Extended interview: TTU police chief reflects on anniversary of Officer East’s death

Extended interview with TTU police chief on anniversary of deadly campus shooting

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

Shaley: Where were you when you found out what had happened?

Chief Kyle Bonath: It was later at night, so my scheduled work day had concluded. I believe I was sitting with my wife watching some show on television when I got the call that we had an officer down.

Shaley: How many times have you received a phone call like that?

Chief Kyle Bonath: I have never had to deal with an officer shot in the line of duty.

Shlaey: What is your initial thought when you get the phone call?

Chief Kyle Bonath: Unfortunately, the news was already bad when I got the call, so there wasn’t a hope that this was a survival event. My first thought was for the family obviously because we knew he had a family that was in El Paso. The next thought is for the department as whole.

Shaley: When you got here, can you describe what you walked into?

Chief Kyle Bonath: On the way, I got a call from various departments offering help and assistance. We had discussed with LPD that they would help process the scene because our officers were out in pursuit of the subject. Coming in the scene, we obviously first met with the officers that were here, discussed where we were in the pursuit. And made sure everybody was okay and pulling through because it was obviously a traumatic event for all involved. We had already barricaded off the area where Officer East had fallen, which was actually in close proximity to where we were trying to operate as a department.

Shaley: This is a place of operation and when this becomes a crime scene, how does that impact an investigation?

Chief Kyle Bonath: It’s the same procedures, it’s just more complicated when it’s a place you work on a day to day basis. We were on lock down, which I think was rough on the dispatchers because we had two that were trained in that capability and their training told them to go out and check on the officer, but since the suspect had not been located and was in the wind, we had locked down dispatch. So, I think to this day, I think they still regret that they weren’t able to get out and try to help.

Shaley: As horrible as this was, there was so much unity with the students and staff and faculty here; an outpouring of support and several different agencies rushed in to assist any way they could.

Chief Kyle Bonath: They always say it’s a law enforcement family. Unfortunately, you hear it, you see it spoken about. I’ve had the opportunity to see it in play, but not in play to the extent it was here. We had every agency out helping in some form or fashion. We had federal, we had state, and we had all of the locals here. One, to be supportive of the department and family and two, to be supportive and help apprehend the subject.

Shaley: This is the first time we’ve spoken to you since this incident happened. When you arrive here and you find out an officer is down, there is a lock down now, you don’t know where the suspect is, you are worried about students, you are worried about anybody else on campus, surrounding area. How do you process all of this?

Chief Kyle Bonath: It’s just training. That’s why we do the training we do on firearm scenarios we run through so you kind of revert to your training. I’ve had similar situations, similar manhunts before, but it was usually on a different scale with the FBI. We rely on our law enforcement partners; everybody had a role. We teamed up and put an officer with every member of the LPD. We know the locations that officer East was trained on, we know the buildings. LPD is not as familiar with the buildings, so we put an officer with each member of LPD that was going out there. SO helped set up the perimeter. The sheriff and the chief were both here offering their assistance from the get-go. DPS, DPS Rangers, FBI, Homeland Security were all here helping in fashion they could.

Shaley: I know there is a DPS report and you cannot go into specifics, but can you tell me what has changed since that incident?

Chief Kyle Bonath: DPS did an overview of all campus security. Most of the things were already in place. They made some suggestions on how we process and handle booking and bringing people in to be interviewed. I don’t think there was anything significant. A lot of it would be upgrades in facilities. They did not get into specifics in any particular operations. They came back with some suggestions, more lighting, more cameras to be general, but they were pretty impressed with how the police department operated as a whole. We have done our own review. The one thing I think I will say, it was a traumatic experience for obviously the East family, for our whole department and particularly for the ones who worked close with East and for the ones who were there that night. As I said, the dispatchers, the officers who were there that night and worked and had a relationship with Officer East. We are a small department 57, 110 total employees here. Everybody knew Officer East personally, knew him by name. The first thing to was to make sure the department responded in an appropriate manner, which I was very proud of their actions that night. We had an officer that made the arrest that had a personal decision to make and could have made it go a different way, but he acted professionally and appropriately under the circumstances which we are very proud of also. I back my officers that night 100 percent.

Shaley: The number one question we have received over and over again, is how did Hollis Daniels get that gun from the dorm room into the police department, and what is being done to make sure that can’t happen again?

Chief Kyle Bonath: Our officers conducted themselves in a professional manner. That night, everything that should have been done was done. This is a very unique situation that I think once trial comes, will be more clear. All I can say is I am looking forward to the trial so the facts come out. There is probably an officer safety issue that could occur in 99.9 percent of the issues that probably needs to be put out there, but because of the gag order we cannot discuss that in further detail.

I am confident that I am familiar with all of the facts. I don’t know if it will come out in trial. There is only one person who can tell you how that occurred with absolutely certainty and that is the suspect himself. I don’t know if he will every disclose how that occurred, but we have a pretty good idea. I am not allowed to talk about it until after the trial.

Shaley: If you could say on anything to Hollis Daniels, what would it be?

Chief Kyle Bonath: I have nothing worthwhile or productive to say to the suspect.

Shaley: What about to Officer East’s family?

Chief Kyle Bonath: I have said a lot to them one-on-one personally. They are member of our family they will always be a member of our family. We are going to do all that we can to ensure they know that foer the rest of their lives, an their daughter’s lives.

Shlaey: One year has passed. Does it feel like just yesterday?

Chief Kyle Bonath: When you re-open the wounds to talk about it, it feels like yesterday. The police department, we are 24/7, 365. I think there is not a day that goes by that we don’t remember Officer East and his family. We have to go on about our business on a day-to-day basis and provide service for the students and the officers and faculty here at Texas Tech and continue to do our best and focus on that and not forget the sacrifices that were made by Officer East and his family.

Shaley: Is there anything you would like to address in this interview?

Chief Kyle Bonath: I was there in memorial circle, when the students organized a touching tribute. I was touched then , thinking about of it now, I get touched again. It created a family atmosphere at Texas Tech that I think pulled our department together, let them understand that they were supported that they probably have never seen or witnessed before, and I think they feel that more on a day-to-day basis more so. Unfortunately, from that sacrifice came a lot of growth and a lot of understanding between both the students and the department.

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