Hostage-Taking Suspect Surrenders to Cops

A man who abducted his 4-month-old daughter and her mother Monday, then held them in a car surrounded by police for more than three hours before releasing them unharmed surrendered peacefully to police Monday evening, authorities said.

Almutah Saunders (search) dropped a loaded pistol out the window of the car and surrendered at 6:45 p.m., state police Sgt. Gerald Lewis said.

The surrender came after Saunders' mother pleaded with her son to give himself up, authorities said.

Saunders triggered a statewide alert Monday morning after allegedly shooting the child's grandfather and then leading police on a chase across the state.

Erika Turner, holding her baby, Jada Saunders, left the driver's side of the car shortly after 3 p.m., walked to one of the police cars surrounding them and got in. The cruiser left skid marks as it backed away from the scene.

Both mother and daughter were checked by medical crews and found to be unharmed.

They were freed after officers made several deliveries to the vehicle, a silver Honda Accord, including a bottle of water.

The episode began about 7 a.m. in Irvington, just outside Newark, when Saunders, 26, shot and wounded Turner's father and fled with Turner and the baby, police said.

An alert for a missing child and the Honda was issued about 10 a.m., and a state trooper on the New Jersey Turnpike (search) near Newark spotted the vehicle about an hour later, Jones said.

After being pursued on Interstate 78 (search), the car stopped in a Lopatcong neighborhood, some 55 miles west of Irvington, about 30 minutes later.

Officers hid behind houses and a police vehicles near the car, and a police helicopter hovered overhead. The standoff was not far from Pennsylvania, where authorities said the suspect has relatives.

Initial negotiations were covered live on television stations, and police asked two TV helicopters to move back because the noise made it difficult to hear, said State Police Capt. Al Della Fave.

Authorities said Saunders and the grandfather had some type of altercation. The grandfather was shot in the leg and was expected to survive, Irvington police director Michael Damiano said. He was uncertain what triggered the violence.

As for the couple, "They had some problems in the past. We're not sure they were still seeing each other," Damiano said.

Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith said the suspect was wanted for a March 14 abduction of Turner that was not reported until April 4, but that officers had been unable to find him at his last known address, in East Orange.

Newark police also had a warrant for Saunders in connection with his allegedly making terroristic threats against a relative of Turner's, which was reported April 4.

Saunders was paroled in June 2002 after serving about two years in state prison for selling drugs on school property in April 1999 and for three weapons offenses, in March and June 1998, according to state Corrections Department records.

Charlotte Smith, Essex County executive assistant prosecutor, said Saunders would be charged with 11 criminal counts, including kidnapping, attempted murder, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, weapons offenses, eluding police and violating a restraining order.