FLOYD COUNTY, KY (WOWK) – Officials are releasing more information on the events that lead up to a deadly shooting in the Floyd County town of Allen Thursday night.
At a press conference Sunday afternoon Judge-Executive Robby Williams said at approximately 6:30 p.m., Thursday, June 30, deputies were attempting to serve an emergency protection order against the suspect, Lance Storz, 49, when they were met with rounds of gunfire from a high-power rifle.
Williams said the terrain created a nearly “unbreachable” vantage point for the suspect because the home was situated on a hill with only one road leading to it.
“Upon arrival, these officers did not know they were walking into a tactical ambush and that the shooter had an unabated field of fire of well over 200 yards,” Williams said. “The officers performed valiantly and did everything in their power to neutralize the suspect.”
Williams says once the suspect surrendered at approximately 10 p.m., the reality and magnitude of the horrific event began to sink in. Floyd County Deputy William Petry, Prestonsburg Police Captain Ralph Frasure and Floyd County K-9 Unit Drago were killed Thursday night. Prestonsburg Police Officer Jacob Chaffins died of his injuries on Friday.
Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt has previously said four others were injured by gunfire, including Constable Gary Wolfe, Floyd County Deputy Darrin Lawson and Floyd County Emergency Management Director Joe Reynolds. One of those injured by gunfire has not been identified.
According to Williams, one deputy and Reynolds are still hospitalized. He says multiple officers also had to receive treatment for glass, shrapnel and other injuries.
Williams says Constable Gary Wolfe was hit in the eye by shrapnel and/or glass and is now home, but will need more surgeries for his recovery. He adds that Reynolds was also shot in the eye and Williams said during the press conference that Reynolds will lose his left eye due to the extent of the injuries.
Williams says those who are injured are in as good of spirits as can be expected.
According to Hunt, Deputy Lawson was shot in the leg and is still undergoing treatments and surgeries and “has a long road to go” remaining in the hospital.
“Praying to God that he can keep his leg, but amazing spirit, amazing attitude and he wants to go to work tomorrow just like we would expect Darrin to want to do,” Hunt said. “So, thank you all for your prayers, and he said to tell you all he appreciates them too.”
Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley says a Kentucky State Police Trooper was also shot, and his bullet-proof vest “probably saved his life.”
Sheriff Hunt also spoke more in detail of what led up to the ambush.
The sheriff says a woman called his office around 2 p.m. Thursday that she had received a text message from her relative, the suspect’s wife, that said she was in need of police assistance and made allegations that she had been held hostage and abused by the suspect.
Two deputies responded to the home where the wife was waiting outside, Hunt said. During the press conference, Hunt said she then approached the deputies saying she needed to leave while Storz was asleep and she also needed the deputies to get her child out of the home.
Hunt said deputies got the child out of the house and took both to a safe location to interview them. The woman claimed she had been held hostage for several days and that the suspect would not let her use her cellphone, and that she was only able to send that text when he fell asleep, Hunt says. An emergency protection order was then requested.
During questioning, the woman had told authorities the suspect did have weapons in the home, but Hunt says they did not know how many or to what extent he was able to use them.
According to Hunt, after receiving the order, four deputies, including Petry who helped seek the EPO, met to serve the order and arrest Storz. As they were approaching in their cruisers, one of the deputies spotted Storz looking out the window and told the other three deputies. Hunt says Petry was driving the first vehicle.
The sheriff says Storz opened the door as if he had been waiting on the deputies. He says Deputy Lawson was immediately shot and another deputy, Deputy Hall was able to roll under his vehicle, where he would remain for several hours. The deputies were then able to call for backup, according to Hunt. He also adds that the fourth deputy, Deputy Newsom dragged Lawson out of the line of fire.
Hunt says the deputies had no time to draw their own guns, or even speak to the suspect, before the suspect began shooting.
“Nobody in this world could ever imagine, that you could just walk to a coward behind a door, hiding, waiting on four people to give them no chance, no nothing, and just open the door and open up on them,” Hunt.
Hunt says the PPD, two constables and Kentucky State Police arrived on scene shortly after. KSP has previously told WOWK that the gunfire exchange continued until shortly before the suspect surrendered.
Storz is currently in jail on a $10 million bond facing multiple charges including murder.
According to Lt. Colonel Ross Shurtleff, PPD Deputy Chief, the ambush was the deadliest event involving law enforcement deaths Eastern Kentucky has ever seen.
“As [Prestonsburg] Mayor [Les] Stapleton said, as we are recovering from the deadliest law enforcement death in Kentucky since the prison riot in Eddyville in 1924 and certainly the most deadly event that we have seen in Eastern Kentucky, we’re not going to recount the events as we know them at this point, rather focus on honoring those that have fallen.”
Bartley also says while thinking he was heading to the scene for the investigation, he learned that it was still active and helped out-of-town troopers find the correct location of the scene. He says when a deputy called for him to take cover, he learned the scene was much worse than he had initially believed.
“Why does it matter what the motive is? There’s nothing more wrong in the world than what this man did,” Bartley said.
When asked if the death penalty will be sought and is suitable in the case, Bartley said he could not speak to if it will be sought but that he believes: “Death ain’t good enough… There is a special place in Hell for people like this. And if there ain’t there should be.”
Shurtleff thanked the Pikeville Police Department, which has helped provide essential law enforcement functions to assist Prestonsburg and Floyd County amid the tragedy, as well as the Frankfort Police Department, the KSP, the Huntington, WV Police Department, as well as all of the agencies that have reached out with condolences and support.
“How we heal? I’m not sure anybody could answer that question. But I know that we will by the grace of God.”Prestonsburg Police Chief Randy Woods
Many people in the community have gone to a memorial set up at the city building in Prestonsburg to pay their respects to the fallen and the injured. Among those paying their respects was Seth Ousley, Officer Chaffins’ brother. Ousley spoke briefly with WOWK 13 News and says to him, all three of these men were heroes.
“They were three of the greatest men I’ve ever known. And I know that one of them was the best man I’ve ever known,” Ousley said.
Prestonsburg Police Chief Randy Woods says this tragic event is devastating to the community, and spoke today in a press conference about healing as a community.
“This happens far to often in our country today,” Woods said. “I don’t know the answer. I don’t know exactly where we go, I just know that we continue to hold the line… That’s all we’re left to do, just hold the line for those that have fallen, that we continue on in their honor. We do it for our community, for our loved ones, to make sure they are safe.”
Kentucky State Representative Ashley Tackett-Laferty also spoke at the press conference thanking first responders for their daily bravery.
“Here in Eastern Kentucky, we are made up of small towns with a big sense of community. I am here first and foremost to say, we appreciate our first responders. We appreciate the service you provide to our community. We appreciate the obvious sacrifices you make each and every day,” Tackett-Laferty said.
The community is also holding a vigil to honor the victims at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, July 3 at the Prestonsburg High School football field.
Funeral arrangements for all three officers have been announced. For more details, click here.
The investigation is still ongoing and not all details are being released at this time.