The Port Arthur News
Port Acres —
A nine-hour hostage negotiation involving an armed man and his two-year-old niece forced local authorities to evacuate the Memorial High School 9th Grade Campus and several blocks of 61st Street before the suspect was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon.
Police detained a 28-year-old white man after he threatened police and barricaded himself in a relative’s house while holding his young niece hostage.
The girl was released unharmed into police custody after about seven hours. The man’s name and the charges filed against him have not been released.
Officers arrived at the house on the 2500 block of 61st Street at 6:38 a.m. Wednesday after the two-year-old’s grandmother, who owns the house, reported a domestic disturbance, said Officer Wendy Billot with the Port Arthur Police Department.
When officers approached the house, the suspected point a gun at them through a window, Billot said.
After negotiating with police officials all morning, the suspect turned the two-year-old child over to authorities at 2:22 p.m. and surrendered himself two hours later.
Officials said the child appeared unharmed. She was placed into the care of Child Protective Services after arriving at the police station.
Police Chief Mark Blanton said the authorities were able to negotiate the release of the child by “exchanging some items.” The suspect placed his niece outside the front door and officers “snatched her and ran,” he said.
“It was a simultaneous exchange,” he said. “He got what he requested and we got what we requested.”
The suspect, who claimed to have three rifles, a pistol and two homemade bombs, was under the influence of narcotics, according to Blanton.
“Have you even tried to negotiate with someone on drugs? It’s not easy,” Blanton said.
At one point in the negotiations, authorities offered the suspect hamburgers, which he refused in favor of chicken nuggets. Blanton said he traded three cigarettes for one of the suspect’s guns.
Blanton did not give details about why the suspect took his niece hostage other than to say it “involves his mental and physical state.”
Several of the suspect’s family members stayed near the crime scene but refused to speak with reporters.
The suspect’s brother, who was talking on his cell phone for several hours during the standoff, was arrested for “interferring with what we’re doing,” Blanton said.
The toddler’s grandmother, who has legal custody of the child, was taken away from the scene by an ambulance early in the afternoon and may have suffered a heart attack, Blanton said.
Blanton said he was very proud of his negotiator and said the process moved quickly given the circumstances.
“So far I’m very pleased with the time table,” he said after the child was released. “Sometimes these go on for days or weeks. We’ve been very successful.”
Students, staff and faculty at Memorial 9th Grade Campus, formerly Stephen F. Austin Middle School, were transported to Memorial High School. Students were taken home on buses after the school day ended, and teachers we shuttled back to the 9th Grade Campus to collect their cars.
Port Arthur ISD sent parents a Blackboard Connect automated message let them know where to pick up their children.
Authorities also evacuated area residents.
PAPD did not return calls to comment on what they found after searching the house.