An armed siege at a bank in north-eastern Louisiana came to a bloody conclusion as a gunman shot two hostages, killing one, before being shot dead himself by armed police.
Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, following an 11-hour standoff, the 20-year-old suspect, Fuaed Abdo Ahmed, told police negotiators he intended to kill his hostages. A SWAT team stormed the building in the small rural town of St Joseph, but were too late to stop Ahmed shooting the two victims, a man and a woman, both in the upper body. They were rushed to hospital, where the man later died. The woman, LaDean McDaniel, was in critical condition.
Louisiana State Police superintendent Col Mike Edmondson told reporters that the incident began at around 12.30pm on Tuesday, when Ahmed entered the Tensas State Bank branch carrying a handgun and a rifle. There, he took the man and two women captive. The bank sits opposite a convenience store owned by Ahmed’s family in the town of around 1,200, not far from the Mississippi River. Edmondson said Ahmed, a US citizen, was born in California to Yemeni parents, and settled in Louisiana after his father’s death, 12 years ago.
A police negotiator spoke with the suspect throughout Tuesday afternoon, and it became clear that he was neither a bank robber, nor politically or religiously motivated. Instead, said Edmondson, Ahmed was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed that a device had been implanted in his brain. “He was mad at people that he said were mean to him,” the police chief said. “He had voices in his head.”
There was no indication that Ahmed had any connection to his hostages, whom Edmondson described as “good, God-fearing people”. The suspect was reportedly carrying a duffel bag filled with torture apparatuses, which he planned to use to “inflict pain and kill”.
His Facebook updates also contained hints of what was to come. On 11 August, Ahmed had posted a cartoon strip depicting a hostage negotiation on his Facebook wall. In the strip, an armed man in a balaclava demands a sandwich from negotiators in return for releasing a hostage. The negotiators ponder the demand: “How close is the nearest deli?” asks one. “Three blocks,” the other replies. In the strip’s final image, they tell the suspect: “Okay, you can kill the hostage.”
St Joseph’s mayor, Edward Brown, said the incident was so out of character for the area that a number of residents had fled the town in fear. “It’s a quiet town. Very little crime. So this is amazing,” Brown said.
The FBI, US Marshals and state police were all drawn into the stand-off, and during the afternoon the authorities managed to contact a friend of Ahmed’s in Alaska, who spoke to Ahmed spoke by phone. Some nine hours after the siege began, the suspect was persuaded to release one of the three hostages, bank cashier Patricia White. In the evening, police also received a request for food from those inside the bank.
However, as negotiations stretched into the night, the suspect’s behaviour became increasingly erratic, and after hanging up on police several times, Ahmed finally said that he would kill the two remaining hostages. Minutes later, he was dead.