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Tensas hostage situation left many questions

Sadly, most of us are pretty dulled to the sharp edge of violence. Television is filled with crime dramas in which brutalized corpses are shown in primetime.

Video games offer players a realistic view of violence from war games to criminal ones.

The news is filled with violence from all over the world.

In the last few days, an estimated 1,000 people were killed in an uprising in Egypt. Most of us probably didn’t bat much of an eye at the violence.

Egypt is simply a far away place, out of the scope of most of our own personal worlds.

That dulled insulation from violence came crashing down last week when a situation in our own backyard reached national headlines.

Three people died in last week’s hostage standoff at a Tensas Parish bank. For most of the rest of the country, it was just that day’s story about someone who had become unhinged and turned to violence.

Following America’s short attention span, the national TV news networks moved onto the next violent sideshow just as quickly as they arrived in St. Joseph in the first place.

But for hundreds of local residents, this was not merely one in a string of violent headlines. No, this was different; it was painful.

Hundreds knew the two victims, bank employees Jay Warbington and LaDean McDaniel. Classmates, church members, family and friends all mourn the two victims who apparently did nothing wrong but show up for work that day.

We’ll probably never know what led the young man who just a few years ago was a local high school football star to crack and take three people hostage.

We may never know why shooter Fuaed Abdo Ahmed wanted to harm the bank employees or perhaps even why he let one of the hostages go.

That doesn’t mean lots of people haven’t been asking questions of themselves.

Even the mayor of tiny St. Joseph said he feels guilty sometimes over the shooting. The mayor said he was inside the convenience store Ahmed’s family operated just hours before the standoff began.

While the mayor knows he couldn’t have known what was about to happen, the logic doesn’t stop him from wondering if there was something he’d missed that would have provided a clue of what was to come.

Police believe Ahmed had mental illness. At one point during the standoff Ahmed allegedly told police he wanted them to remove the device that had been implanted into his head.

Interestingly, Ahmed’s father Abdo Ali Ahmed apparently was a victim of senseless violence just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on America.

He was shot in his convenience store in Reedley, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2001. Reportedly, two days before the shooting he’d received a threatening note indicating he was targeted because of his Arab lineage.

His murder forced Ahmed’s mother and her eight children to relocate to Louisiana in order to be closer to a relative.

One wonders if the father’s murder somehow sparked the mental illness that led to last week’s fatal end.

Obviously, his father’s death is no excuse for what Ahmed did.

Clearly this young man had demons inside that few, if any, around him seemed to recognize.

Unfortunately, looking into a man’s heart or his mind is impossible.

If it were, such horrible crimes would never occur and none of us would be blunted by their frequency.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.