Woman killed outside of SD salon a 'sweetheart'
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Four South Dakota hair salon workers heard a gunshot as they fled from a business, two children in tow, trying to avoid the man holed up inside.
Sioux Falls police said Tuesday the sound was likely the gunman taking his own life. The salon's manager, Amanda Connors, had already lost hers.
Tyrone Leeon Smith, 38, had kidnapped his two children from a baby sitter at gunpoint early Tuesday afternoon, police said, and then headed to Cost Cutters, where the mother of his children worked. When police responded to a call and discovered Connors' body -- dead of a gunshot wound -- in her car in the salon's parking lot, SWAT teams surrounded the salon, located on Sioux Falls' busiest street.
The workers -- including the mother -- fled, and later, armed officers entered the salon just before 4 p.m. and found Smith's body. Police said he died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Connors, 24, might have been caught up in a domestic dispute that began to escalate a day earlier.
Court records show Smith was released Monday from the Minnehaha County Jail 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 on 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.
Sioux Falls police Sgt. Loren McManus said he knew of no connection between Smith and Connors, other than the salon.
Connors' friend Jarod Smith, 24, said she had worked at Cost Cutters for about two years after graduating from a local cosmetology school. He met Connors while she was in school and the two worked at a local barbecue restaurant.
After she took a job the salon, Jarod Smith would drop by regularly to get his hair cut and catch up.
"She was absolutely a sweetheart. She could light up a room," he said. She had been dating her boyfriend for four or five years, he said, had an infectious laugh and could talk to anyone about anything.
The police were called Tuesday after Tyrone Smith went to the home of his children's baby sitter, McManus said, then brandished a gun and took the children, both of whom are younger than 2.
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. That's where they discovered Connors shot to death in the red sedan, which had crashed into a parked SUV.
McManus said Smith released the four employees and two children before barricading himself inside the salon. McManus said the gunman didn't appear to want to hold the employees or children hostage.
"I don't think they were forced to stay or go," he said. "They left on their own."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)