KCBD Investigates End of Watch: Body-worn camera video helps answer questions surrounding murder of TTU police officer
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - For years, we have known how this story ends. Now, we have the missing pages.
On October 9, 2017, Texas Tech Police Officer Floyd East Junior was shot and killed inside the university’s police department. A student, Hollis Daniels III, was convicted of his murder.
Shortly after the shooting, the court issued a news media gag order. The order prevented those directly involved in the case from releasing information like reports, body-worn camera videos, and dash camera videos.
When the murder trial began more than five years later, in February 2023, the judge prohibited any type of recording inside the courtroom.
The trial ended after nearly three weeks with Daniels sentenced to life in prison without parole.
After the trial, the KCBD Investigates Team obtained video evidence presented to the jury that better explains how Daniels snuck a gun into the police department.
Daniels was first seen on police body-worn camera video during a traffic stop roughly 19 hours before the deadly shooting.
Around 1 a.m. on October 9, 2017, a Lubbock police officer pulled Daniels over because he’d been accused of stealing his friend’s gun earlier that evening.
“Do you have any weapons in the vehicle?” the officer asked.
“No sir,” Daniels said.
“Any drugs or anything like that?” the officer asked.
“No sir,” Daniels said.
The officer asked Daniels to step out of the vehicle.
The officer patted Daniels down and did not find any weapons.
A second officer arrived and asked Daniels if he could search his vehicle.
“Not because I have a gun. It’s not necessary because I am on my way home,” Daniels said.
“No, it is necessary because right now you are involved in an investigation,” the officer said.
Eventually, Daniels was allowed to leave.
The Lubbock police chief at that time, Greg Stevens, addressed the traffic stop days later in a news conference.
Stevens said it would have been unconstitutional to search the vehicle.
“There was not enough probable cause to search it on its own nor to get a warrant for the vehicle. They thought there might be perhaps even drugs in the vehicle. They looked into whether or not a drug dog was available to come and sniff the vehicle and there was not one available,” Stevens said.
In the trial, Daniels told the jury the stolen gun was sitting in his vehicle the whole time.
After the stop, Daniels said he returned to his dorm room at Talkington Hall where he unintentionally fired the gun. His roommates reported hearing the gunshot to university police.
Body-camera video shows multiple officers conducting a welfare check at Daniels’ dorm.
Officer East is seen knocking on the door, but no one answers.
The officers let themselves in and found a bullet hole, pills, and drug paraphernalia in Daniels’ room.
Daniels showed up but pretended to be his roommate.
“What’s your name bud?” asked Texas Tech Police Officer Tyler Snelson.
“Andreas,” Daniels said.
“No, it’s not,” East said.
They tell Daniels to come inside where Snelson patted him down. Snelson found more pills in Daniels’ pocket, but no gun.
Daniels had a seat on the couch as East explained the reason behind the welfare check.
“We got a report of a gunshot last night,” East said.
“A gunshot?” Daniels asked.
“That’s what we got a report of. So, we came in here to make sure everyone was okay for a welfare check. So, what happened last night?” East asked.
“There was no gunshot,” Daniels said.
While Daniels denied firing a gun, he did admit the pills and drug paraphernalia officers found in his room were his.
East placed Daniels in handcuffs, conducted another patdown, and walked Daniels to his patrol vehicle.
A camera recorded Daniels in the backseat of the vehicle as he took that short ride from Talkington Hall to the Texas Tech Police Department.
In the video, there’s a sound like something fell onto the floorboard.
Daniels is then seen maneuvering around in the backseat, still with his hands in handcuffs behind his back.
“If you are trying to ditch anything or get rid of anything, I am going to check. What was that big thump?” East asked.
“It was my handcuffs,” Daniels said.
When they arrive at the police department, East escorts Daniels out of the vehicle and does not see anything left behind in the vehicle.
East eventually removed Daniels’ handcuffs.
At the trial, Snelson testified that it is not uncommon to uncuff a subject if the person is being cooperative.
East and Daniels are left alone in the briefing room as East completes paperwork.
Daniels then asked East if he had children, how many children he had, and if they were young or old.
As East answered the questions, the body camera video shows Daniels reaching for a gun hidden near his ankle, partially in his shoe, and pulling the trigger.
During the trial, the television was turned away from the gallery so the public did not have to witness the graphic murder.
Even after watching the body-camera videos, it is not obvious how Daniels cleared two pat-downs.
In 2018, on the one-year anniversary of East’s death, we sat down with Texas Tech Police Chief Kyle Bonath.
“The number one question is how did he, 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?” we asked.
“Our officers conduct themselves in a professional manner. Everything that should have been done was done. This is a very unique situation. I think once trial comes that will be made more clear. There’s only one person who can tell you how that occurred with absolute certainty and that’s the suspect himself,” Bonath said.
More than five years after the shooting, when Daniels took the stand, he answered that question.
He took the jury back to the pat-down in his dorm room.
He said at that time, the stolen gun was in the front waistband of his pants.
Daniels said that the gun moved during the pat-down.
“My pants were sagging. He pulled my pants up and the gun slipped out of my waist,” Daniels said.
Daniels said with each pat, the gun fell farther down his leg.
“It seemed like every time his hands hit, he barely missed it,” Daniels said.
Daniels also explained what happened in the back of East’s patrol vehicle.
He said the gun fell out of the ankle of his pants and hit the floorboard.
With his hands still handcuffed behind his back, he managed to get to the gun and hide it underneath his pants, near his ankle.
When East walks Daniels into the briefing room, he removes his body-worn camera and places it on a table so it records both of them while he completes the booking documents.
Daniels sits uncuffed, next to East for 28 minutes.
During that time, the body-worn camera captures Daniels reaching for his ankle and maneuvering the gun several times.
About 24 minutes later, at 7:40 p.m., the grip of the gun can be seen clearly for the first time.
Daniels pulled the trigger four minutes later.
Daniels grabbed the body-worn camera and the bags of evidence containing the drug paraphernalia and pills and ran.
Texas Tech went into lockdown as law enforcement officers from multiple agencies descended on Texas Tech to find the shooter.
About 90 minutes later, Daniels was arrested and taken into custody.
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