Feds decline to charge FBI agent who killed kidnap victim
HOUSTON (AP) — Federal authorities will not charge an FBI agent who fatally shot a hostage during a rescue attempt in Houston last year, a U.S. attorney’s spokesman said Wednesday.
Daryl Fields, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Antonio, said prosecutors following an 11-month investigation “declined to proceed with federal criminal charges.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement that her office initially deferred the case to federal authorities because it involved an FBI agent.
“Now that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to file federal charges, the District Attorney’s Office has an independent obligation to present this matter to a local grand jury to determine if state criminal charges are warranted,” Ogg said Wednesday.
The decision by federal authorities comes after Houston police Chief Art Acevedo in October said the agent’s explanation for why he shot the hostage “is not supported” by evidence reviewed by police investigators.
He said “the totality of the evidence and statements in this investigation” were not consistent with the agent’s claims in the shooting of 47-year-old Ulises Valladares. The agent reported he was using his rifle to clear broken glass from a window at the house where Valladares was being held when Valladares grabbed the weapon, and the agent fired.
Acevedo declined to say how the agent’s claims were inconsistent with what police found.
Authorities have not identified the agent and an FBI spokeswoman in Houston on Wednesday again declined to provide his name, only saying that he remains employed by the agency.
Authorities have said Valladares was kidnapped from his home in Conroe, north of Houston, as part of an attempt to extort money from his brother. The FBI tracked two male suspects to a motel, and those men led agents to a house in Houston where another suspect, a woman, was located with Valladares.
An FBI SWAT team began entering the house early on Jan. 25, 2018, with some agents entering through the front of the home and two agents breaking through a back window. The tool one agent used to break the window fell into the unlit home, while the second agent — who shot Valladares — used his assault rifle to continue breaking the glass, Acevedo said shortly after the shooting.
Valladares’ wrists were bound as he sat on a couch just below the window. He grabbed the barrel of the agent’s rifle. The agent, fearing the weapon could be used against other agents entering the home, fired twice, according to the agent’s statement to investigators. Valladares was shot and died at a hospital.
Four people were charged in the case, with one of them, Nicholas Chase Cunningham, sentenced last week to life in prison for aggravated robbery.