LAFAYETTE — Those who work in the same strip mall where Tai Nguyen ran his restaurant and Internet cafe said they began to notice changes in the business owner’s behavior Thursday morning.
“I was like, what’s wrong here?” said Pallavi Simon, who owns Edible Arrangements next door to Nguyen’s Smoothie World on West Pinhook Road.
“At one point he said, ‘The aliens are going to come,’ ” Simon said.
On Friday, Nguyen was being evaluated at University Medical Center after briefly holding two of his employees and a child hostage at Smoothie World on Thursday evening, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies were notified just before 8 p.m. Thursday that Nguyen was behaving erratically, spokesman Capt. Kip Judice said Friday morning.
“Employees initially reported to the Sheriff’s Office that Nguyen was armed with three Samurai-style knives and was acting out of character …” Judice said in a news release later Friday.
Judice said the employees told deputies “that they were locked inside the store with Nguyen.”
When deputies arrived, Nguyen was not there, but he returned as the employees were being interviewed, the news release stated.
Nguyen got back into his car and drove to the rear of the shopping center with the deputies following, the release stated.
“Nguyen circled the building and returned to the front of the business where he ran inside and locked himself in with his employees,” the release said.
As deputies set up operations to deal with a hostage situation, the employees and one of their children exited through the front door, which Nguyen locked after they walked out, Judice said.
“Nguyen refused to unlock the doors for the deputies and began posting ranting messages on his Facebook site,” the release said.
A co-owner of Smoothie World gave police a key to the business, and after 45 minutes of negotiating face to face with Nguyen, he agreed to leave, only to become combative and resistant outside, Judice said.
Nguyen sustained minor injuries before deputies were able to subdue him, the release stated.
On Friday, there was a hand-written note posted on the Smoothie World door: “Closed until further notice.”
Inside were empty chairs, signs for Blue Bell ice cream, and three computers sitting idle, a sign above them reminding that they’re for paying customers. A menu lists wraps, salads and sandwiches, coffee, espresso and tea.
Kaylee Shields, who works next door to Smoothie World, said she knows Nguyen well.
“Tai’s an awesome guy,” she said. “I don’t know what happened.”
Shields said that even though he was armed with knives, she didn’t think Nguyen would have hurt anyone.
“There was no danger,” she said.