The mayor of the small Louisiana town where a gunman shot two hostages before being killed after a 12-hour standoff said he exchanged pleasantries with the alleged shooter an hour before the hostage situation began.
St. Joseph Mayor Edward Brown had just attended the funeral of the town's former mayor when he stopped by the convenience store where alleged gunman Fuaed Abdo Ahmed, 20, worked.
"After the services, I went by the store where this gentleman works to pick up some ice and as I walked in, he spoke to me and said, 'Mayor, how are you doing?' And I said, 'I'm fine. How are you?' He said, 'I'm doing all right,'" Mayor Brown told ABCNews.com today.
"And that was the gist of our conversation so I was, of course, shocked to learn an hour after that meeting this tragedy was going on at the bank," he said.
The tense standoff began around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when Ahmed, who is from California, took three people hostage inside the bank, police said.
Ahmed's relatives arrived at the scene, helping FBI officials and state negotiators, Louisiana State Trooper Albert Paxton told ABC News.
The incident ended shortly after midnight local time, when state police sent a SWAT team into the bank, police said. The alleged gunman shot the two hostages before he was killed by police, Paxton said.
The two hostages, one male and one female, were taken to area hospitals, where one later died and the other is listed in critical condition, police said.
A third hostage that escaped earlier in the standoff was uninjured, according to police.
All three hostages were employees at the Tensas State Bank, Paxton said. Their identities have not been released. It's unclear whether the suspect, whom police described as paranoid schizophrenic, had any connection to the bank or the hostages.
The bank where the standoff occurred is the mayor's personal bank so he was familiar with the employees and he said he stopped at the convenience store almost every day.
"It was so bizarre. I'm still reeling from what happened and I'm still concerned," Brown said.
He expressed his sadness with the outcome of the standoff and called the situation "a tragic loss of life."
Louisiana State police say the suspect had some kind of mental illness because in listing his demands during the standoff, Ahmed said there was a device in his head that was causing him to hear voices and he wanted police to make it stop.
Ahmed had a duffel bag that contained items with which he was going to torture the hostages, Louisiana State Police superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson told The Associated Press.
"His intent was to inflict pain and kill these individuals," Edmonson said.
Areas closest to the bank were evacuated as a "precaution" in fear of explosives, state trooper Paxton said.
Mayor Brown said the close-knit town has been shaken by the events. He described St. Joseph as a place where "everybody knows everybody."
"I just want to make sure that the community stays together as far as moving forward," he said. "It's going to take time for the healing process."