There won't be much seasonal cheer in the Hill Country town of Kerrville this year- at least not in the family of James Vest, the Desert Storm veteran who took his own children hostage this Sunday and held out against local police in a standoff that lasted for over six hours.
The drama began at noon when police received a phone call from the children's grandfather, informing them that Vest had been sending threatening text messages to his wife, who had left him. Vest insisted that he was going to execute himself and all four of their children if she did not return within 24 hours. According to the Kerrville Daily Times the situation escalated to an armed standoff between Vest and law enforcement at around 11:45 pm.
When Sgt. Phil Engstrom arrived at the family home on Lois and Candice Streets he discovered Vest's 16 year old son in the yard, standing by the back fence. However the boy refused to leave, apparently preferring to remain with his father and siblings, under siege. Engstrom was thus forced to take the child into protective custody against his will.
This only enraged Vest farther, and negotiators from the Hill Country Combined Special Operations Unit struggled in vain to persuade him to release the other three children, aged 5,12 and 14 to safety. Instead, Vest opened a back door and pointed a handgun at the police, before ordering his children into a back bedroom. This was a strategic error: two hours later the children climbed out of a window and escaped.
Vest was now faced with a disastrous situation. His children, the only collateral he had, were gone. How was he going to get his wife to return to his side now? And yet still he refused to surrender. The standoff dragged on for hours, until police received a warrant for Vest's arrest on charges of aggravated kidnapping. They fired tear gas into the home at 5AM. Defiant to the end, Vest resisted even as he was engulfed in the choking fumes. Police ultimately found him holed up in a back bedroom. He was arrested and taken to Peterson Regional Medical Center before being transferred to the Kerr County Jail.
According to Sgt Mary Krebs of Kerrville Police Dept, Vest has a lengthy criminal history, which includes multiple arrests for assault and family violence. Indeed, officers were no strangers to the home on Candice Street, even before the hostage standoff.
''We all have dealt with him,” said Krebs, before praising the police for their professional handling of the incident and thanking God that the children were now safe. Whether or not they are happy, however, is an entirely different matter.