updated 6/2/2005 1:15:04 PM ET 2005-06-02T17:15:04

Police stormed a convenience store Thursday, freeing a customer held hostage for 20 hours, and the suspect was killed in an exchange of gunfire, authorities said.

Police managed to pull the hostage away from the store even as the gunman held her by a rope tied around her waist and shot from inside the building, state police 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said.

Negotiators had made arrangements for 29-year-old hostage Tammi L. Smith to come to the door of the Bigfoot store under the pretense of being handed a new telephone, with officers hoping to grab her, Bursten said.

Shortly before that was to happen, the gunman broke off communication for 10 to 15 seconds, then shots were heard from inside the store, Bursten said. SWAT team members then entered the store.

Dennis McAninch, 34, died from gunshot wounds, but authorities were unsure whether the wounds were self-inflicted or caused by police, Bursten said.

The standoff began Wednesday morning after officers pursued a car on Interstate 74 carrying two men they suspected of burglary about 30 miles away, in the southeastern Indiana town of Batesville.

The man pulled into the store parking lot, firing at officers as he dashed into the store and took the woman hostage. No one was injured by the initial shots as customers fled, abandoning their vehicles at the gas pumps.

A night of negotiating
Police negotiators had worked overnight trying to persuade the man to surrender.

The gunman’s brother John McAninch said he was glad Smith was not hurt but felt police should have waited the situation out.

“They would promise nothing’s going to happen,” John McAninch said. “They’d say they’re not going to make no moves because they want Dennis to release her first, and they said they would even give him time after that. Days, if it took, for him to walk out.”

Bursten said Dennis McAninch had forced officers to act.

“Mr. McAninch made decisions that resulted in the end of his life and that is the person responsible for what happened here, from beginning to end,” Bursten said.

Bursten said Smith was “in good spirits, under the circumstances.”

A friend said Smith, who has five children and two stepchildren, was “pretty much in shock” after she was freed.

“She is fine; she’s home with her family,” Diana Ennis said.

Ennis said Smith’s husband learned of his wife’s situation when he spotted the family’s van on television. He dropped off their children at Ennis’ home and hurried to the store, Ennis said.

Shelbyville is about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

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