Special note: This story was updated many times Tuesday as Hollis Daniels continued to testify. It was also updated Wednesday as testimony wrapped up. Click here to see our coverage of closing arguments.
LUBBOCK, Texas — Hollis Alvin Daniels III, 24, took the stand Tuesday in his Capital Murder trial in Lubbock. Daniels pleaded guilty at the start of his trial on February 6. But the trial continued because the jury must decide between life in prison or the death penalty.
Daniels admits he shot and killed police officer Floyd East Jr. on the campus of Texas Tech University October 9, 2017. East arrested Daniels and took him to the Texas Tech Police Department for processing. During that time, Daniels was able to use a previously stolen gun to shoot East.
Daniels ran away but was captured roughly 90 minutes later and has remained in custody since that time.
Before Daniels took the stand Tuesday morning, the judge reminded him of his right to not testify and it was established in court that Daniels took the stand freely of his own choice. His defense team offered into evidence recordings of 6,800 conversations he had while in custody including some with his parents. The defense asked specifically that three calls get published to the jury.
One such call in March 2018 depicted Daniels crying and saying he was sorry. In a March 2022 call, Daniels talked about having no right to receive forgiveness. The judge said he would review those three and make a decision.
Questioning by his own defense team – his childhood
As he took the stand, his full legal name was announced as Hollis Alvin James Reid Daniels. He goes by “Reid.”
Under questioning from his own lawyer, he described his childhood in Seguin.
“I always felt I had a really wonderful childhood,” Daniels said. “At some point, I thought I was the only thing wrong with it. I had friends there. Generally, I just felt like I had a decent life.”
But it wasn’t all good.
“My interactions were more strange all my life,” Daniels told the jury. “I had a terrible haircut – wearing really round glasses all the time. I was insecure and that was part of my comparison to my peers.”
Daniels began to cry as he said of his relationship with his mother, “I thought it was ideal.”
“I don’t think I knew her name was Janis until I was a ridiculous age. She really went to lengths to make sure I had a great childhood. I loved her and I didn’t want to disappoint her.”
Although his parents were restrictive about the kinds of video games he played, he felt like he was generally on par with everyone else as far what he was allowed to play and do.
He said any depression he experienced as a child was “self-inflicted.” He said he admired role models that were “in darker stages.” In 5th grade, he heard Eminem for the first time.
“[It was] a different world that I’d never known before. That was real life,” Daniels testified.
“I don’t know. I had a certain kind of admiration for him. This strong, silent guy,” Daniels answered. “Some of Eminem’s music appealed to me because there is a sense of neglect. He’s got this kind of anger at the world maybe, and I thought maybe for some reason that I did too.”
But when questioned further, he admitted he had no real reason to be angry with the world. Daniels said he was imitating Eminem a lot. He would use the internet to learn more about drugs that would get him high including weed.
Testimony continued — his drug use
While in a Christian high school in New Braunfels, his drug use increased including marijuana and synthetic marijuana.
Daniels said he would steal his mother’s OxyContin pills, and use money his dad gave him for McDonald’s to instead buy marijuana. He would even go so far as to take Robitussin to get high or inhale the contents of an aerosol keyboard duster.
“It was an escape. In a way, it felt comforting that I was being emboldened — that image of falling into darkness,” Daniels remembered. “I’m in a place that you can’t be. This is how life really is.”
“In reality, it was making it worse,” Daniels then confessed. “I didn’t particularly enjoy being sober. I preferred being high.”
While in the Christian school, he would play middleman to get drugs for other kids. He was high a lot and when he got caught it led to his parents being displeased.
“[There were] lots of yelling arguments about what I was doing with my life,” Daniels recalled. His parents wanted him to take classes online, but “I pushed back on that.”
He was taken out of private school in New Braunfels and then went to school in Seguin. But periods of sobriety were difficult.
“One of the times I was using the keyboard duster a lot. I remember even trying to inhale Axe body spray, but I wasn’t successful,” Daniels told the jury. “I think I even tried to sniff a Sharpie at that point.”
He dropped synthetic marijuana. But that was not the end of his drug use. He testified he could pass drug tests by drinking cranberry juice. He never failed a drug test, he said, even though he was smoking marijuana.
After a 10-minute recess, testimony continued. Daniels said the drug use was getting worse in his junior year even though he was earning back his parent’s trust. He was smoking weed through a bowl and started doing acid in the form of “blotter acid” which is paper infused with LSD. He also started using Xanax.
“I felt like I was just useless,” he admitted to the jury. “I had this idea that I had everything figured out, and my parents were refusing to see the seamy side of things. There was no way to understand things from my perspective.”
“I was going blind spiritually,” Daniels said.
Daniels was asked about hypoglycemia – a condition in which the blood sugar gets too low.
“I guess I would have tantrums. They were always pretty short-lived,” Daniels answered.
He said his drug use continued with him being “high on everything.” He would imitate a man named Hunter S. Thompson, the founder of gonzo journalism (a form of first-person participatory reporting). Thompson has been quoted as saying he wouldn’t recommend drugs or alcohol to others, but he used them himself.
Speaking of his senior year, Daniels said, “All I could ever see myself doing was smoking pot and listening to music. I really didn’t have any high aspirations”
Also, in his senior year of high school, he had friends who did not do drugs but his parents did not like them. He “kind of” resented his parents for that.
By this time, he would mix a “cocktail of drugs.”
Testimony of his time at Texas Tech University
He visited Texas Tech. His applications for college were meant to get him as far away from home as possible.
“I’d heard Tech was a party school. That was probably one of the reasons I wanted to come here,” Daniels said. The drug use continued at Texas Tech.
It was about this time he began suffering auditory hallucinations. He would hear arguments or yelling that was not actually there.
Testimony paused for lunch. When court reconvened, but before the court was back on the record, Daniels’ mom, Janis Daniels, called out to him.
“Sweet boy, I love you!” and then she burst into tears.
When testimony resumed, Daniels testified of having vivid images of suicide – seeing his own body after hanging or a gunshot.
“I would imagine how my body would look after a suicide and who would find me. I would have these really crisp fantasies that I couldn’t stop,” Daniels testified. “At this point I wasn’t sober much.”
With thoughts of suicide continuing, his drug use got worse, according to his testimony.
In the summer after his first year at TTU, someone close to him – a dear friend of the family – passed away months after getting hit by a car. This person was his primary motivation for going to school.
“It was crippling,” he said. “I felt like everything in the universe is just going to cool down and die. I was angry because I felt like I was the only one that could see that. That was my mindset with depression. It just got worse and worse and worse.”
A doctor prescribed Prozac.
Daniels said, “I would have these binges and periods of time where I’d consume massive amounts of Xanax. Maybe over a weekend, I would sober up, clean my room. I would go from totally clean to spun out of control.”
The day he shot and killed Officer East
After a short recess in the afternoon, Daniels’ attorney began to ask him about the day he shot and killed Officer East.
“It’s hard for me to distinguish at this point today,” Daniels told the jury. “I’ve watched a lot of videos. I can’t tell you what I remember on my own and what’s come … [later]. It’s gotten very difficult all this time later.”
The testimony backed up to a day before the shooting. Daniels claimed he was at someone’s house smoking a concentrated form of TCH.
“I was low on Xanax,” Daniels said. “I think I was low on money. I had been robbed months prior and I knew they had guns laying around their home.”
“I was going to rob somebody,” Daniels said. So, he stole a gun from the house with the intention of returning it after he was done with it.
He actually got pulled over on the way home with the stolen gun. Previous accounts indicated there was not enough evidence to detain Daniels. But his testimony on Tuesday was that he did not remember much from the drive home.
Previous court records said it was days before, but Daniels clarified on the stand. It only felt like days before when he stole the gun. It turned out to be the day before the deadly shooting.
Once back at his dorm room with the stolen gun, he was unloading it and accidentally fired a shot.
“I only remember the gun going off. I don’t remember anything after that,” Daniels said.
On October 9, Daniels remembered talking with officer Floyd East and another officer in his dorm room. He had the gun hidden in his waistband.
Daniels said the officers did a pat-down for weapons.
“My pants were sagging,” Daniels said. “He pulled my pants up and the gun fell into my crotch area.”
The other officer, not East, kept missing it.
“I remember it kept going down my leg,” Daniels said. “I was in a state of mind desperately to get the gun away to hide it … this strong impulse to get it off of me.”
He was handcuffed and arrested. The gun came out of his pants leg when he was in the back of a police unit. Daniels remembered a ‘thud’ sound when it dropped.
“I was looking for a place to hide it in the back of the car,” Daniels told the jury. “It’s all very vague and filtered in a way through Xanax. I was scrambling around looking for a spot back there.”
“Ultimately the next thing I really remember is the shooting,” Daniels told the jury.
Other evidence at trial indicated he was able to get the gun into his pants leg around the ankle even though he was handcuffed at the time. Daniels said he vaguely remembered the gun at his ankle.
At some point, he was uncuffed at the TTU police department.
“I recall asking him if he had children. I remember asking him if he had children,” Daniels repeated.
“I thought it would be the best thing for him to be thinking about when he died.”
“It sounded very quiet. It was far away and no I don’t remember it being loud,” Daniels said. “I remember turning around, and I was surprised that he was not chasing me.”
He was asked if he remembered running out of the police station.
“Vaguely, yes, I remember. Where the body camera ended up wasn’t where I thought I had thrown it. It just becomes a series of images at that point.”
“I remember taking my shirt off and putting it under a car in the parking lot,” He continued.
“I remember getting a phone call…” Daniels said. “In my mind, I was laying in grass somewhere and two officers were coming down a grassy slope. I think I ran across the highway. I went back to the police station. I had left my keys.”
At some point, he got into Talkington Hall, but he did not remember it. He also tried getting into a vehicle but did not remember it. Daniels did not remember going to the vicinity of the Student Union Building.
He was arrested at the Lubbock Coliseum, which has since been demolished.
“I remember thinking I was in church,” Daniels said. “I thought the military was there.”
“Maybe my memory exaggerated the amount of people that were there?” he wondered aloud in front of the jury.
Daniels was asked if he remembered asking officers to shoot him in the head.
“No,” he said.
His memory of getting rid of the gun was unclear. He did remember spitting on an officer and getting a spit mask placed over his head. He did not remember getting interrogated nor did he remember calling his dad.
He was asked, “Why in your mind did you need to shoot East?”
“It doesn’t make any sense. I thought I was stuck. I thought it was all over. I thought this was an opportunity to commit suicide. It doesn’t make sense. There’s no rational line of thought that I had.”
“I think about my family,” Daniels said. “I’m biased in my own favor. I don’t want to die anymore. It’s not my decision to make and I don’t want to die.”
“It’s terrible, it’s senseless. It’s unforgivable,” Daniels said.
Then, it was the prosecutor’s turn to cross examine him.
Daniels on cross examination
The prosecution asked Daniels when the “impulse” to get rid of the gun turned into a “desire” to die.
Daniels answered, “I think there’s a sense in which when the murder occurred, I felt ‘go as hard and as long and as fast as you can until you were cornered.'”
Daniels said he thought he would “go out with a bang.”
Prosecutor Barron Slack asked why Daniels did not just point the gun at Officer East, instead of shooting. Daniels responded, “For years I’ve wondered why I didn’t just kill myself.”
At one point during cross examination, Daniels said he did not want to get caught with the gun and thought about flushing it down the toilet.
Slack asked Daniels if he wanted Officer East to have a “good memory” before he killed him. Before the shooting, Daniels asked Officer East if he had children at home.
“Yes, I think that I also thought that would be the best thing for him to think about,” Daniels responded. Family members of Officer East were emotional, and some left the courtroom in tears.
When Slack asked why he took the evidence, Daniels said he did not know. Daniels also said after the shooting, he remembered feeling shocked that Officer East wasn’t chasing him.
Daniels was asked when he started dealing drugs. Daniels said he started selling pot during his senior year of high school, and that he “wasn’t very successful” at it.
Daniels said he went through drug court during high school. Daniels said, “I was addicted to being high and I did like the lifestyle. Part of addiction is minimizing and lying.”
“You could’ve chosen a different path. Officer East is dead because you chose,” Slack told Daniels. “Not because of anybody else.”
Daniels repeated, “Not because of anybody else.”
Slack asked Daniels if he blamed his parents, drugs or anyone other than himself. Daniels said, “No, I do not.”
The jury was dismissed for the day just before 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday. The trial was set to continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. The judge told the jury that closing arguments could be expected soon.
More cross examination Wednesday morning
On Wednesday, Daniels took the stand again, and a recorded call from the jail was played in court.
“I’m living in the results of an answered prayer right now,” Daniels was heard saying on the call. “I’m confused sometimes. I’m like ‘Lord was I really that bad off that you couldn’t get my attention some way?’”
“Apparently this is how he had to get my attention,” Daniels said to his dad on the phone in the recorded jail call. Daniels went on to speak to his dad about praying for non-believers.
Prosecutor Barron Slack then continued his cross examination which had begun Tuesday afternoon. Slack asked about Daniels’ time as a staff member with a Christian ministry camp in the summer of 2016. He was rated as “Christ centered,” excellent for safety, and focused on the community.
A note written by Daniels in 2017 was presented in court.
“My reputation has been a crummy one since elementary,” the note said. “I’m a wolf in sheep’s wool.”
It continued, “I have surrounded myself by sheep but have not followed the Shepherd.”
Slack continued to press in his line of questioning. Nobody but Hollis Daniels brought a gun into the PD. Hollis Daniels knew there was a round in the chamber, and knew this was a real person, a real police officer who had a family and kids.
Daniels said “Yes” to all those claims from Slack. His defense team then took over on re-direct.
Re-direct examination from his own defense team
Daniels testified about his participation in Alcoholic Anonymous while in jail, saying the AA sponsor was a “very impactful person in my life. I’ll never forget him.”
He also participated in a program called “33 The Series.” It’s based on the life of Jesus and his 33 years on earth. He did the entire program once and sat through part of it a second time.
Many religious volunteers helped him in jail, and he participated in all the various programs that were offered to him in the jail.
The defense and the state both rested. The trial was set to continue Wednesday with jury instructions and closing arguments.
More stories will follow on EverythingLubbock.com as the trial continues.
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