Fiancee says Valpo gunman was a loving man, a former hero

2012-05-26T21:30:00Z 2012-05-30T14:44:28Z Fiancee says Valpo gunman was a loving man, a former heroby Bill Dolan, (219) 662-5328

VALPARAISO | A man who took hostages in a realty office Friday and held police at bay for hours before dying was reportedly a loving father, rich in friends and hailed as a hero seven years ago.

But Roy L. Ferguson, 48, also was stinging over a financial betrayal, said his fiancee, Dawn Brim.

"He was owed a significant amount of money by a gentleman in Valparaiso. I don't know that for sure, but I'm assuming that individual worked at the Prudential building, and that's why he went there," said Brim, of Fulshear, Texas. She spoke about Ferguson on Saturday while en route to Valparaiso from her suburban Houston home in the aftermath of Friday's explosion of violence.

The hostage situation began about 10 a.m. as police were called to the Prudential Executive Group building, 2612 N. Calumet Ave. Accountant Carolyn Biesen told authorities Friday she had found Ferguson standing over an injured co-worker on the ground and brandishing a handgun.

Prudential employees were recovering Saturday from the emotional toll of the seven-hour ordeal, a company spokesman said, while Indiana State Police were investigating the standoff and its bloody conclusion.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said Saturday Ferguson likely suffered three gunshot wounds from two different weapons. That comes one day after Valparaiso Police Chief Michael Brickner said officers believe Ferguson shot himself twice in the head before SWAT members stormed the building after the hostages were freed.

"There were three gunshot wounds to the body," Harris said Saturday afternoon. "Two to the head area and one to the upper right quadrant in the chest area. It's highly likely that there were two different guns causing three different wounds."

Harris declined to draw any further conclusion until after an autopsy, which may not take place until after the Memorial Day weekend.

"I will be talking shortly with the Indiana State Police," he said.

Brim said she and Ferguson's many friends will remember him as a different man.

"He was kind, sweet," she said. "He loved fishing. He pulled a man out of a burning building."

The Times reported in August 2005 that Ferguson, who was living on Valparaiso's west side at the time — less than three miles from the Prudential office — was awakened in the early morning hours by the neighbors' screams. Retired school teacher Joseph Joyce and his daughter and son were trapped in their burning house.

While others helped, Ferguson entered the smoke-filled house through a window and helped Joyce escape.

Brim said Ferguson had suffered a series of setbacks in his life. His wife died several years ago, leaving him to raise three children. A construction injury left him in constant pain and often unable to work, she said.

She said she met Ferguson through their daughters' basketball games. They had been living in Texas. Ferguson had rented out his old home on Valparaiso's west side and returned to it days ago to prepare it for new tenants.

"I talked to him Thursday night. He told me he couldn't wait to get back home to the kids," she said.

She said she doesn't understand what triggered Friday's tragedy, but she is sure Ferguson had no grudge against Prudential or complaints over any real estate matters.

But she is certain he was upset about a debt he was owed by a man who worked at the Prudential office, she said.

"I know the gentleman owed him the money. I've seen the emails. He originally borrowed $15,000 and he paid a little of it back and all of a sudden he stopped paying it back. The last I heard he still owed about $13,000," Brim said.

Police Chief Michael Brickner said Friday the Prudential employee Ferguson believed owed him money wasn't in the building at the time the standoff took place.

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