PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Apartment residents, bystanders, law enforcement and first responders all were in danger on May 22, 2018, as Kevin Holroyd opened fire in the area.
The first persons in uniform to come in contact with the murder suspect were Panama City firefighters.
“That day was like any normal day, we came in, running calls like normal. Ladder two that day received a call to the apartment complex for just a typical gas leak call, didn’t think anything of it,” said Batallion Chief David Collier.
The crews headed to Briarwood Apartments.
“We sort of smelled gasoline coming from the apartments when we got off the truck so already some red flags were starting to come up,” said Captain John Paul Oliver.
Oliver says they made contact with the woman who called 911 and searched through her apartment for a cause. When her place was clear, they moved to the next door, continuing their investigation.
“When we made contact with the apartment next door to hers, the gentleman answered the door but not open, he just talked to us through the door. We asked if we could make entrance to the apartment, he let us know not so nicely we weren’t welcome,” Oliver said.
He says they then told the subject they would be calling law enforcement because they had to clear the scene before leaving the location.
Once Panama City Police officers arrived, Oliver says they gave him a little more insight to who he was dealing with and it was best for the firefighters to get away from the area.
When we started backing out, Bay County Sheriffs started showing up on the scene and immediately shots starting firing.”
Bullets started to fly from that same apartment, occupied by Holroyd.
“Those are shots being fired, that’s the thought that crossed my mind and I needed to get my crew somewhere safe. Not just my crew but anyone who needed to be safe,” Oliver said as he described the moment he, the other firefighters and apartment residents hid behind a vehicle.
Oliver says he never thought the situation would turn out the way it did when he spoke to Holroyd earlier.
“I never really felt in that much danger. The way the gentleman expressed we needed to leave, I always felt like, if he wanted to shoot at us, he would’ve.”
Now, after that one day, the Panama City Fire Department is adding another layer of protection to its force.
“The department is in the process or ordering and purchasing ballistic vests and helmets to place on each apparatus,” said Chief Collier.
The agency currently has 10 of the sets and will get another 20 before the year is up.
“We’re going to have to train wearing these vests. So on top of the bunker gear we may have to wear on certain calls, adding these 30-40 pounds on top of it,” he said.
Collier has been a firefighter for 13 years and never thought this would be a part of their approach.
“It’s something that you think would happen in bigger cities or just larger areas but you never think it would happen in a town like ours but it sure has.”
Oliver agrees, while it may add more physical weight to their bodies, it’s a payoff for protection.
“It’s definitely a good thing, especially in this time an age. There’s just, when you think it can’t get any crazier, it gets crazier so I think it’s going to be nothing but good to us,” Oliver said.