VALPARAISO | The man who initiated a tense seven-hour hostage standoff with police died after being found with multiple gunshot wounds.
Roy L. Ferguson, 48, of Texas, suffered two gunshot wounds to the head and one gunshot wound to the body, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said.
The standoff ended shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, with SWAT team members storming a north side real estate office and Ferguson found shot on the floor.
Valparaiso police Sgt. Mike Grennes said officers were called to the Prudential Executive Group building, 2612 Calumet Ave., just before 10 a.m. for a report of shots fired inside the building.
Grennes said when Valparaiso officers arrived on scene moments later, there was a brief exchange of gunfire between officers and Ferguson, as some hostages exited the gray, two-story structure at one of the city's busiest intersections.
Valparaiso Police Chief Michael Brickner said the standoff apparently stemmed from Ferguson believing he was owed money by an employee, who was reportedly not in the building at the time.
SWAT teams from the Porter County Sheriff's Department and the Portage Police Department descended on the scene, and with an FBI negotiator, and began communicating with Ferguson, Grennes said.
Employees of some nearby businesses were told to evacuate as a precaution while others were told to stay away from windows.
A representative for Valparaiso Community Schools also confirmed Flint Lake Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School were on a modified lockdown in response to the situation.
There were 10 people in the office at the time the incident began, Grennes said, and just before 11:30 a.m., two men and two women were seen leaving the building, none appearing injured. About 12:40 p.m., another woman was seen walking out of the building unharmed.
One of the hostages was taken to Porter hospital, Grennes said, after being struck in the head by Ferguson. Police said it was unknown whether Ferguson struck the person with his hand or his weapon. The injured person was treated and released, Grennes said.
About 1:30 p.m., armed SWAT team members were seen entering the neighboring Urschel Laboratories building and others climbing onto the roof of the Midas auto shop next door.
The final hostages were released shortly after 3:30 p.m., though Ferguson stayed holed up in the building and in communication with FBI negotiators.
At 4:43 p.m., two loud bangs were heard echoing down Calumet Avenue, as an armored SWAT vehicle pulled up to the building and an officer entered through a shattered first-floor window.
Brickner said Ferguson was armed with a handgun and found on the floor with two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to his head.
"We believe he shot himself before we entered," Brickner said.
He was transferred to Porter hospital in critical condition and later died, Grennes said.
Brickner credited SWAT team training with helping the situation end without additional injuries.
"Well, I think in a situation like this, obviously we'd like to have everyone come out safely," Brickner said. "It's unfortunate how this ended."
Times Porter County Editor John Scheibel and staff writers Bob Kasarda and Joyce Russell contributed to this report.