LUBBOCK, Texas — There was a packed courtroom in Downtown Lubbock Monday for the capital murder trial for Hollis Daniels III. It started with opening statements from both sides, with attorneys appealing to the jury, who will determine the young man’s fate more than five years after shooting a Texas Tech University (TTU) police officer on campus.
After Daniels took responsibility for shooting and killing officer Floyd East Jr. back on Oct. 9, 2017, the state says it’s still “too little, too late.”
During opening statements, prosecutors described Officer East as a family man who lived out his oath to protect and serve. They said he’d only been with the TTU Police Department for five months at that time before he was killed.
As for Daniels, prosecutors said he was afforded many opportunities in life from having loving parents to private school, but still took wrong turns.
Daniels’ defense argued that the then 19-year-old was not in his right mind at the time of the shooting, and told jurors he had been struggling with depression, and drug addiction, and was suicidal.
Prosecutors then called on Daniels’ former probation officer Shelly Cameron. She said after Daniels was arrested for drug-related charges in 2015, she worked with the young man in a drug court program where he had to identify problems. Daniels’ answers were dishonesty, laziness, and making bad choices. He also had to name a time when he was above the law to which he wrote: “speeding and not respecting police.” He continued and wrote: “even a smooth criminal must get caught. I know I am going to be great, and this is only a minor setback.” All of his drug tests were negative, and he successfully completed the program 6 months later.
It also came up in court that Daniels was a part of a friend group that vaped and smoked together. One of those friends was Jake Webster who testified Monday.
Webster said the group stopped hanging out with Daniels as often because of lying and anger outbursts that he believed were caused by the drugs he was taking at the time. He claims Daniels told him he was taking marijuana, Xanax and LSD.
Webster testified that the group was hanging out at a house on 28th St. and Indiana Ave. when Daniels showed up unexpectedly and then left unannounced. That’s when they noticed his friend Leo’s gun was missing.
Leo called Daniels back to the house. Daniels showed up and denied taking the gun. In a fight between Leo and Daniels outside, Webster said he heard Daniels tell Leo: “If i had the gun, I would just kill you and then myself.”
Webster recalls Daniels coming back to the house later that night on Oct. 8, 2017. Webster and his friends barricaded themselves inside the house with weapons in case Daniels tried to kill them.
Police caught Daniels who refused to let them search his car, so he was released. Hours later, Daniels’ suitemates at Talkington Hall heard a gunshot from inside his room and filed a police report with TTU Police Department.
The day after on Oct. 9, 2017, prosecutors said Officer East and another officer went to Daniels’ dorm room for a wellness check. They found unprescribed medications and arrested him for possession of a controlled substance.
When they got to the TTU Police Department building, that’s when prosecutors said Daniels pulled out a gun and shot Officer East point-blank in the head. They said Daniels then grabbed the body camera video along with evidence and ran across TTU’s campus where he was captured 2 hours later.
The sentencing phase will continue at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.