La. bank-hostages killer had no known extremist ties

Before Fuaed Abdo Ahmed executed two hostages during a bank standoff in the summer in north Louisiana, the 20-year-old left a handwritten will forbidding white people and non-Muslims from attending his funeral. And in the hours after he holed up in the Tensas State Bank, a disturbing Facebook photo emerged of the former LSU student holding an assault rifle — fueling early concerns that he had become radicalized after a trip to Yemen.

But a monthslong investigation found that Ahmed, who was fatally shot after a SWAT team stormed the bank, had no apparent ties to extremist groups abroad, Louisiana State Police said Wednesday.

Rather, the Aug. 13 hostage crisis that scarred the peaceful town of St. Joseph was the result of a paranoid schizophrenic who became increasingly unstable in the months before his death, insisting some kind of “microphone device” had been planted in his head.

A State Police report offers the most detailed account to date of a tragedy that some community members likened to a local 9/11, revealing new information about a massive law enforcement response that saved one hostage but failed to prevent the deaths of two others.

The report, provided to The New Orleans Advocate in response to a public-records request, also depicts a deeply conflicted and troubled young man who attempted to cure his mental illness by doing yoga for six hours a day and who raised red flags with his bizarre statements and rambling Internet postings in the months before the bank standoff.

Ahmed had been an honors student and co-captain of the football team at his high school in Lake Providence. But his family began to notice a decline during his brief stint as a student at LSU, when he began to experiment with synthetic marijuana. Ahmed used bath salts and other “hard drugs,” they told investigators, and had “gotten into trouble at LSU for making threats” before dropping out.

“He would also say people were coming into his apartment and ‘tapping’ his phone,” the report said. “He would buy locks and chains in an attempt to keep people from coming into his apartment and implanting listening devices.”

Carefully planned

Dressed in a polo shirt and khaki shorts, Ahmed walked into the bank at 12:18 p.m. carrying an AR-15 assault rifle, a .380-caliber handgun and a gym bag that contained a roll of duct tape, a propane torch, cable ties, pliers and a hatchet.

He had planned the details of his mission and, based on some writings law enforcement found in his room, also considered targeting a Wal-Mart. The alarming contents of his bag suggested he was prepared to follow through on his written threat — he left a five-page note in a van parked outside the bank — to begin torturing his hostages if authorities failed to remove the device from his head after 12 hours. After 16 hours, he wrote, he would execute the hostages, one by one.

Patricia White, a teller of 30 years and the only hostage to walk out of the bank alive, told investigators it had been a relatively normal morning at work before Ahmed barged in. But when she arrived at work, in an eerie foreshadowing of the standoff, she overheard two colleagues, Jay Warbington and Tamara H. McDaniel, talking about how concerned they were that Ahmed had come into the bank the day before carrying a tote bag. The incident made them uneasy, they said, because the bank had been robbed years earlier by someone carrying a similar bag.

Hours later, when Ahmed entered the bank, he pulled a pistol — a gun he had swiped from his family’s convenience store across the street — and pointed it at McDaniel before hopping over the counter. He forced White to handcuff McDaniel with plastic “flex-cuffs,” a shocking sight for a woman who pulled up to the bank’s drive-thru window to make a lunchtime deposit. Ahmed looked right at the woman, but her presence apparently did not register; he was engrossed in his mission.

The woman drove away and alerted Tensas Parish sheriff’s deputies.

Inside the bank, Ahmed found Warbington in the kitchen eating lunch and handcuffed him as well. White later told authorities she had a chance at that point to run out the front door but decided against it.

Not a terrorist

After locking the front door and forcing the three employees into a cameraless room, Ahmed sought to assure his hostages that he was not a terrorist and was not there to rob them.

Instead, he said, he was demanding an end to his own suffering, having left specific instructions in his note that the device in his head be removed and given to the FBI. “These people I am holding all know about the device being used to torture me in an attempt to kill me thus this is necessity-defense,” he wrote in his note. “They are taking part in this crime and committing treachery against this nation.”

Ahmed also wanted a guarantee that he would serve no jail time or be taken to a mental facility. “You know why I am here,” he told the hostages.

Local, state and federal law enforcement formed a perimeter outside the bank and set up an operations center at the Tensas Parish Fire Department. They used the parking lot of Ahmed’s family’s store across the street as a staging area for the various agencies responding to the incident. Agents began monitoring the bank via a live surveillance feed that they accessed from another branch.

Teams of investigators were sent to search a residence where Ahmed was staying at Lake Bruin and to interview family members. Even before the first shots were fired, a portrait of severe mental illness emerged.

Agents found a bottle of Risperidone, a drug used to treat schizophrenia, in his room, with 57 of 60 pills remaining. Ahmed had been prescribed the medication in June after federal authorities detained him at Los Angeles International Airport. After questioning him and finding no record of criminal activity, federal authorities had referred him for medical evaluation because he was carrying notes that stated he was hearing voices and high-pitched sounds, and that he planned to threaten suicide in a police station if he could not get assistance, according to the FBI.

Ahmed had been on the radar of law enforcement agencies and was interviewed by the FBI in April in Yemen after his family reported he was missing and had possibly been kidnapped. Further concerns were raised after Ahmed contacted a former coach over Facebook from Yemen and told him that a device had been planted into his head, adding that the people of East Carroll Parish were racist and “would possibly kill him if he returned to Louisiana.”

Further details about the FBI investigation were redacted from the State Police report, and the FBI last year denied a federal Freedom of Information Act Request from the newspaper seeking records pertaining to Ahmed.

No eye contact

Inside the bank, Ahmed kept the pistol in his hands at all times but refused to make eye contact with the hostages. He demanded the password to the computer so he could watch the news online. Phone calls from news agencies and several hang-up calls came into the bank, the report said. The hostages, one of whom suffered from gout, were forced to kneel for a long period of time before Ahmed allowed them to sit.

Ahmed phoned a former girlfriend he had secretly dated in high school. The young woman had once asked her parents whether Ahmed could come over and they had refused, stating, “He does not believe in God,” the State Police report shows. He claimed his ex-girlfriend had been in on the alleged scheme to plant a device in his head.

Nearly three hours into the standoff, the authorities established telephone contact with Ahmed. Over eight hours of negotiating, they reached him 12 separate times — connecting him with a friend in Alaska at one point — and stayed on the line with him for three hours and 21 seconds. At 8:19 p.m., White was the closest hostage to the door when Ahmed was persuaded to release her, cutting her plastic restraints and telling her to leave.

As the clock approached midnight and Ahmed refused to stand down, the authorities feared he was going to follow his timetable and start harming the hostages.

At 11:20 p.m., an FBI hostage negotiator from the agency’s Lafayette office took over for a State Police negotiator. The agent began discussing with Ahmed “how to federally prosecute the guilty person responsible for implanting the device in his body,” the State Police report says.

A SWAT team entered the bank through a back door at about 11:45 p.m. They used an explosive to blow off a door to the room where Ahmed was holed up with the hostages. At the sight of the officers, Ahmed fatally shot Warbington and McDaniel, one time each in the head, prompting several State Police officers to open fire, striking Ahmed eight times.

The actions of the State Police shooters were determined to be justified, said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman, and no charges are expected to be filed in the case.

“The only suspect of any crime was deceased,” Cain said.