3 arrested after kidnapping victim killed by FBI agent during raid of NE Houston home, sources say

HOUSTON - A kidnapping victim was shot to death Thursday during an FBI investigation at a northeast Houston home, according to sources.
Investigators said FBI agents were conducting an operation at a home in the 7300 block of Elbert Street when the victim was shot. He was pronounced dead at LBJ Hospital.
Sources said the man was taken from a Conroe home in the 1700 block of Tyler Lane Wednesday morning.
Authorities said two men forced their way into the Conroe home around 8 a.m. A 12-year-old boy and his father were in the home at the time. When the father answered the door, the men forced their way inside with guns, according to investigators.
The men demanded money, bound the child and the father and began searching the house for valuables. They kicked in the door to a bedroom where the father's brother lived, according to court records.
During their search for valuables, the child told police that he heard the men say that his uncle, who lives at the home in Conroe, but was not home during the home invasion, owed them $8,000.
The men took the father from the house, left the child, and told him not to contact police. The child was able to free himself and contact a neighbor to get help.
The uncle responded to the scene to speak with police. During the meeting, around noon Wednesday, the uncle received a phone call from an unknown person who demanded $20,000 for his brother's safe return, according to police. The person on the phones was speaking Spanish and said he was a part of "El Cartel Del Golfo," a Mexican drug cartel, court records said.
The uncle denied owing money to anyone.
Conroe police then contacted the FBI, which quickly responded and began assisting.
With help from the FBI, authorities were able to track the phone used to call the uncle.
They tracked the phone to a hotel on Bay Area Boulevard, where two men were detained at the Best Western. Jimmy Tony Sanchez, 38, and Nicholas Chase Cunningham, 42, were taken into custody. They are being charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Investigators said they may be charged with capital murder.
The kidnapping victim was not found at the hotel, but Cunningham told investigators that he was being kept at his girlfriend's house, a residence on Elbert Street, in northeast Houston, according to court documents.
Cunning hame told investigators that the kidnapping victim was at his girlfriend's house in the 7300 block of Elbert Street, in Trinity Gardens, in northeast Houston.
Investigators and the FBI went to the house on Elbert Street, where FBI agents made entry into a home where the victim was being held.
Court records indicate that the kidnapping victim's hands were bound with duck tape when authorities entered the residence.
According to sources, FBI agents mistakenly or accidentally shot the victim. The victim was taken to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Cunningham's girlfriend, 35-year-old Sophia Perez Heath, was questioned by investigators.
During the interview, she told investigators that Cunningham and Sanchez brought the victim to her home Wednesday night. She said that when the victim arrived, his hands were bound and there was something over his head, according to court records.
Heath told investigators that Cunningham told her that he needed to leave the victim at her house and asked her to watch him.
She is being charged with aggravated kidnapping.
Public Affairs Officer for the Houston FBI Christina Garza said several people were inside the northeast Houston home, including two children, at the time of the shooting. No one else was injured.
When KPRC 2 reporter Cathy Hernandez asked if the agents knew children were in the home, Garza said, "That's why we're here."
The details of the shooting and the FBI investigation have not yet been released as the operation is ongoing, Garza said.

Neighbors react

Monique McKnight, a nearby neighbor in Trinity Gardens, said she was awakened by the raid.
"It sounded like an explosion and that was about 3 or 4 o’clock this morning," she said.
Another neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, said, " We just heard gunshots. It was like four, pop, pop, pops.”
McKnight said the people living in the home had recently moved in.
“The kids and stuff that lived over there and I would tell them I would see them roaming around,” she said.
McKnight said she believes her neighbors are a family, a father, mother and two school-aged children. She said the little girl attended school, but the boy did not.
"When the little girl would catch the bus, he would still be there, so he wasn't at school,” McKnight said.

FBI responds

The FBI agent involved in the shooting was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
The FBI released a statement that read:
"FBI was conducting an operation at a home in the 7300 block of Elbert Street in Northeast Houston. During the course of the operation, an individual was fatally injured. The FBI's Evidence Response Team is on scene. As with any Agent-Involved shooting, the Shooting Incident Review Team will investigate the matter."
In another statement, the FBI said:
"A Shooting Incident Review Team (SIRT) has arrived in Houston, as is standard in all agent-involved shootings. The SIRT is comprised of experienced FBI Special Agents who conduct a thorough, factual, and objective investigation of the events. At the conclusion of its investigation, SIRT provides reports to the Department of Justice and the local police department and District Attorney’s Office investigating the incident.
"The FBI takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents and as such have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them. In the interest of protecting the investigation's integrity, we cannot comment regarding investigative details."

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