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.