SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota man took his two young children from a baby sitter's home at gunpoint, and then apparently killed himself inside of a hair salon Tuesday after officers found an employee shot to death in a car in the salon parking lot.
The man, identified by police as 38-year-old Tyrone Leeon Smith of Sioux Falls, released the children and four employees — one of whom was the children's mother — after entering the Cost Cutters salon that sits in a strip mall along Sioux Falls' busiest street about 1:30 p.m., Police Sgt. Loren McManus said. The employees reported hearing a gunshot as they were leaving the building, he said.
McManus said it didn't appear that Smith wanted to hold the employees or the children hostage, but officers already had discovered Cost Cutters manager Amanda Connors inside her red sedan, dead from a gunshot wound.
McManus said he wasn't sure what Connors' relationship was to Tyrone Smith, other than being a co-worker of his children's mother.
Court records show Smith was released from the Minnehaha County Jail on Monday after pleading not guilty to a domestic assault charge against the mother, the Argus Leader newspaper reported. The mother took out a protection order against Smith Monday morning, asking that he be barred from coming within 500 feet of her, their children, their shared home or the day care their children attended.
Connors, who was in her early 20s, was "absolutely a sweetheart. She could light up a room," said friend Jarod Smith. He told The Associated Press that he met Connors about three years ago, when the two worked at a Sioux Falls restaurant.
"She was very personable and someone you could talk to about everything and anything," added Smith, who is not related to the suspect.
Tuesday's tragic chain of events began shortly after 1 p.m., when police said Smith showed up at the home of his children's baby sitter and took the children by gunpoint. About five minutes after the baby sitter called authorities, police received a call about a car accident about two miles away in the salon parking lot.
Shortly after that, police got another call, this time about a man holding women and children hostage in the salon. Businesses around the salon were evacuated and a nearby middle- and high-school complex was locked down for hours.
The standoff lasted until nearly 4 p.m., when a SWAT team that entered the building discovered Smith had died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, McManus said.
Retiree Ron Goergen, 56, said he was shopping in the plaza's thrift store when a store manager told shoppers to leave immediately.
And Gene Luke had just finished lunch at a pizza place and was walking to his car when officers swarmed in, preventing him from leaving the parking lot.
"They just said, 'Keep walking,' " said Luke, 44.
Luke said when he was walking, he saw two kids being carried out of the salon by some women.
Police said the children were unharmed, taken into police custody and later released to their mother.