Alabama Media Group, Birmingham
The man charged with kidnapping in the disappearance of Alabama college student Aniah Blanchard was captured in Florida by U.S. Marshals late Thursday night.
Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, was taken into custody about 10:45 p.m. Thursday off the I-10 Pine Forest Road exit in Escambia County. He was arrested after a brief foot pursuit.
That area is on the westside of Pensacola, about six miles from the Alabama state line. Witnesses reported a large law enforcement presence with tracking dogs on site leading up to Yazeed’s capture. He was booked into the Escambia County Jail at 2:32 a.m.
Efforts to reach Auburn police late Thursday night for comment on Yazeed’s arrest were unsuccessful.
Yazeed, already awaiting trial in an unrelated kidnapping, robbery and attempted murder in Montgomery that left a 77-year-old man “near death,” was charged Thursday with first-degree kidnapping in Blanchard’s abduction in the overnight hours of Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
Auburn police said Thursday that evidence shows Yazeed was at the same location where Blanchard was last seen and is believed to have taken Blanchard against her will. Investigators are looking into the possibility Blanchard was kidnapped during a carjacking. Police had warned that he should be considered armed and dangerous.
“Obviously of focus is, and has been since the beginning, finding Aniah,” Auburn Police Chief Paul Register said at a Thursday news briefing. “It’s about giving them (family) some piece of mind.”
“This is a family that’s hurting,” Register said. “Regardless of the outcome, they want to know where their daughter is.”
A warrant was issued Thursday for Yazeed’s arrest on a charge of failure to appear in the previous Montgomery case. His $280,000 bond on those charges was revoked.
Yazeed was identified as a suspect in the case after Auburn police late Wednesday afternoon released images of a man wearing dark-colored pants, dark-colored shoes and a camouflage-colored hooded jacket with “Vans” in white writing across the back. The unknown man was seen leaving the area where Blanchard was last seen in what is described as a late 2000’s model Lincoln Town Car, silver or grey in color.
Register said the warrant against Yazeed was obtained, in part, because of “someone doing the right thing,” indicating one or more tipsters came forward with information. Investigators believe that Blanchard was kidnapped from the convenience store where she and Yazeed were both last seen. He said there is no evidence at this point that the two were acquainted. He said they also have additional information that put Yazeed at the convenience store.
The police chief said there’s a strong possibility at least one other person was involved in Blanchard’s disappearance and more arrests are expected. He described public input as “critical” to the case.
Blanchard is the daughter of Birmingham businessman Elijah Blanchard and his wife, lawyer Yashiba Blanchard and Angela Haley-Harris and her husband, UFC fighter Walt Harris.
The Southern Union College student from Homewood was officially reported missing Thursday, Oct. 24. She last communicated with a friend late on the night of Oct. 23. Police said her vehicle was seen in the early-morning hours of Oct. 24 along South College Street.
Police recovered the teen’s black 2017 Honda CRV from an apartment complex on the 6100 block of Boardwalk Boulevard in Montgomery around 6:15 p.m. the following evening, which was Friday. A citizen reported the vehicle to police.
Auburn police Capt. Lorenza Dorsey said Blanchard’s vehicle had been damaged sometime between the last time it was seen in Auburn and Friday night.
Authorities the following week released a small portion of a video showing Blanchard making a purchase at a convenience store located on South College Street that Wednesday night/Thursday morning just prior to her vehicle being observed traveling southbound on South College Street.
A task force of 60 investigators was then officially formed including the FBI, the U.S. Marshals, the Department of Homeland Security, the Lee County District Attorney’s Office, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama Fusion Center and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Opelika Police Department.
On Thursday, Oct. 31, authorities announced Blanchard was considered to be a victim of foul play and said evidence found in her damaged vehicle, which was examined by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, indicated she had been harmed.
Reward money in the case stands at $105,000. UFC President Dana White, UFC fighter Jon Jones, Dominance MMA CEO Ali Abdelaziz, and an anonymous Homewood family all contributed $25,000 toward the reward money while Gov. Kay Ivey’s office pledged $5,000.
Yazeed has a lengthy criminal history. The attempted murder and kidnapping incident in which Yazeed is a defendant happened in January 2019. According to court records, two male victims – one of them 77-years-old – were held against their will in a hotel room in January 2019 on the 1200 block of Eastern Boulevard.
The older man was beaten until “unconscious, unresponsive, severely injured and near death” and robbed of a Rolex, rifle, handguns, wallet, bank card, clothing and unknown amount of currency. The other man was also beaten and robbed of at least $40.
In July 2017, Yazeed was arrested by Cass County sheriff’s deputies in Missouri on an arrest warrant for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.
Yazeed also previously pleaded guilty to felony drug possession in 2015 and received a 13-month suspended sentence. In 2012, he was charged with attempted murder after authorities said he rammed his car into a Montgomery police vehicle. A grand jury declined to indict him on those charges as well.
The previous year – 2011 – Yazeed was charged with two counts of robbery after a man was robbed of more than $2,000, a cell phone and a Gucci watch. A grand jury also declined to indict him on those charges.
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