ALEXANDRIA, La. - Anger over a divorce settlement may have driven a 63-year-old Baptist deacon to shoot five people in a law office, killing two, then exchange gunfire with police during a standoff, authorities said yesterday.
A special tactical unit used explosives to enter the building shortly after midnight and shot John Ashley to death after he opened fire, said Sergeant Clifford Gatlin, a police spokesman.
Police said Ashley shot at them during the 10-hour standoff Thursday, and even shot at a remote-controlled police robot they sent inside. No officers were hurt.
"This is, it's a shock," Gatlin said. "It's big for us, because we know everybody."
Ashley, a retired city maintenance worker, was found in the back of the office, which was converted from a single-story house.
The two people police say he killed were found in the front of the building, where police rescued one of the three surviving victims Thursday afternoon. The other survivors escaped on their own.
Gatlin said investigators have learned that the shooting was "a possible dispute over a divorce settlement," but that he had no further details. He said investigators will need to speak with the three survivors to determine a motive, and at least two of them were seriously injured.
The shooting rampage near the Rapides Parish Courthouse astounded people who knew Ashley in Alexandria, a central Louisiana town of about 46,000.
Ashley was a deacon and sang in the choir at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, said Freddie Lawson, a fellow congregant. Ashley attended Bible study every Wednesday night this year, except the night before the shootings, Lawson said.
"I've never heard him raise his voice," said Charlie Gilmore, Ashley's neighbor and a local pastor. "I never heard of him being violent."
Police Chief Daren Coutee said officers called Ashley repeatedly on his cellphone and the office phone throughout the day but he refused to talk. "We did all we could do as far as negotiations were concerned," he said.
Authorities identified the dead as Camille "Joey" Giordano II, a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. The other person killed was John "Marty" Thiels, 50, a postal worker delivering mail to the law firm.
Giordano's father, attorney Camille Giordano, was also shot. He underwent surgery and was in critical condition yesterday, a spokeswoman for Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital said.
Also wounded, police say, were attorney Sam Charles Giordano, 49, and Andrea Fletcher Price, 27.