January 31, 2018 / 4:13 PM / 10 months ago

Houston kidnap victim, killed in FBI raid, had grabbed agent's rifle: police

(Reuters) - An FBI agent shot and killed a kidnapping victim that he was trying to rescue in Houston last week, when the man grabbed the agent’s rifle, Houston’s police chief told reporters.

The shooting occurred as Federal Bureau of Investigation agents prepared to enter a home where kidnappers were holding the 47-year-old victim, Ulises Valladares, captive and bound.

As an agent was using his rifle to break in through a window, Valladares grabbed the weapon, Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news briefing on Tuesday that was posted on the department’s Twitter page.

“When he felt he was starting to lose control, he intentionally discharged his rifle, striking Mr. Valladares once,” Acevedo said. “Sadly, it wasn’t until after they made the entry that they realized that the person who had been pulling at the rifle was the decedent, Mr. Valladares.”

Houston police expect to spend a few more weeks investigating the FBI shooting, Acevedo said, and its findings will be presented to prosecutors, who will decide whether to file charges against the agent. He said the agent had been cooperating but had not yet been identified.

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

According to arrest affidavits, Cunningham and Sanchez went to Valladares’ home, used duct tape to bind his hands and the hands of his son, then ransacked the place, took Valladares and left the son behind.

The child freed himself and went to his uncle’s nearby home. The uncle, Ernesto Valladares, was contacted by a person who said his brother had been kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. The uncle notified police who, with the FBI, tracked Valladares to the Houston residence where the raid took place.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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