Exclusive: MWC Hostage Negotiator Who Saved Toddler Tells Story
MIDWEST CITY, Oklahoma - When a knife wielding man took a little two-year-old girl hostage at the Midwest City Walmart, one man emerged a hero. That was 3 years ago, and for the first time with any local media, the hostage negotiator who saved that little girl is telling his story.
It was just like any other trip to the grocery store. You expect to go in and leave with some food for the week. But on June 17, 2013, that typical trip turned unimaginable for a 2-year-old and her mother.
911 Call: "We need police at the Walmart at Midwest Boulevard and Reno Avenue."
A stranger walks by their cart and without warning grabs little Zoey Keating.
911 Call: "There's someone with a knife, holding a little girl hostage in the back."
As her mother desperately pleads with the armed man to let her little girl go, Major David Huff with the Midwest City Police Department was about to call it a day.
"I was getting ready to leave early and go fishing," Major Huff remembers. "I was getting my paperwork done to head out and the call rang out over the radio."
At the time, he was the chief negotiator for Midwest City Police Department and he remembers the exact moment he saw Sammie Wallace holding Zoey.
"One of the things that really got my heart going when we got there if you were to see a pic of my daughter when she was two, she and Zoey, blond hair pigtails everything," Major Huff said. "That's all I could think about. How are we going to get the child out of here safely and what if that was my daughter."
That thought, the safety of that little girl, would be Major Huff's number one priority.
"The very first thing we did is what we're trained to do, 'let us have the baby put the knife down so we can talk,'" he said. "At that point, the response he had we knew immediately that it wasn't happening that easy. He started saying things that made us think he was mentally ill, the illuminati, cameras watching him, it was the CIA, George Bush, and we got the idea at that point that he's mentally ill -
Then Wallace did something that made this seasoned negotiator very concerned. He started counting down.
"He gets to 30, 25 and that's when I decided in my head, when he got to 5, I wasn't going to wait any longer," he said. "Even though it was a good likelihood I could have taken a shot from where I was at, I just wasn't going to take a chance even one in 1,000 that the bullet would strike Zoey. So, I decided in my head the only way I could make sure is if I feel the barrel of my gun against his head. Then I know there's no way Zoey would be harmed."
So once Wallace muttered the number five, Major Huff took a step and a half and shot Wallace in the head, killing him and ending a 34-minute standoff.
"Believe me, it's been played over in my mind thousands of times," Major Huff said. "I felt like I failed. To be successful both Sammie Wallace and Zoey would walk out alive and I struggled with that a while."
"I don't think he failed," said Alicia Keating. "I think he did his job and I'm really grateful for that."
Because of Major Huff, Alicia Keating has her daughter, who is now five years old and full of personality. She made it through a hostage situation without a scratch on her and without any memory of that horrible day.
"I think if it weren't for Major Huff, then she would not be here today," Keating said. "I think he is a hero."
"I feel like he's a real one, like superman," said little Zoey.
She's had a chance to tell that to Major Huff in person - the two now have an inseparable bond.
"You want a make a grown man's knees buckle saying those words, I can't even describe it," said Major Huff. "I've been in it for 26 years, but that right there, melted my heart."
Major Huff was honored by the president earlier this year when he received the Medal of Valor in Washington, D.C.