A Texas man who took hostages in a northwestern Indiana realty office and held police at bay for several hours suffered three gunshot wounds before dying, likely from two different weapons, a coroner said Saturday.
Roy L. Ferguson, 48, of Fulshear, Texas, died at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said. That was two hours after the end of the nearly seven-hour standoff at Prudential Executive Group Real Estate office in Valparaiso, about 40 miles southeast of Chicago.
"The likelihood of all three gunshot wounds coming from the same weapon is not good," Harris said. He said that wouldn't be confirmed until an autopsy is performed. It had not yet been scheduled because of Memorial Day weekend.
Valparaiso Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Grennes said Saturday that Ferguson had only one firearm — a handgun. Grennes also said the SWAT officers who rushed inside the office after hearing gunshots at 4:30 p.m. did not fire on Ferguson, but officers exchanged gunfire with Ferguson when the standoff started.
Asked Saturday if police had shot Ferguson, Grennes said, "It's under investigation."
The Times of Munster posted a video report on its website showing police officers crawling through a window of a Valparaiso house owned and rented out by Ferguson to execute a search warrant. The newspaper said Ferguson moved to Texas about four years ago after his wife died.
"He didn't seem threatening or anything, you know, neighborly," Gregg Kovach, a neighbor, told The Times. "He was always out on his porch having a smoke or doing something out there."
Police received a 911 call around 10 a.m. Friday reporting a man with a gun had entered the brokerage office, Grennes said.
There were fewer than 10 people in the building when the incident began, he said.
One of them was accountant Carolyn Biesen. She was in her office when she heard a commotion near the front desk. Biesen walked out, saw a man standing over her injured co-worker on the ground and yelled at him to leave.
"That's when he pulled his gun out — and pointed it in the air," she told The Associated Press late Friday, several hours after she and several other people were taken hostage.
Biesen, 51, retreated back into her office, locked herself in, shoved a file cabinet in front of the door and called 911. Curled up under her desk, she heard two gunshots, then several more in rapid succession.
Ferguson, police said later, was looking for someone he believed owed him money when he went into the Prudential Executive Group Real Estate office in Valparaiso on Friday morning.
Valparaiso Police Chief Michael Brickner said officers believe Ferguson shot himself twice in the head before SWAT members broke windows and stormed inside less than two hours after the last two hostages had been released unharmed.
"He has some history here," Brickner said of Ferguson.
An ambulance rushed Ferguson to a hospital, where he died, police said.
No hostages reported being shot, though Grennes said one person who was struck in the head was treated and released from a hospital.
Another witness, Randy Baker, said he was in an adjacent parking lot shoveling asphalt when an officer wielding a pistol suddenly ran by and asked if he'd seen or heard anything about a gun. When Baker said he hadn't, the officer approached the building.
Seconds later, the officer began rapidly firing at least half a dozen times, said Baker, who took cover behind his work truck. He said he saw a woman in a Prudential window cowering under an office desk.
"That's what really scared me," Baker said. "And I ran out of there fast."
Mack Elliott, an agent at the brokerage, wasn't in the office Friday but said he spoke with agents who were present. He believes the incident stemmed from a dispute over a real estate transaction.
Biesen, the accountant, said she didn't believe the gunman intended to hurt her.
"If he wanted to, he could have come right into the office — maybe shooting through the door," she said.
Biesen spoke Friday night from her home, where several dozen family members and friends gathered after she had made it out unharmed. Despite the trauma, she said she felt sorry for the gunman, noting he could have decided to surrender after all the hostages were released.
"It's very sad," she said.