SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Gunfire rang out as four employees fled the Sioux Falls hair salon where they worked, dragging two children to safety but with no hope of saving their colleague who was already shot to death.
Sioux Falls police said Tuesday that the sound was likely the gunman taking his own life. The salon's manager, Amanda Connors, was also dead, an apparent victim of a co-worker's violent domestic dispute.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Tyrone Leeon Smith, 38, seized his children at gunpoint from a baby sitter, then headed to the Cost Cutters salon where the mother of the children, both under 2 years, worked.
Shots were fired and when a SWAT team surrounded the salon on the city's busiest street, they discovered Connors, 24, dead of a gunshot wound in her red sedan in the parking lot. Armed officers stormed the salon and found Smith's body. Police said he died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Sioux Falls police Sgt. Loren McManus said Smith had released the four employees and two children before locking himself inside the salon. McManus said the gunman didn't appear to want to hold any of them hostage.
"I don't think they were forced to stay or go," he said. "They left on their own."
McManus said he knew of no prior connection between Smith and Connors.
The Argus Leader newspaper reported that Smith earlier pleaded not guilty to a domestic assault charge and was released Monday from the Minnehaha County Jail. The mother of his children had meanwhile taken out a protection order against him, asking that he be barred from coming within 500 feet of her, their children, their shared home or the day care.
Jarod Smith, Connors' friend of several years, said she had worked at the salon for about two years and that he often came in to get his hair cut and to catch up. He said she had an infectious laugh and could talk to anyone about anything.
"She was absolutely a sweetheart," Jarod Smith, 24, said. "She could light up a room."
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