BROOKSHIRE, Texas -- Law enforcement officials are negotiating with a Katy ISD police officer wanted in the abduction of his ex-girlfriend, a fellow Katy ISD cop.
A SWAT team was called in after deputies say Officer Julio Reyes shot at search crews looking near Officer Rachel Hillsman’s Brookshire home.
Officers flooded the scene, and investigators said negotiations with Reyes were ongoing. He was believed to be holed up with Hillsman inside one of the vacant homes.
The search was part of an ongoing effort to find Hillsman, who officials believe was abducted by Reyes in front of her two children in Waller County Tuesday morning.
At the scene, officers were crouched down behind their vehicles, weapons drawn, as negotiators communicated with the suspect.
Police lines were pushed back to expand the scene, and a ground ambulance was brought in.
Officials said there was a Life Flight helicopter on standby at the nearby Brookshire Police Department.
Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said Hillsman, 24, was leaving her mother’s house with her two kids on FM 1458 when Reyes, 38, kidnapped her at gunpoint.
Deputies interviewed Hillsman’s 7-year-old daughter and learned there was a struggle before Reyes got Hillsman into his pickup truck and drove off.
A small amount of blood was found at the scene, so officials said they were working under the assumption that one or both of the missing officers could be injured.
Smith said the 7-year-old was Hillsman’s child from a previous relationship, and Reyes was the father of the 13-month-old.
Both children were unharmed, and Smith said they were put in the custody of their grandmother.
While details on Hillsman and Reyes’ relationship were unclear, investigators believe they had a fight the night before the abduction and that Reyes may have verbally threatened Hillsman.
Smith said that’s why she was staying at her mother’s house.
A SWAT team was called after a report of shots fired in Waller County.
Officials launched a statewide manhunt shortly after the abduction Tuesday.
Smith on Wednesday said deputies, along with officers from agencies across the state, had established a 7- to 8-mile perimeter around the Brookshire area overnight and had set up roadblocks to aid in their search.
“During the investigation in the last 24 hours with the Texas Rangers, we feel real strongly there’s a possibility that he maybe did not move very far,” Smith said.
Smith said that since Reyes is an experienced cop, it could be especially difficult for investigators to locate him.
“Obviously, being a police officer, he was familiar with what we were going to do when we first responded,” Smith said.
Investigators believe the abduction may have been planned ahead of time, citing items purchased by Reyes in the hours leading up to the incident and recent conversations he’d had.
Smith said it’s very likely that Reyes already had a hiding place set up and had switched vehicles. He said investigators may have to wait for Reyes to make the next move.
Reyes was last seen driving a 2002 green Ford Super Duty pickup with license plate 87V-DP7.
Since much of the area included in the search effort is rural, horses and dogs were on standby to aid investigators on the ground. Smith said officials also planned to continue aerial searches Wednesday, focusing on the area from the Brazos River toward Katy.
Smith said officials have received numerous tips from citizens and urged anyone with information to continue to call in leads at 979-826-8266. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information on the case.
The families of both Reyes and Hillsman are concerned and cooperating with investigators, Smith said.
Relatives of Hillsman said they were shocked that the man they know as Trey could do something like this.
“I’m scared, I’m just very scared and if Trey can see just please bring Rachel home, please,” said Ava Henry, Hillsman’s aunt.
Katy ISD spokesman Steve Stanford said Reyes had been with the district’s police department since May of 1999, and Hillsman had been there since January of 2006.
“This is a serious situation, no matter who it is, when this type of thing happens, and we’re going to be out there looking for them,” Smith said.