On September 21, 2012 a man that I've never met passed away. Mr. Jerry Pierce a retired police officer with the Palm Bay Police Department and SWAP Team. Officer Pierce became to be a friend of my husband. He had hired my husband to do some side work at his home and through their discussions it came to be know that Officer Pierce was one of the SWAT Team members who rescued me from a mass murder's evening of terror on April 23, 1987. I never met Officer Pierce in person, nor did I ever get a chance to thank him...he was one of my unknown hero's. You never know when it will be your time to leave this world, and as a person who wanted so much to meet this man, it is very heart breaking to find out about his death before I could do so.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was 16 years old and I worked at McDonald's, my first job. I was working the drive-thru that evening when a woman came in the store screaming and yelling and waving her bag of food around...and I was like I know we couldn't of messed up your order that bad.....before I could say anything people started climbing in the windows of drive-thru and pouring in the front and side doors yelling a man is killing people in the parking lot. We immediately locked all the doors and windows and escorted everyone to the back store room of the building. We were held up for over 8 hours.
Very late the next morning....we received a call from the SWAT Team and they advised us that they were coming to the back door of the restaurant and would be taking us out of the building in shifts.....women and children first, them minor employees and so on. They formed a human barricade around us and shuffle us off through the parking lot well over a foot ball field long and place us into buses to take us to the local City offices for questioning.
Here is a news cap of the events that night.....
On April 23, 1987, at about 6:30 p.m., William Bryan Cruse (59-years-old at the time), armed with a semi-automatic rifle with 5 30-round magazines, a 20 gage shotgun, and a revolver,
first shot a 14-year-old kid who was playing basketball in his driveway
across the street, and then got into his car and headed for the nearest Publix Supermarket.
He killed three people in the parking lot, two FIT students and a
woman, but was unable to get into the store to kill more. Cruse got
back into his car and headed for the Winn Dixie grocery store across the street.
As he started firing at the store, a cop arrived at the scene. Cruse
sprayed the patrol car with seven rounds mortally wounding the officer.
A second officer unloaded his weapon on Cruse without hitting him.
Cruse, on the other hand, first hit him on the leg before finishing him
off as the frantic officer desperately tried to reload his weapon.
On a roll, Cruse proceeded into the supermarket shooting at anyone he
saw. By the time he was done, Cruse had killed six people and wounded fourteen others.
As police surrounded the store as he took a 21-year-old woman hostage
who he found hiding in the women's restroom. After a six-hour siege, he
let her go. A little later police swarmed into the store and arrested
He pleaded guilty by reason of insanity, but was convicted and sentenced to death. However, Cruse was ruled incompetent, which delayed his execution. William Cruse was the oldest man on Florida's death row and died on November 30, 2009 of natural causes.
Cruse's death does not bring closure for me or to anyone else who lived through that day or the families who lost loved ones.
Officer Pierce I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your courageous efforts to save me and all the others in harms way. And to your family, my deepest condolences for their loss of not only a loving son, husband, father, but a true HERO.