was tracked to the Houston area using a cellphone signal late Friday night. Woodard said he first led Houston police on a chase, but HPD officers lost sight of him before he could be taken into custody.

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