An Ohio man fatally shot a woman and kidnapped her daughter before fleeing to a hotel in Pineville, where he wounded a New Orleans-based FBI agent before being killed in a shootout with law enforcement late Tuesday, according to authorities.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, local and federal officials identified the suspected killer as 47-year-old James David Hawley, a Cleveland resident who also went by the alias Ahmad Ben David. Norma Matko, 69, was the slain woman.
Alicia Irmscher of the FBI’s New Orleans office said the injured agent was being treated at a hospital. No other details about his medical condition were known.
Authorities at Wednesday’s news conference said the trail leading to Hawley began when Matko was found fatally shot in her home in Belmont County, Ohio, on Thanksgiving. Her 45-year-old daughter, Thoue Nichole Bronowski, an ex-girlfriend of Hawley, was then reported missing the following day to police in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, about 100 miles away.
Jeff Fortunato of the FBI’s office in Cleveland said agents soon determined Hawley had abducted Bronowski and was fleeing Ohio after killing Matko. Fortunato said Hawley had published photos online of himself with guns, along with statements that “he wanted to kill some cops.”
Fortunato didn’t elaborate. But he said investigators later tracked Hawley to a Sleep Inn & Suites in the Rapides Parish community of Pineville, where a coalition of local, state and federal law enforcement officers from Ohio and Louisiana worked together to try to arrest him on charges of threatening communications and for possessing firearms despite a prior felony conviction preventing him from legally being able to do that.
At the end of a standoff at the hotel which lasted several hours, a shootout erupted between FBI agents and Hawley. An agent working out of the FBI’s office in New Orleans was wounded, and Hawley was killed, Fortunato said.
Fortunato said the agents from the FBI’s inspection division in Washington D.C. have been dispatched to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shootout.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials by Wednesday had interviewed Bronowski and were working to reunite her with her family. Fortunato made it a point to call Bronowski a victim in the case, and he said the decision to involve agents in New Orleans — about 200 miles away from Pineville — spoke to the urgency of capturing Hawley.
“I can tell you, in all my time as an FBI agent and in law enforcement, I’ve never seen a better display of boots-on-the-ground teamwork,” Fortunato said. “The fact we had folks on the ground … in New Orleans speaks volumes of what those individual detectives and agents thought about solving this murder and kidnapping and disappearance as soon as they could.”
Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas described both Matko and Brownowski as neighbors, and he choked back tears while discussing their ordeal during Wednesday’s briefing.
Bronowski is a nurse, and her mother had retired from the profession before her slaying.
“These were good people, our good people,” Lucas said. “We live beside them … so it does come hard.”
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