WYTHEVILLE, Va. - A man accused of taking three people hostage in a Virginia post office told them he was angry at the federal government because his son had died in Afghanistan and his beloved truck was about to repossessed, one of the hostages said Thursday.
Suspected hostage-taker Warren "Gator" Taylor, 53, of Sullivan County, Tenn., was arraigned Thursday on kidnapping and other federal charges. The hostages were released unharmed after about eight hours Wednesday and Taylor surrendered without incident.
Federal officials said Taylor was angry at the federal government and told them he had planned the standoff for months or years.
Hostage Jimmy Oliver said Taylor told him he picked the small-town Wytheville post office at random because he was driving through the Blue Ridge Mountain town and it reminded him of Gatlinburg, Tenn., a tourist destination hours away.
"He was really down on the government," Oliver told The Associated Press on Thursday in an interview at his mother's floral shop. "About the government taking over the right to bear arms ... he was angry at the government over taxing us."
Oliver said he was at the post office to mail Christmas presents to his family when a man pushed his wheelchair in and slammed what looked like a bomb on the counter.
The man, who had four guns, fired a shot at the postmaster as he fled, then ordered Oliver and two other people to get down on the floor, Oliver said.
'I'm sorry I got everybody out on Christmas'
Oliver suspected the man might have served in the military, so he tried to bond with him by introducing himself and talking about his own military service. He said the man asked a negotiator for a pizza he shared with the hostages and asked for cigarettes for Oliver to smoke.
At some points during the ordeal, Oliver said, he feared for his life, but he tried to win the man's trust.
"I thought about my family and my kids and I had to stay calm," Oliver said.
Toward the end of the eight hours, Oliver said, the man apologized to him and the other two hostages.
Taylor did the same in federal court in Roanoke.
"I'm sorry I got everybody out on Christmas," Taylor said. He appeared in his wheelchair, wearing blue jeans and a black T-shirt, and made no other public statements.
Taylor, who is being represented by a federal public defender, was ordered to be evaluated at a federal prison medical facility to determine whether he is mentally fit for the criminal proceedings.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Urbanski set no firm timetable, but said a competency hearing will follow the evaluation, which will likely take place in Butner, N.C.
Taylor waived his preliminary hearing and didn't argue for bail but had his lawyer ask about accommodations for his health conditions. Taylor, who has a prosthetic leg, has diabetes, public defender Randy Cargill said.
So it ended peacefully but I liked the part about how he said the fed had taken away his right to bear arms. By which I mean I don't like it at all --there are too many lies in the air, and too many gummint-hatin' crazies with guns.
EDIT: Per schmanda in comments below:
Former relatives say Wytheville post office hostage suspect has "mean streak"
People who know Warren A. Taylor , the man accused of holding three people hostage in a Wytheville post office on Wednesday, say he can be malicious and tell tales.
“He’s had a mean streak in him somewhere on down the line,” said Ruth White, whose granddaughter was married to Taylor for a decade.
Court records also show Taylor, 53, has a history of violence and criminal activity.
Still, at least one family member said Thursday he never expected to see him on the national news this holiday season.
Gross said he last saw Taylor on Tuesday when his nephew visited his Bluff City, Tenn., home. Taylor said he wanted to visit the family before the holiday.
Gross said Taylor acted “weird.” When he asked Taylor about his behavior, his nephew dismissed the charge.
“We just figured it was because of his buddy,” said Gross’s wife Dorothy.
Gross and Taylor grew up together, raised by Taylor’s grandparents. Both the grandparents, and Taylor’s daughter, Kerri Lee Taylor, died in December. Sunday would have been the fifth anniversary of Kerri Taylor’s death.
Dorothy Gross said Taylor had mentioned his daughter’s death anniversary in recent months. She and former relatives say Taylor was very close to his mother, who died in November 2001.
Gross said they’d lost touch over the years. Gross said he was just happy to see his “brother” return to the state. He had been back for about a year and lived in Florida and Indiana before that.
On Tuesday, Taylor told Gross he was headed back to Florida for a couple of weeks to attend the funeral of a good friend who recently died.
Instead, Taylor set out for Roanoke with guns and mock explosives, according to court documents. He said he stopped in Wytheville because he was tired and decided to end it there, court records show.
“It surprised me he’d done something like this,” Gross said. “He’s a good fella, He’d do anything in the world for you. Anybody can flip I guess.”
Others who know him it sends shivers to hear Taylor’s name connected to this recent crime.
They say he is dangerous.
Since 1986, Taylor has been in and out of the court system in Florida.
In 1993, Taylor made headlines when he ambushed and shot at his ex-wife in Bradenton, Fla.
He was charged with attempted second-degree murder for firing shots at Karen Taylor, then 41, in the parking lot of Beall’s Department Stores Distribution Center, where she worked.
He shot her with a small-caliber handgun once in each ankle and once in a thigh, according to reports in the Bradenton Herald.
He apparently was angry with his ex-wife and blamed her because he appeared on a local television news segment of Crime Stoppers, the newspaper reported. He was wanted on sexual battery and lewd and lascivious behavior charges stemming from 1991 incidents involving a teenage girl.
Taylor was convicted of attempted second-degree murder and the two sex charges and sentenced Aug. 15, 1994, to serve 12 years in prison.
He served four years and was released on Dec. 23, 1998, according to the Florida Department of corrections.
While in prison on those charges, Taylor married Regina Taylor.
The couple was married for about 10 years and divorced 3 1/2 years ago, said Ruth White, Regina Taylor’s grandmother.
White said her granddaughter was fearful of Taylor, but the 88-year-old White said he had multiple sides. She was able to coax him into taking photographs, which he disliked, and he gave her several gifts.
“He could be as sweet as anything in the world and he could be as mean as in anything just as long as anything upset his applecart,” Ruth White said.
News researcher Belinda Harris and New River editor Shay Barnhart contributed to this report.
Federal court documents say Taylor kept police at bay for nearly nine hours after entering the post office about 2:30 p.m. with guns.
“He goes through his hard times,” said Dallas Gross, Taylor’s uncle.