A woman nearly taken hostage by a disgruntled Workers' Compensation Board claimant broke into tears Tuesday after telling a courtroom the ordeal caused panic attacks, hurt her relationships with family and friends, and cost her her job.
Patrick Clayton walked into the building on Oct. 21, 2009, rounded up nine people at gun point and forced them into a conference room.
Clayton pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges of pointing a firearm, possession of a weapon, and taking a hostage.
Ferguson was one of two people affected by the hostage-taking who read out their victim impact statements in person at the first day of Clayton's sentencing hearing Tuesday.
'I often feel it would have been better if I was shot dead' —Nicole Ferguson, almost taken hostage
"The hostage situation has made me frightened all the time," Ferguson began.
"I panic at the slightest sound or smell, as well as people."
Ferguson said the experience left her feeling alone, robbed her of sleep and led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress.
She said she lost her job at the WCB, "as they felt they could not accommodate my needs."
She was forced to move in with her brother to make ends meet.
"I often feel it would have been better if I was shot dead," she said at the end of her statement. Afterwards, she went back to her seat and began to sob, while being cradled by her mother.
Victim ran from gunman
According to a statement of facts, Clayton entered the WCB building at 8:30 a.m., pointed a high-powered rifle at a security guard, then ordered several hostages onto an elevator.
When the group arrived at the 8th floor, Ferguson was working at her desk. According to the court document, Clayton told Ferguson and a co-worker they had to come with him.
They did as he told them and followed the growing group of hostages down a hallway. Ferguson asked another hostage and co-worker, Kyla McDonald, if she was OK. McDonald said she was scared, then whispered to Ferguson, "run."
Ferguson immediately ran and hid in a cubicle. After police arrived, Ferguson came out of the cubicle and ran down the stairwell to escape the building with other workers.
Randy Morrow, the only hostage who was not a WCB employee, also read his victim impact statement Tuesday.
"I still revisit that day on a regular basis," he told court.
"I will never forget. My fear."
Morrow, a WCB claimant who had a medical appointment that morning, was the last hostage released by Clayton 10 hours later.
"A lot of people go through their entire life not really knowing who they are. This gave me a good opportunity to see who I am," he told reporters outside court.
Patrick Clayton was in court Tuesday and cried as the victim impact statements were read.
Seven other statements are to be read in court Wednesday, but not by the victims themselves.