Downtown Houston courthouse escapee identified as Nigel Thomas Sanders; Search HCSO, HPD

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Night fell Thursday without law enforcement apprehending a person who, authorities said, had escaped from a courthouse and attempted to hijack an employee of the prosecutor’s office under threat of ‘a knife earlier today.

Around 9:30 p.m., SkyEye recorded the search for Nigel Thomas Sanders, 35, who the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said triggered an alert in downtown Houston about six hours earlier.

SkyEye focused on the Near Northside, where police officers were seen speaking with neighbors while the lights were still out in the evening.

By the end of the evening, the search seemed to have come to nothing. Eyewitness News reached out to law enforcement to clarify the status of the operation.

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Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in the search, prompting a lockdown at the nearby University of Houston-Downtown.

The Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff’s Office units were located on Commerce Street near Austin Street.

A spokesperson for the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office told ABC13 that authorities were searching for an escapee still wearing prison-issued pants.

The spokesperson said the person attempted the carjacking, but failed and instead jumped into nearby Buffalo Bayou.

Houston police also said the man was wearing a black shirt and orange pants.

Hours after the escape, HCSO took stock before 7 p.m., identifying the suspect as Sanders, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 165 pounds.

Nigel Thomas Sanders, 35, was identified as the inmate who escaped from the downtown Houston courthouse on June 13, 2024.

According to Deputy Chief Philip Bosquez, they were notified of the escape at 3:30 p.m., causing the prison complex to be shut down. An inmate count revealed that Sanders was missing. They believed he had escaped from 1301 Franklin, the building adjacent to the criminal courthouse.

Bosquez said Sanders, who has a lengthy criminal history, was in court on three counts of burglary and illegal possession of a weapon by a felon. After his hearing, Sanders was on his way to the prison when Bosquez said he “facilitated” the escape, although HCSO did not mention details.

Sanders arrived at the building’s exit port, where an employee was getting into her vehicle. Bosquez said there he jumped in and held her at knifepoint. The woman crashed into several cars and Sanders took off on foot, last seen on the street.

Bosquez could only say that Sanders had a knife in his hand outside the prison.

HCSO believes Sanders is dangerous and poses a threat to the community, urging people to call 911 if they see him.

Meanwhile, the University of Houston-Downtown earlier issued an alert to students and staff, warning them to “immediately go indoors,” “lock exterior doors” and “avoid windows.” . UHD later said there was no longer an emergency and the situation had been resolved.

Harris County Prosecutor Kim Ogg also confirmed that the employee, held against her will, works in her office.

“We are thankful and grateful that she was not physically harmed during this incident,” Ogg said. “Once he is arrested, we hope to prosecute this defendant and seek justice in this case.”

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