VALPARAISO | Police Chief Michael Brickner said the quick response of two officers likely prevented Friday's standoff at the Prudential Executive Group Real Estate office from further escalation.
"They were right there," Brickner said Wednesday morning, looking back on the past week's events.
As the call came in just after 10 a.m., an off-duty officer was flagged down on Roosevelt Road by a female employee who told him Roy Ferguson came into the building and fired a handgun, Brickner said.
"With no hesitation, he did what he was trained to do and stabilized the situation," Brickner said.
The officer, wearing plain clothes and without a bulletproof vest, went inside the building with an on-duty officer, Brickner said, and started getting as many people out as they could.
Brickner said the officers then confronted Ferguson, whom they said grabbed a female employee by the neck and held a gun against her head.
Officers attempted to defuse the situation, Brickner said, urging Ferguson to drop his weapon as they edged forward, forcing him into a confined room in the building.
When Ferguson refused to drop his weapon, officers exchanged gunfire with him, Brickner said. Sgt. Mike Grennes said one of the officers shot Ferguson once in his chest.
"We didn't know that at the time," Brickner said.
As Ferguson holed up in a small room with three hostages, a Valparaiso detective began talking to him through a closed door, Brickner said. Negotiators from other agencies came to the scene and assisted the detective, as communication eventually transpired over the phone.
Brickner said as hostages were released, they were taken to the Valparaiso Fire Department's Vale Park Road station for interviews and to gain insight on anything Ferguson might have said.
The firm's owner also helped tactical units better understand the complex layout of the building, Brickner said, drawing detailed maps of the floor plan and letting officers know what was in each room and who still might be inside.
Brickner said Prudential employees staying calm throughout the ordeal helped eliminate unnecessary action.
"What they had to endure — it's hard to describe," Brickner said. "They listened to what they were instructed to do. They stayed calm."
As for the length of the standoff, Brickner said those in command played it by the book.
"There was no reason to put anyone else at unnecessary risk. The goal is to have everyone come out unharmed. That was our goal," he said. "You don't force the issue if you don't have to."
Once all the hostages were released, SWAT team members stormed the building, finding Ferguson with two self-inflicted, small-caliber gunshot wounds to his head. He was taken to Porter hospital and later died.
Hours later, officers found the pickup truck Ferguson drove that morning parked outside The Times building on Glendale Boulevard and Roosevelt Road.
Brickner said investigators may never know why he parked the truck a half-mile from the Prudential office.
"He went in there armed with a gun," Brickner said. "We have to assume whatever his plan or his thought process was at the time, if he goes in there with a loaded weapon, there is a possibility (of violence)."
In the coming week, officers will gather for a debriefing and review their response. Brickner said the process helps officers learn what they could do differently next time.
"You train for it, you prepare for it, but you can't predict something like this," Brickner said. "We live in a world where anything's possible."