CONROE, Texas (FOX 26) - Conroe Police Department Chief Philip Dupuis says he is devastated to learn that someone who had been kidnapped was later shot and killed in a house in northeast Houston, apparently by an FBI agent.
The FBI team arrived to the home in northeast Houston house on Thursday morning after a man was kidnapped from Conroe a day earlier. Investigators have arrested Nicholas Chase Cunningham, Jimmy Tony Sanchez and Sophia Perez Heath, who are each charged with kidnapping, a felony offense.
Cunningham and Sanchez burst into the man's Conroe home on Wednesday morning, demanded money, tied up the man and his 12-year-old son and then ransacked their home, according to detectives. When the suspects didn't get what they were searching for, they kidnapped the man from his own home.
The 12-year-old boy was able to free himself, ran to a neighbor's house and contacted 911. The FBI was called in to help. Officers arrested the two men at a hotel in Webster. That led FBI agents to the victim at the house in Houston. Heath was arrested at that house where police say she was there with children and with the kidnapped man tied up. Somehow, the kidnapping victim ended up shot, apparently by an FBI agent.
"The system failed," says Chief Dupuis. "Whether it was accidental or not, the man's not going home to his family. We do this job to help people and it doesn't always go our way. It is difficult at times."
"Even though it appears one possibility is friendly fire, the kidnappers put this into play, so they're ultimately responsible for the outcome," explains Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon. "Regardless if this was intentional or not, under the felony murder rule, we can charge that,"
Investigators say the kidnappers claimed to be part of a drug cartel and made ransom demands before they were captured. The 12-year-old son of the man who was shot is now in Child Protective Services custody. Chief Dupuis says he has no idea why that man was targeted.
The raid of the northeast Houston home was over before the neighbors knew what was happening.. Sharon Ettinoffe didn't have a clue what was hapenning until FBI agents knocked on her door.
"I said, 'What's going on?' And they just looked at me," said Ettinoffe. "They said it was a police-involved shooting and your neighborhood will be a lot safer now."
FBI spokeswoman Christina Garza only said that a man had been shot during what she described as a operation at around 3:45 a.m. Thursday.
"I believe there were other individuals inside," said Garza. "There was no one else that was injured aside from the individual that is now deceased."
Neighbors say the people in the raided house had lived there for less than a year with the utilities often shut off and at least two children who lived there. Beyond that, they know little. Even the woman whose family owned the home had no idea who they were or what this was about.
"I'm totally in shock." said Flora Henry-Smith. "Because this is not what happens on Elbert Street."