Palm Bay police shoot, kill man after he fires at officers

By Jerry Hume and John W. Davis, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Sunday, February 22, 2015, 4:43 PM EST

A man was shot and killed by a Palm Bay police officer early Sunday morning after police said he fired several shots at officers. 

Palm Bay Interim Police Chief Mark Renkens said officers responded around 5:30 a.m. to a 911 hang-up call along the 900 block of Castille Road.

Renkens said that when officers arrived to the home, Bradford Samuel Leonard, 50, fired at them.

"Our protocol is to fire until the threat has been stopped," Renkens said.

Neighbors said they are stunned by what happened.

"He was a great man," Jamie Liatos, a neighbor, said of Leonard. "He was an awesome asset to our town. He had a business — an auto body business."

Hotch Acker said he had his windows open all night, but he didn't hear any shots fired.

"You know, you hear everything always the same, 'It never happens in my neighborhood,'" Acker said. "Well, it did."

Investigators have not said exactly what led to the shooting but did reveal that only Leonard was inside the home, and that his wife and young children had left the home prior to the shooting.

"I don't think his wife left last night, thinking that this is what she was coming home to," Liatos said.

Palm Bay police officials said Leonard walked outside his home and onto his driveway and then pointed a gun at an officer.

The officer, 28-year-old Derek Hollcroft, opened fire, killing Leonard.

Renkens said Hollcroft had no choice but to return fire.

"These officers have a very difficult, tough job," Renkens said. "They have to make split-second life or death decisions, and that's exactly what we're faced with this morning."

Renkens says Hollcroft, is a two-year veteran who joined the department April 1, 2013, following time in the military.

He has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is normal procedure during an officer-involved shooting.

No officers were injured in the shooting.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.