SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Worried about an escalating conflict, Amanda Connors drove up to the door of the hair salon she managed and confronted her employee's boyfriend, who had just kidnapped his two kids after being hit with a protection order and domestic violence arrest.
The heroic decision cost Connors her life, but the mother's was spared.
Police said Connors was leaving the salon Tuesday afternoon when she saw Tyrone Leeon Smith, 38, with the kids in the parking lot. She phoned the store from her car to warn her employees, including Smith's girlfriend, then pulled her car up. Smith exchanged words with Connors as he stood in the Cost Cutters doorway before fatally shooting her in the head. As her red sedan accelerated into a parked SUV, Smith ducked inside, fired another shot and then zip-tied his girlfriend and her three co-workers.
A half hour later, Smith let the employees go and put a bullet in his head, police said.
"I personally don't think his intent was to go to that scene and to kill Amanda," said Sioux Falls police Chief Doug Barthels. "It was unfortunate that it happened the way it did.
"Frankly, I kind of see her as a hero."
The escalation between Smith and his live-in girlfriend began Sunday evening when Smith was arrested on a domestic assault charge. He walked out of jail Monday after pleading not guilty. Heidi Weber filed for a temporary protection order asking that Smith be barred from coming within 500 feet of her, their 7-week-old son, their 17-month daughter, her 9-year-old daughter, their shared home or the day care.
Weber in her petition said Smith got mad when he found out she had gone through the phone bill. She said he pushed her onto the bed and put his hands around her neck. A second petition filed by Smith's 17-year-old son and his mother said the teen tried to grab his dad during the confrontation and was threatened. The orders were granted through Oct. 2.
The incident at Cost Cutters was the first contact between Smith and Weber since the altercation, said Sioux Falls police Capt. Greg VandeKamp. Everything that could have been legally done to protect Weber and the kids was done, he said, noting that a protection order simply orders no contact.
"It is a piece of paper," VandeKamp said. "It is an order, and just like a posted speed limit, not everyone is going to obey it."