SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Worried about an escalating conflict, Amanda Connors drove up to the door of the hair salon she managed and confronted her employee's boyfriend, who had just kidnapped his two kids after being hit with a protection order and domestic violence arrest.
The heroic decision cost Connors her life, but the mother's was spared.
Police said Connors was leaving the salon Tuesday afternoon when she saw Tyrone Leeon Smith, 38, with the kids in the parking lot. She phoned the store from her car to warn her employees, including Smith's girlfriend, then pulled her car up. Smith exchanged words with Connors as he stood in the Cost Cutters doorway before fatally shooting her in the head. As her red sedan accelerated into a parked SUV, Smith ducked inside, fired another shot and then zip-tied his girlfriend and her three co-workers.
A half hour later, Smith let the employees go and put a bullet in his head, police said.
"I personally don't think his intent was to go to that scene and to kill Amanda," said Sioux Falls police Chief Doug Barthels. "It was unfortunate that it happened the way it did.
"Frankly, I kind of see her as a hero."
The escalation between Smith and his live-in girlfriend began Sunday evening when Smith was arrested on a domestic assault charge. He walked out of jail Monday after pleading not guilty. Heidi Weber filed for a temporary protection order asking that Smith be barred from coming within 500 feet of her, their 7-week-old son, their 17-month daughter, her 9-year-old daughter, their shared home or the day care.
Weber in her petition said Smith got mad when he found out she had gone through the phone bill. She said he pushed her onto the bed and put his hands around her neck. A second petition filed by Smith's 17-year-old son and his mother said the teen tried to grab his dad during the confrontation and was threatened. The orders were granted through Oct. 2.
The incident at Cost Cutters was the first contact between Smith and Weber since the altercation, said Sioux Falls police Capt. Greg VandeKamp. Everything that could have been legally done to protect Weber and the kids was done, he said, noting that a protection order simply orders no contact.
"It is a piece of paper," VandeKamp said. "It is an order, and just like a posted speed limit, not everyone is going to obey it."
Just before 1 p.m. Tuesday, Smith barged into the baby sitter's house, grabbed the kids, zip-tied the woman to a chair and removed her cellphone's battery. Four minutes later, police received a call about an accident in the salon parking lot. When officers arrived, they found the crashed car and bystanders attending to the bleeding woman. Smith went back inside, locked the doors and fired a shot that went through a wall and grazed an employee in the leg. She was not injured, VandeKamp said.
No customers were in the store, but Smith tied up the employees and made it clear he planned to hurt himself. Within a half hour, Weber was able to persuade Smith to let everyone go. As the employees left, they heard a single gunshot, VandeKamp said.
Unsure if Smith had taken his own life, a SWAT team surrounded the salon and closed off three blocks on Sioux Falls' busiest street. Just before 4 p.m., armed officers stormed in and found Smith's body.
Minnehaha County court records show his ex-wife also sought protection order requests in 2009 and 2010. Both were dismissed at her request. The records also show numerous protection order petitions filed by Smith against his ex-wife, her family members, a friend of his ex-wife's and an ex-girlfriend.
His ex-wife, in response to a 2010 protection order petition, said it was filed under false accusations that she threatened to kill herself and their daughter. She wrote that Smith was upset that she asked for a divorce.
She then filed a protection order petition against Smith, saying he had assaulted her while she was holding their baby and was harassing her family.
"My husband Tyrone is a violent man," she wrote. "I am afraid for our daughter's safety while she is with Tyrone for extended periods of time."
Connors' killing marked just the second homicide this year in Sioux Falls, South Dakota's largest city, Barthels said.