DALLAS – An FBI agent’s explanation for why he fatally shot a hostage during a rescue attempt in Houston “is not supported” by evidence reviewed by police investigators, the Houston police chief said Wednesday.
Chief Art Acevedo said “the totality of the evidence and statements in this investigation” were not consistent with the agent’s claims in the January 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. He said he didn’t want to jeopardize an ongoing investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Antonio, which is leading the federal investigation into the shooting.
“I will not be putting into the public record precisely what happened or how the sequence of events differed,” Acevedo said during a news conference.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Wednesday.
An attorney representing Valladares’ family, Randall Kallinen, said it’s implausible to believe that Valladares would grab the rifle of a would-be rescuer.
“All along the reports of the FBI did not seem credible,” Kallinen said Wednesday.
Acevedo said his investigators’ findings were forwarded in April to federal authorities and to the Harris County district attorney’s office. Acevedo didn’t initially say why it took six months to announce the findings, but he later said through a spokesman that he didn’t want to jeopardize the federal investigation, which was taking longer than he expected.
Authorities have said Valladares was kidnapped on Jan. 24 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, 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.
Three suspects were arrested in the kidnapping and are facing felony charges.
The FBI has declined to release the agent’s name or say whether he remains with the agency. Valladares’ family is suing him for wrongful death.