MANATEE — His best friend thinks Bradenton dental assistant William N. Holley was shot and killed Saturday morning while being robbed in the Sarasota neighborhood where he grew up.
Others, like his brother Tony, who works at a gas station in Palmetto, think the 33-year-old saw someone in trouble, perhaps a man being beaten and robbed and was shot trying to help.
Still others, like his sister Nicole Faison, of North Port, are left in doubt only knowing that Holley was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Speculation continued Sunday as to why Holley was gunned down at about 5 a.m. Saturday near the intersection of 21st Street and Cocoanut Avenue in the Newtown section of Sarasota.
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But more than 40 family and friends put their grief and doubts into a positive action Sunday.
They held a candlelight vigil and created a flower-adorned memorial in his honor Sunday night in Newtown, at the corner of 21st Street and Panama Drive, where he died and a block from where he was shot.
Police said the shooting occurred when Holley came across a 41-year-old man being beaten and robbed by several attackers. When Holley rolled up in a Ford Expedition, the attackers approached him and subsequently opened fire, shooting him. Holley drove another block to the intersection of 21st Street and Panama Drive where he died at the stop sign, Sarasota Police Capt. Bill Spitler said.
No one has been arrested in the case by late Sunday. Spitler said seven people in a nearby home who witnessed the shooting have all been questioned.
“It appears from everything that he simply rode up during the robbery and he was minding his own business. This is a senseless death. Everything appears that Mr. Holley was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time and they took his life for no reason,” Spitler said.
Although a Sarasota Police Department report stated that Holley was driving a Ford Expedition at the time of his death, Cedric Green, who says he is Holley’s best friend, said the dental assistant who dreamed of being a dentist was driving a gray Chevrolet Tahoe with 22-inch wheels.
“I think they were trying to rob him when they saw the Tahoe,” said Green, 34, who had known Holley since they were children.
Although they don’t know why he died, family and friends know how he lived.
“He liked to dress,” said Faison of her brother, one of 12 siblings — four biological and eight adopted — of Christina and Dwight Holley, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Christina Holley was too upset to talk about her son Sunday night. Dwight Holley, who works for a hospital in North Carolina, was at a conference in Atlanta and had yet to be notified, family said.
“If you were eating a hot dog with mustard, he would just plain tell you to stay away,” Faison said of Holley. “If something got on one of his shoes, he would go home and change them.”
Green, who graduated from Sarasota High School along with Holley, confirmed Holley was a well-dressed man.
“Academics was his clothing line,” Green said. “Too Short was his rap star. He always looked good. He lived to dress. I’m numb, man. He was my best friend.”
Tony Holley, 36, said he was moved by the vigil and a memorial set up around his brother’s photograph.
“We all just stood around and prayed tonight,” Holley said.
“My brother was a wonderful guy. Will touched a lot of people in different ways. I’m sure he saw someone in trouble and stepped in. I think he just yelled at them from his car and they shot him.”
Although funeral plans have not been finalized, family members said that Holley’s body is at Chandler Funeral Home and he will probably be buried Saturday.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.