A man who set his house on fire and ambushed responding police officers held “anti-government, anti-establishment” views and had previously threatened law enforcement, authorities said Sunday.
The gunman was identified as 53-year-old Curtis Wade Holley. Authorities said he fatally shot Leon County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Smith, 47, on Saturday and wounded another deputy before he was killed in a gun battle outside his home.
At a news conference Sunday, sheriff’s Lt. James McQuaig wouldn’t detail the nature of the previous threats or Holley’s anti-government beliefs. Holley had lived at the end of a cul-de-sac in a middle class neighborhood for about a year, McQuaig said.
Smith was the first Leon County Sheriff’s Office employee to be killed in the line of duty in nearly 40 years, according to the department. The deputy who was wounded was shot while telling firefighters to stay away. Because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest, his injuries were not life-threatening. No one was hurt in the fire.
Two Tallahassee police officers also responded to the shooting, including one who lived nearby and fatally shot Holley.
“Our responders yesterday were targeted for no other reason than they chose to spend their lives helping people,” said Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo. “There is no doubt that the actions of our deputies and officers prevented additional loss of life.”
McQuaig said that it appeared the fire had been burning for a while before authorities arrived because they didn’t receive the 911 call until flames were visible from the outside. The house was completely destroyed.
Holley’s name and address had been entered into a law enforcement computer system because of his previous threats, but the 911 dispatcher who took the fire call put in the address of a neighbor who reported the blaze, so the alert wasn’t activated and the Leon County deputy who responded first had no warning, according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.
McQuaig would only say Sunday that there would be an investigation into how deputies were dispatched.
“There will be days and weeks of us combing over every minute detail of this investigation and we are not going to take action until we have all the facts,” McQuaig said.
The shooting near Florida’s capital came just two days after a police shootout at Florida State University left a gunman dead after he wounded two students and an employee.