The recent events in Sutherland Springs, Texas and the story of Stephen Willeford’s brave response brought back some painful memories of another horrible event that cost the life of a good guy with a gun. This one happened in my own neighborhood.
November 22, 2014 was a Saturday and I was off duty, waiting in the drive-through lane at a nearby McDonald’s. The clock in my truck said it was 10:10 AM when I got the food order and I headed for home.
That’s when emergency calls came in to the local Consolidated Dispatch Agency. Flames had engulfed a home on Caracus Court, tucked near the back of a quiet cul-de-sac. Dispatch sent Tallahassee Fire Department and Leon County Sheriff’s deputies to the scene.
LCSO Deputies Colin Wulfekuhl and Chris Smith got the call and did what they were trained to do. They responded to the scene to try to help their fellow citizens.
What they didn’t know was that Curtis Wade Holley, 53, had intentionally set the house ablaze and asked a neighbor to call 911. From the 911 recordings, you can hear Holley coughing in the background as he waited for the first responders to arrive. Smith and Wulfekuhl were first on the scene, pulling up simultaneously to what they believed was a routine house fire.
That’s when Holley opened fire. Deputy Chris Smith was shot in the back of the head. Holley then took Smith’s duty weapon as Deputy Wulfekuhl sought cover and engaged Holley in what would become a 12-minute gun battle.
When Deputy Smith was shot, I was just opening the front door of my home. I lived a block away from Caracus Court and walked my dogs past that house in the evenings. At the time, all I kept at the ready in my home for self defense was a pistol on my nightstand.
Hearing gunshots ring out in my neighborhood was jarring. The echo made it hard to pinpoint where the shooting was coming from as I rushed to get my rifle ready. At the time I kept all of my long guns locked in my safe and all of my magazines were empty.
By the time I had made a rifle ready, the fight was over. Deputy Smith lay dead in the road and Curtis Holley had been shot to death by TPD officers.
Sound familiar? Sutherland Springs hero Stephen Willeford went through a similar situation.
In an interview with Steven Crowder, Mr. Willeford revealed that when his daughter alerted him to the gunfire across the street, he rushed to make his own rifle ready. He too had to grab ammunition and load a magazine in order to engage the First Baptist Church shooter.
I am in no way faulting Mr. Willeford for his actions. He did what was needed with what he had at the time and for that he is a hero in every sense of the word. But with every tragedy, there are lessons to be learned.
The lesson I learned from that horrible day in November of 2014 was to always have a long gun ready to go. That’s something I’ve done continually since that fateful day. I keep a Ke-Tec SU-16 in my truck ready and secured via cable lock along with body armor and first aid equipment.
In my home, I keep my PS90 SBR at the ready in a 5.11 bag.
No one who has ever been in a gun fight has wished they had a smaller gun. The events of both Tallahassee in 2014 and Sutherland Springs last week reinforce that notion. If you’re going to keep a gun at the ready, its intended purpose is to protect lives and confront evil. Make sure it’s the biggest one you can use effectively.
Another lesson learned from these tragedies is that every system put in place by government has its points of failure that can cost lives.
With the case of Sutherland Springs, the United States Air Force failed to enter the killer’s information into NCIC/NCIS system. Human error. A failure that allowed Devin Kelley to legally purchase multiple firearms.
A similar situation occurred in Tallahassee. The Consolidated Dispatch Center had Curtis Holley in their CAD history as someone with a history of violent interactions with law enforcement and the address was red flagged. But dispatch entered the wrong address of the fire into the CAD that day. Human error.
They entered the neighbor’s address rather than the address of the residence that was on fire…Holley’s address. If the correct address had been entered for the call, the red flag notice would have been received by the units in route and Deputy Smith might still be alive today.
Both events were partially caused by administrative failures in systems that government officials blithely push as being foolproof. Gun control advocates push universal background checks, expanding a system that’s been proven not to work.
We, the People of the Gun must do what’s right. We must be ready to be our own first responders and confront evil if and when it presents a threat. We must stand resolutely steadfast and ever vigilant knowing that evil can and will appear because no system is foolproof no matter what advocates and the media may say. Our Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights for a reason, and it had nothing to do with hunting.
Stay safe, stay armed, and stay American, in heart and spirit.