Three days after a Texas Tech Police officer was gunned down on campus, Lubbock Police Chief Greg Stevens spoke on Thursday morning in an effort to provide clarity in the ongoing investigation.
Flanked by officials representing the numerous state and local law enforcement agencies that assisted Tech police in the aftermath of Monday night’s shooting, Stevens said he called for the news conference to discuss his department’s role moving forward, to speak about new developments and to dispel what he called misinformation that has been circulating.
Lubbock police persons crimes detectives are leading the investigation into the shooting death of Tech police Officer Floyd East at the request of university police Chief Kyle Bonath, Stevens said.
“I think what’s the relevant point right now for the Texas Tech Police Department is that they are still faced with the fact that they have to bury one of their own and that’s what they’re focused on right now,” he said. “So I’m very proud of the fact that we can pick up the ball and run with it for them while they focus on what’s most important in this circumstance right now.”
He called for patience while the investigation continues, saying some answers will come to light “in due time.”
“I think what’s important is that we keep the focus on the fact that Officer East was a fine man, doing very honorable work, which he died doing,” he said.
Stevens provided few details from the ongoing investigation, but said his detectives are working on interviewing witnesses and waiting on lab results with the goal of presenting a capital murder case to the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office for the prosecution of 19-year-old Hollis A. Daniels III for East’s slaying.
Asked how Daniels, a Texas Tech freshman, was in possession of a weapon while at the police station after being arrested on a drug offense in his dorm, he confirmed Daniels was searched while in police custody, but was still able to gain access to a weapon.
“If everything always went perfectly,” Stevens said, “sadly, we wouldn’t be good at doing police funerals.”
Asked why Daniels was unhandcuffed while he was in police custody, Stevens only spoke generally about police procedures that allow a suspect to be unrestrained.
“Let me move away from this incident in particular because this is something that probably needs to be clarified, we’ve seen a lot of comments about it and we’ve been asked about our policies,” he said. “So let me just say this: There are times where a suspect in custody may be unhandcuffed for a sundry of reasons, perhaps to sign a document, to go to the bathroom, to make a phone call - things, like that. So it’s not out of the ordinary, it’s not wrong to unhandcuff a person that’s in custody, and it’s not a sticking point. I think that I can say that to hopefully put to rest some of the large issues that people have with this particular incident, without necessarily making a judgment call on this incident. That’s going to be for the Texas Tech Police Department, at the appropriate time, to answer that question.”
He referred questions about Daniels’ time in custody at the Tech police department to the university’s police officials, who are in the midst of an administrative review of the initial arrest, Tech officials announced Thursday morning.
“There’s two investigations that are ongoing - the criminal investigation that we’re conducting and an administrative review that Texas Tech Police Department is doing, and that’s really for them to speak about and I think at the appropriate time, they’ll have some of those answers for you,” he said.
Stevens also addressed a run-in Daniels had with police in the early morning hours Monday.
On that day, police received a call shortly after 1 a.m. in reference to a stolen handgun.
At that time, patrol officers were able to locate Daniels, who then refused to let them search his silver BMW SUV. Believing there may be drugs in the vehicle, Stevens said, officers also attempted to call up a K-9 Unit to assist but none were available.
Having no probable cause to make an arrest or to obtain a warrant, police wrote a report at the time for the stolen firearm and for terroristic threat.
The threat, he said, was made toward the person he allegedly stole the firearm from; however, police would not confirm if this was the weapon used to mortally wound East hours later.
Tech police would encounter Daniels later in the day.
During a news conference Tuesday, Bonath said his department received information about a student acting erratically and possibly in possession of a weapon.
Officers responded to Daniels’ room Monday evening at Talkington Hall in an effort to check on the freshman student’s well-being.
While in his room, police reportedly found drugs and drug paraphernalia, and when Daniels showed up and was identified, he was arrested and transported to the police station on campus.
“During this time frame, the TTU Counseling Center advised the Texas Tech Police Department the student’s family had called to express concerns that the student might be in possession of a weapon and making comments about suicide,” Bonath said.
Daniels reportedly shot East in the head as the officer was in the process of completing paperwork for the arrest and fled the scene.
The arrest warrant shows there was at least one other officer at the site when the shooting occurred; investigators found a .45-caliber RP shell casing near East. The deceased officer’s weapon was in his holster.
Two minutes later, Stevens said LPD received word of the shooting and patrol officers swarmed the campus minutes later, with LPD and Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office SWAT teams conducting searches.
Officials with the Department of Public Safety as well as federal agencies were called to assist.
A DPS helicopter in Amarillo was requested, but Daniels was arrested before it arrived.
As police officers searched the campus, Daniels tried to return to his dorm room and get to his vehicle but was unsuccessful, Stevens said, fleeing upon seeing the heavy police presence in the residence hall. Officers also had his vehicle swarmed.
Stevens said officials first spotted Daniels at about 9:08 p.m. He was arrested by a Texas Tech police officer, who tackled him less than 30 minutes later near the Lubbock Municipal Auditorium.
A .45-caliber pistol loaded with RP ammunition was discovered at the scene of the arrest along with East’s stolen body camera.
Lubbock attorney Chuck Lanehart who is representing Daniels declined to comment for this story.