LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - On October 9, 2017, Texas Tech Police Chief Kyle Bonath received a phone call that rocked the Texas Tech community.
“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,” Bonath said.
Bonath learned Officer Floyd East Junior had been shot and killed while processing a student at the police department.
Before serving as chief at Texas Tech, Bonath spent 25 years as a special agent in the FBI.
“I have never had to deal with an officer shot in the line of duty,” Bonath said.
“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,” Bonath said.
As Bonath rushed back to campus, he said he received phone calls from multiple agencies offering to help.
Bonath said the Lubbock Police Department sent some officers to process the crime scene while others paired up with Texas Tech Police officers to search for the suspect.
Bonath said it did not take long for the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, DPS, FBI, Homeland Security and Texas Rangers to arrive on scene, aiding in that search.
“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,” Bonath said.
The campus was placed on lockdown, and that included the police department, which Bonath said was difficult for dispatchers who wanted to immediately rush to help Officer East.
“I think to this day, I think they still regret that they weren’t able to get out and try to help,” Bonath.
Bonath said he will never forget the number of law enforcement personnel who responded to show support and help them track down the suspect.
Bonath said it was one of his officers who arrested Hollis Daniels at 9:26 p.m.
“He 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,” Bonath said.
Texas Tech President Dr. Lawrence Schovanec called for the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct a report on the safety procedures and policies on campus.
University officials received that report last spring.
“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,” Bonath said.
He said some of the suggestions would require an upgrade in facilities.
“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,” Bonath said.
Bonath said the department also conducted their own internal review.
“I back my officers that night 100 %,” Bonath said.
We asked Bonath how Hollis Daniels allegedly got a gun into the police department.
“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,” Bonath said.
“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% of the issues that probably needs to be put out there, but because of the gag order we cannot discuss that in further detail,” Bonath said.
Bonath said he believes he knows how Daniels reportedly got the gun into the station, but said,
“If you can say anything to Hollis Daniels right now, what would you say?” we asked.
“I have nothing worthwhile or productive to say to the suspect,” Bonath said.
“What about to Officer East’s family?” we asked.
“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,” Bonath said.
“One year has passed. Does it feel like just yesterday?” we asked.
“When you re-open the wounds to talk about it, it feels like yesterday,” Bonath said.
“I was there in Memorial Circle, when the students organized a touching tribute. I was touched then , thinking about it now, I get touched again. It created a family atmosphere at Texas Tech that I think pulled our department together," Bonath said.
“Unfortunately, from that sacrifice came a lot of growth and lot of understanding between both the students and the department,” Bonath said.