JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sonny Warbington, the brother of Jay Warbington, one of the Tensas State Bank employees who was held hostage and later killed by gunman Fuaed Abdo Ahmed last week, stands and sings along to “Break Every Chain” at a memorial service Tuesday at the bank in St. Joseph.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sonny Warbington, the brother of Jay Warbington, one of the Tensas State Bank employees who was held hostage and later killed by gunman Fuaed Abdo Ahmed last week, stands and sings along to “Break Every Chain” at a memorial service Tuesday at the bank in St. Joseph.

St. Joseph residents honor victims in bank tragedy

Published 12:00am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ST. JOSEPH, La. — As the sun set Tuesday, hundreds of white and blue balloons filled the sky over St. Joseph in honor of Jay Warbington and LaDean McDaniel.

St. Joseph residents and others from across the area released the balloons during a memorial service in front of Tensas State Bank on Plank Road where a week prior, the two employees were taken hostage and eventually died after being shot by their hostage taker.

“If we’ve ever needed the Lord, we need him today,” the Rev. Dwayne Butler told the audience before asking them to release the balloons. “Pray for the families.”

McDaniel’s husband, Ronnie, addressed the audience briefly as he fought back tears to thank the community for their continued support.

“I know in my heart it was God’s will to take them on,” Ronnie McDaniel said. “If they could come back, they wouldn’t because they’re in a better place now.”

Warbington’s brother, Sonny, said the community could overcome the tragic events if they let God help them overcome.

“In times like this, we give up on our petty differences and we start to realize what the real deal is,” Sonny Warbington said. “My brother may not be here anymore, but I look at my brothers and my sisters out here, and we’re all family.”

During the standoff, Patricia White — the third hostage inside the bank — was eventually released after police negotiations.

White’s husband, Robert, spoke on her behalf and said the bank employees were more than just coworkers.

“They were brothers and sisters that had just a little different DNA,” Robert White said. “We want our normal back, but that may never happen.”

Louisiana State Police superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, who responded to the hostage situation last week, told the crowd that he didn’t have all the answers Tuesday, but that he would work to find them soon.

“I wish I could tell you why,” Edmonson said. “We’re going to find out the whys.”

Edmonson said shortly after Warbington and McDaniel died, he began receiving phone calls from people across the state who shared stories about their lives.

“I didn’t realize how much of this state their lives touched,” he said. “I got phone calls from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Gonzales from Hammond and all points in between and along the coast of people who said their names.

“We will continue to be with this community, and we will continue to bring justice and a closure to this.”

St. Joseph Mayor Edward Brown told residents that time would heal the emotional wounds of the community.

“It’s going to take time to heal,” Brown said. “But with time and prayer, we can heal.”

As the nearly two-hour service came to a close with the release of the balloons, residents continued to talk among themselves and share stories of Warbington and McDaniel.

St. Joseph native Tina Arceneaux said she saw both bank employees hours before the hostage situation occurred during a routine bank visit.

“When you visit someone everyday and know them like that, they become family,” Arceneaux said. “This service was just awesome.”

During her visit, Arceneaux said McDaniel was busy with another client so Warbington helped her with her deposit.

The last words she exchanged with both of them are ones Areceneaux said she would never forget.

“Like always, I smiled and said, ‘Y’all have a great day,’” Arceneaux said. “He smiled back and said, ‘We are going to have a good day.’”