Ibraheem Yazeed is the 30-year-old Alabama man with a violent criminal history who is under arrest in the kidnapping of Aniah Blanchard, a Southern Union College student who is the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight star Walt Harris.
Yazeed was arrested on Thursday night hiding in a brushy area off a Florida interstate. U.S Marshals took him into custody near Pensacola, off the I-10 Pine Forest Road exit in Escambia County.
Horrifically, authorities have now discovered remains in a wooded area near Alabama. They are investigating to determine whether they are Aniah. The Auburn Police Division released this statement:
“During the course of the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Aniah Blanchard, investigators obtained information regarding the possible location of a body. On November 25, 2019, at approximately 10:45 a.m., Auburn Police, along with members of the Task Force, Lee County DA’s Office, U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, ALEA and Montgomery County Sheriff Office, responded to a wooded area in the 38,000 block of County Road 2 in Shorter, Alabama.
After a brief search by Investigators they located what appeared to be human remains several feet into the woodline. A complete investigation is underway by ALEA and Auburn Police to determine the identity and how the victim came to be at that location. The examination will explore if the remains are those of Aniah Blanchard who went missing on October 24, 2019.”
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said authorities “have good reason to believe the remains are Blanchard’s,” WSFA-TV reported.
Auburn, Alabama Police Chief Paul Register said in a news conference that authorities’ focus has been on “locating Aniah.” Aniah Haley Blanchard was reported missing by her family on October 24, 2019. “She last communicated with a friend on Wednesday night, Oct. 23, just before midnight,” police say of the 19-year-old. Authorities have indicated that Aniah might have crossed paths with Yazeed in a gas station convenience store. Her car was later found bearing damage.
Now they believe that Yazeed – who is nicknamed “Bro Skee” – kidnapped her, although Aniah’s whereabouts remain unknown. According to ESPN, the MMA community has “rallied around Harris,” including contributing money to reward funds that now exceed $100,000. “I just pray that everybody keeps the hope alive,” Harris said to ESPN, which reported that he withdrew from a fight after Aniah vanished. “We’re staying hopeful.”
Police had previously released photos of a person of interest they now say was Ibraheem Yazeed. “The Auburn Police Division has identified the person of interest as Ibraheem Yazeed, 30 years of age from Montgomery, Alabama. A warrant has been obtained for his arrest for the charge of kidnapping in the first degree,” Auburn police reported in a news release. Here’s his Florida mugshot.
Here’s his jail booking sheet in Florida:
Two other suspects are also under arrest: David Johnson Jr. is accused of hindering prosecution. Ibraheem Yazeed is accused of first-degree kidnapping, according to WVTM-TV.
UFC describes Harris, who is known as the “Big Ticket,” as the #9 ranked heavyweight. He has 13 wins by knockout. He last fought on July 20, 2019. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama and trains in Florida. The 36-year-old debuted in 2013. Harris and Aniah’s mother, stepmother and father have joined together in launching a major public effort to find the college student.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say That Yazeed Should Be Considered Dangerous & They Believe He took Aniah ‘Against Her Will’
Auburn police revealed that the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Taskforce “along with other agencies assisting in this investigation are actively searching for Yazeed. Yazeed is currently out on bond for the charges of kidnapping and attempted murder from another jurisdiction. He should be considered dangerous and potentially armed.”
Police added that the charge “stems from the investigation of the disappearance of Aniah Haley Blanchard between Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, and Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. Further investigation and analysis of evidence has determined that Yazeed was at the same location Blanchard was last seen and is involved in taking Aniah against her will.”
They added: “Additional charges and/or arrests are anticipated. Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts or having information on this case is asked to call the Auburn Police Division Detective Section at 334-501-3140, Central Alabama Crime Stoppers at 334-215-STOP, or the 24-hour non-emergency number at 334-501-3100.”
In a news conference, the police chief indicated that Yazeed was the same person previously called a person of interest in photos released by authorities. “A warrant was obtained for his arrest in a charge of kidnapping in the first degree,” the chief said.
There are 11 different agencies working together on the case. Yazeed has associates throughout the area, but the chief said that “nothing is out of play” as to where authorities are looking at this point. He said a person “did the right thing” that led to Yazeed’s identification and the warrant after authorities highlighted the person of interest photos.
According to WRBL, authorities found Aniah’s blood in her car that was indicative of a life-threatening injury. The station reported that, according to authorities, a witness says Yazeed forced Blanchard into her car against her will.
2. Yazeed Was Out on Bond After Being Previously Accused of Beating a Man Almost to Death
According to a February 2019 WFSA-TV article, Ibraheem Yazeed and a woman named Jessie Ford were accused of attempted murder after a man was found “badly beaten and near death inside a car.”
Police in Alabama had discovered a beaten man after stopping a car someone reported for erratic driving. Ford and Yazeed were accused of beaitng the victim at gunpoint until he was “unconscious, unresponsive, severely injured and near death” at a hotel. They then are accused of stealing items from him, including a Rolex watch.
They were also accused of holding a second person against his will, “beating him and stealing money from him,” WFSA reported, adding that he was out on bond in that case.
It’s “very concerning” to know that someone who allegedly committed a past crime like Yazeed had was “in our community… we just have to be vigilant and be safe,” the police chief said in the news conference. He said authorities were holding some information “close to the vest” so as not to jeopardize the case.
Authorities believe there will be other arrests. “We do think there’s a likelihood that someone else is involved in this case.” Register wouldn’t give details about any other person’s role.
According to Al.com, Yazeed has a violent criminal history, including a 2017 Missouri arrest for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer; a felony drug possession conviction in 2015; and a 2012 accusation of attempted murder after “authorities said he rammed his car into a Montgomery police vehicle.” In the latter case, he was not indicted by a grand jury, though. In 2011, he was accused of robbery but also was not indicted by a grand jury, the newspaper reported.
On Facebook, Yazeed’s likes are almost entirely to pages of the Kardashians. He wrote that he went to a high school for applied tech and engineering in Houston. On a second Facebook page, he wrote, “I Thank Allah and (name removed by Heavy) for me being free …Black Man Loyalty… Young Rich Crum…” A 2017 post read, “Thank God 4 dat Water…” Another post read, “Gas, gas.” One of his friend has been arguing on Facebook that he thinks Yazeed is innocent, debating people who fervently disagree.
3. Authorities Previously Circulated Photos Showing a Man They Now Say Is Yazeed in a Convenience Store
Before they named Yazeed as the suspect, the Auburn Police Division asked for the public’s assistance “in identifying a person captured on video surveillance inside the convenience store at the time Aniah Haley Blanchard was last seen and disappeared on Oct. 23.”
At that time they identified the individual in the video (whom they now say is Yazeed) as a “black male, early-mid 20’s, approximately 200 lbs., and is between 5’-8” and 5’-10”. He is wearing dark-colored pants, dark-colored shoes and a camouflage colored hooded jacket with ‘Vans’ in white writing across the back. Additionally, the individual in the video was observed leaving the area in what is described as a late 2000’s model Lincoln Town Car, silver or grey in color.”
In addition, authorities previously released “a snippet of a video capturing Aniah Haley Blanchard making a purchase at a convenience store located on South College Street, on Wednesday, Oct. 23, just prior to her vehicle being observed traveling southbound on South College Street.”
4. It’s Not Clear Whether Yazeed & Aniah Were Strangers to Each Other & Her Family Has Launched a Major Effort to Find the Missing Teen
The Auburn police chief said authorities aren’t sure whether Yazeed, of Montgomery, and Blanchard previously knew each other.
“We think this individual is someone who should be in custody,” he said. “We don’t have any reason to know that she was familiar with him, but we can’t rule out completely that there was some knowledge.”
Authorities previously found Blanchard’s vehicle. “On Friday, Oct. 25, at 6:15 p.m., Aniah Haley Blanchard’s vehicle was located at an apartment complex in the 6100 block of Boardwalk Boulevard in Montgomery, Alabama,” police revealed. “Members of the Auburn Police Division, as well as the Montgomery Police Department, responded after receiving notification from a citizen. While the vehicle has been recovered, Blanchard has not been located. The investigation continues regarding her disappearance.”
Aniah’s family has been working very hard to find her. In an emotional interview after police released Yazeed’s name, Angela Harris, Aniah’s mom, said: “As a mother and as a Christian, you know, we’re all sinners and even though this man has done some evil things and possibly evil things to our daughter, you know God can change everybody’s heart.. If he sees this, whoever it is who has done harm to our child…it can be OK. You can stop now. You can change this. You can let her go. God forgive you, we can forgive you. We just want our child home and safe.”
Police described Aniah as “a light-complexioned black female, 5’-6” , 125 lbs., brown eyes and brown hair and was last seen wearing a black dress, tan duck boots with black stockings. She drives a 2017 Honda CR-V, black in color with Alabama tag #49BS356.”
5. Police Say They Have Evidence That Blanchard Was Harmed & There Are Rewards in the Case
Auburn police say that “evidence from within Aniah Blanchard’s vehicle, recovered in Montgomery, was examined by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and has now determined that she was harmed and is considered to be a victim of foul play.”
There are several rewards for information leading to the apprehension of suspects.
“The Police Division was notified yesterday that Governor Kay Ivey has authorized a $5,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of any suspects in this case,” police said.
“Additionally, information has been received regarding an additional $25,000 reward being offered by UFC President Dana White as well as another $5,000 from an anonymous source for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of an offender in this case.”