SAUNDERS
New Jersey State Police  /  AP
Almutah Saunders, seen in an undated photo released Monday by New Jersey State Police, allegedly held off police after abducting his 4-month-old daughter and the baby's mother. Both mother and child were released, and Saunders later surrendered, authorities said.
updated 4/11/2005 8:56:07 PM ET 2005-04-12T00:56:07

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

The standoff began just outside Newark in Irvington, when Almutah Saunders shot and wounded the baby’s grandfather in the leg, then seized the child and her mother, Erika Turner, and led police on a chase across the state, authorities said.

An Amber alert for the child was issued. The grandfather was expected to survive, police said.

Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith said Saunders was wanted on charges of previously abducting Turner and making threats against a relative of hers.

Negotiations had been ongoing with Saunders, who was in a car surrounded by police in a housing development, said Trooper Stephen Jones. Among other charges against him, Saunders is also accused of leading police on a chase across the state.

Chase on I-78
After being pursued on Interstate 78, the car stopped in a Lopatcong neighborhood, about 55 miles west of Irvington.

Officers hid behind houses and a police vehicle near the car as a police helicopter hovered overhead. Authorities were communicating with the man and asked two helicopters from television stations to move back because the noise made it difficult to hear, said State Police Capt. Al Della Fave.

A bottle of what Della Fave believed to be water was brought to the car after the standoff started around 11:30 a.m., and a person opened the door and grabbed the bottle from the pavement.

An alert issued for the infant said the suspect threatened to commit murder and kill himself, but authorities did not release more details about the threats.

Saunders, 26, was suspected of abducting his child, 4-month-old Jada Saunders, and her mother, Erika Turner, and then fleeing in a 2001 gray-silver Honda.

Grandfather in surgery
Authorities said the abduction took place at about 7 a.m. after Almutah Saunders and the grandfather were in some type of altercation.

The grandfather was being operated on at midday, 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.

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.

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