U.S. News

FBI agent's account of kidnap victim's death not backed by evidence: police

(Reuters) - The account an FBI agent who said he accidentally shot and killed a kidnap victim during a raid in January meant to rescue him is not supported by investigative evidence, a Texas police chief said on Wednesday.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told a news conference the unidentified FBI agent had said agents were trying to rescue the 47-year-old victim, Ulises Valladares, who was bound with duct tape and taken from his home by gunmen who demanded ransom.

The agent told police that when he used his assault rifle to break through a window where Valladares was held during the Jan. 25th raid, someone grabbed the gun and he fired two fatal shots at the individual, who was later revealed to be Valladares. The agent said he had feared losing control of the gun.

“The sequence of events as it relates to how that shooting occurred is not supported by the totality of the evidence and the statements in this investigation,” said Acevedo, who added that Houston police’s investigation concluded in April.

The FBI, which is handling the case, declined on Wednesday to release the name of the agent involved in the shooting or say whether he was undergoing any disciplinary procedures.

“The FBI is not able to comment on personal matters,” FBI spokesman Connor Hagan said. “The investigation is ongoing.”

Three people - Nicholas Cunningham, 42, Jimmy Sanchez, 38 and Sophia Heath, 35 - were charged with the aggravated kidnapping. The charge can bring up to 99 years in prison.

According to arrest affidavits, Cunningham and Sanchez went to Valladares’ home on Jan. 24 and used duct tape to bind his hands and the hands of his son. They then ransacked the place, taking Valladares and leaving his son behind as they left.

The victim’s brother, Ernesto Valladares, told police he was contacted by a person who said his brother had been kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel.

Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Tom Brown