SARASOTA — No arrests had been made Saturday night after a Bradenton dental assistant was gunned down behind the wheel of an SUV that morning, according to the Sarasota Police Department.
The shooting took place at about 5 a.m. near the intersection of 21st Street and Cocoanut Avenue when William N. Holley, 33, 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 Captain Bill Spitler said.
Just one house away from the intersection, 71-year-old Mattie Green stood on her porch Saturday afternoon watching police canvass the neighborhood.
She knew Holley when he was a young teen and living in a foster home down the street, she said.
“He never bothered anybody. He was a nice young man,” Green said.
He became part of the family and at one point lived with her.
“He was like one my kids,” said Green, who has seven children. “It’s really hurting. I’ve seen grown men sob today ... I just trust God. I don’t know. All I know is he’s gone.”
Holley worked at Manatee Dental at College Plaza, 3633 Cortez Road West, Bradenton, for the past five years.
Police said he lived in Sarasota. Court records show he recently moved out of a rental property in Bradenton.
Dr. Dennis Corona, a dentist and owner of Manatee Dental, said he worked with Holley for nine years.
“He was as good if not the best dental assistant I ever had,” Corona said. “He was a very talented young man. The patients loved him. He had a very positive effect. He came across as very professional and competent. He put a lot of people at ease. ... I would have loved to see him go into dentistry. He certainly had the aptitude.”
Corona said Holley came to work for him from a previous dental practice. The two eventually formed a friendship.
“After awhile he was more than just an employee, he was almost like a son,” said Corona, who had people calling after hearing the news. “This kind of stuff is so tough anyway, but when it hits this close to home, it takes on a whole new meaning.”
Green was awake, sitting in her recliner in her living room when the shooting took place early Saturday.
“It was this bang. One big shot and then a lot of shots together. I thought, ‘Either somebody got shot or there’s firecrackers,’ ” she said. “I didn’t get up because bullets travel.”
Holley was at an after party at a residence nearby where people commonly gather after bars close, Spitler said. He had received a parking ticket that night for illegally parking on the street. Police believe he was leaving the house when he was shot.
“He truly was a victim. He was not buying drugs or anything like that,” Spitler said. “He was driving down the road. Him pulling up, probably saved the other guy’s life.”
The robbery victim had minor injuries and nothing was taken from him, Spitler said.
The man remains the only witness to Holley’s murder.
The attackers fled the area and went to a residence in the 1900 block of Cocoanut Avenue.
Police quickly obtained a warrant and searched the residence, taking out seven unidentified people for questioning, Spitler said.
Two years ago in front of the same house, Keith Harvey was shot to death in the yard, Spitler said. That case still remains unsolved.
On Saturday afternoon, the blinds were shut and a screen door was pried off and propped up against the wall at the residence. No one answered the door.
Anyone with any information about Holley’s death can contact Sarasota Police Sgt. Holmes at 954-7070 or remain anonymous and possibly become eligible for a cash reward by calling Sarasota Crimestoppers at (941)366-TIPS(8477).
Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.