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35-year-old in court on burglary counts identified as downtown Houston escapee, HCSO says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Night fell on Thursday without law enforcement apprehending a person who authorities say escaped a courthouse and tried to carjack a district attorney’s office employee at knifepoint earlier in the day.

At about 9:30 p.m., SkyEye checked in on the search for 35-year-old Nigel Thomas Sanders, who the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said set off an alert in downtown Houston about six hours earlier.

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

By late evening, the search appeared scaled back without activity. Eyewitness News reached out to law enforcement to clarify where the operation stood.

Start of the search

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

Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff’s Office units were situated at Commerce Street near Austin Street.

A spokesperson for the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office told ABC13 that authorities are looking for an escapee still in jail-issued trousers.

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

The Houston Police Department also said the man was wearing a black shirt and orange pants.

Hours after the escape, HCSO gave an update 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 jail inmate who escaped from courthouse custody in downtown Houston on June 13, 2024.
Nigel Thomas Sanders, 35, was identified as the jail inmate who escaped from courthouse custody in downtown Houston on June 13, 2024.

According to Assistant Chief Philip Bosquez, they received word of the escape at 3:30 p.m., prompting the shutdown of the jail complex. An inmate count uncovered Sanders was missing. They believed he escaped from 1301 Franklin, which is the building adjacent to the criminal courthouse.

Bosquez said Sanders, who has a lengthy criminal history, was in court for three burglary counts and an unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. After his hearing, Sanders was on his way to the jail when Bosquez said he “facilitated” the escape, even though HCSO didn’t mention specifics.

Sanders got to the building’s sallyport, 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 again, last seen on the street.

Bosquez could only say that Sanders got hold of a knife outside of jail.

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

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

Harris County District Attorney 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 expect to prosecute this defendant and seek justice in this case.”

This story comes from our news partner ABC13 Houston.