New normal slowly returns to town after hostage situation

Published 12:14am Thursday, August 15, 2013

ST. JOSEPH, La. — Andrea Tarver was surprised at what she saw Wednesday morning on Plank Road in downtown St. Joseph.

JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — St. Joseph native Andrea Tarver talks Wednesday about the victims of the standoff between police and a gunman that left two dead and one in critical condition at Tensas State Bank earlier this week.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — St. Joseph native Andrea Tarver talks Wednesday about the victims of the standoff between police and a gunman that left two dead and one in critical condition at Tensas State Bank earlier this week.

After an hours-long standoff at Tensas State Bank that began Tuesday afternoon and left a gunman and one hostage dead and another hostage in critical condition, Tarver didn’t see any signs that the event had even occurred just a few hours earlier.

“There were so many police cars, flashing blue lights and people around (Tuesday), so I expected to see the same thing (Wednesday) morning,” Tarver said. “I pulled up and didn’t see anything.

“Everything was back to normal, and it looked like just any regular day.”

But it was difficult for Tarver and other St. Joseph residents to ignore the series of events that had just occurred in their small Louisiana town.

“You see stuff like that happen on TV or in movies, but not in our little town,” Adrienne Jones said. “Nothing like that’s ever happened here, and we just didn’t know what to do.”

The standoff began around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when a gunman — identified by police as 20-year-old Fuaed Abdo Ahmed — took three bank employees captive inside the bank.

Armed with a .380 semiautomatic handgun and an assault rifle, Ahmed kept the hostages in a small workroom where the bank vault is, Tensas Parish Sheriff Rickey Jones said.

Louisiana State Police superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said during hostage negotiations, Ahmed released one of the female hostages, Patricia White.

White returned to her Newton Road house Wednesday afternoon, but family members declined to be interviewed.

Eventually, Ahmed told negotiators he was going to kill the two remaining hostages. Edmonson said state police entered the building just before midnight Tuesday.

That’s when Ahmed shot the two hostages and then police shot and killed him, Edmonson said. Both hostages were reportedly shot in the upper body.

The second hostage, LaDean McDaniel, was taken to Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria in critical condition. McDaniel was on life support Wednesday evening, Jones said.

Bank employee Jay Warbington was killed in the incident.

Leslie Durham visited the bank Wednesday afternoon and dropped off a wreath in the shape of a cross. Another similar wreath was placed in front of the bank Wednesday morning, and residents had added balloons, stuffed animals and other items throughout the day.

“This is a small town, so we shop with everyone at the same grocery store, go to church together and our kids go to school together — we’re all family here,” Durham said, through tears. “There were three families directly affected Tuesday, but this entire community was affected because everyone is so close.

“It’s going to take a while for this community to recover.”

Tarver and Durham also expressed sympathy for Ahmed’s family, who they described as good, community-oriented people.

“From what it sounds like, he was sick,” Durham said. “Obviously, this was a cry for help, and it’s just a tragedy it happened this way.”

Tarver’s son, Daley Sesser, 17, said he played football against Ahmed and went to school with his brother.

“I didn’t know Fuaed that well, but I just remember his nickname, ‘Quick,’ because he was so fast,” Sesser said. “(Fuaed Ahmed’s) brother was a great guy, and we hung out all the time.

“Their whole family was really nice.”

As the day slowly winded down for Tarver and her family, the St. Joseph native said the events that occurred in the small town would likely never be forgotten.

“Now, we just have to try and get back to business as usual, but it’s going to be difficult,” Tarver said. “This is going to be something that everyone will remember forever.”