HOUSTON (AP) — A hostage rescue in Houston in which one person was fatally shot on Thursday first began days ago when three migrants were kidnapped from a vehicle in a neighboring county, according to a prosecutor.
The three migrants had been traveling in a vehicle on Interstate 10 in the southern part of Waller County on March 18 when they were stopped by an unknown number of individuals and forced into another vehicle, said Sean Whittmore, a prosecutor with the Waller County District Attorney’s Office.
It is believed the driver of the vehicle with the migrants called 911 and informed the Waller County Sheriff’s Office about the kidnapping, Whittmore said. The sheriff’s office later worked with the FBI, whose agents were involved in a shooting early Thursday morning in north Houston in which all three migrants were rescued.
The kidnappers demanded money from the family of at least one of the migrants and were paid a sum, but then they asked for more, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person said that during negotiations, the kidnappers sent law enforcement officers videos showing that they were armed and the hostages were alive, including one of them beating one of the hostages, an older man.
Gunfire broke out between FBI agents and the hostage-takers before daybreak Thursday, leading to one of the kidnappers being killed and another being arrested, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
The FBI’s Houston office declined to comment on how they found the migrants, what led up to the shooting, how many agents were involved, where the shooting took place or whether the person who was fatally shot was one of the kidnappers.
A large police presence was seen late Thursday morning at a motel but the FBI said there was no longer a threat to public safety.
“All the hostages have been safely rescued, no FBI agents are injured, and one individual is deceased,” the agency said in a statement. The FBI said a review team will investigate the shooting.
The kidnapped migrants had crossed into the U.S. illegally from Mexico, according to the person familiar with the case.
Whittmore declined to comment on the migrants’ immigration status, nationalities or whether they were being illegally transported at the time of their kidnapping.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson did not immediately answer questions about the people’s immigration status.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.