The 18-hour standoff that occurred in Highlands County, Florida, has brought a tragic end to a domestic violence situation. The incident began on Monday, November 13th, when the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a domestic violence situation at a home on Oliver Road in Venus. When deputies arrived at the scene, they found that the victim had managed to escape the home, but her partner, 43-year-old Sonny Ray Holland Sr., remained inside with their two young children, aged 3 and 4. Despite repeated attempts to persuade Holland to come out, he refused to do so, prompting the deputies to establish a perimeter around the home.
Given the risk of making a forced entry into a home with children and the potential that Holland was armed, the deputies proceeded with caution. Detectives from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant for the property as well as an arrest warrant for Holland, who was a three-time convicted felon. The charges against him included felony domestic violence battery (strangulation), two counts of child endangerment, two counts of false imprisonment, and resisting arrest.
The situation escalated when the HCSO Crisis Negotiation Team and SWAT Team were dispatched to the scene. Despite spending more than 12 consecutive hours on the phone with Holland, attempting to bring the standoff to a peaceful end, negotiators were unable to persuade him to surrender or release the children. The gravity of the situation necessitated the intervention of additional law enforcement resources, and at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 14th, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team and Crisis Negotiation Team took over the negotiations.
After exhaustive efforts, the children were eventually released unharmed at 4:25 p.m. However, the situation took a turn for the worse when deputies introduced liquid-based gas canisters into the mobile home in an attempt to force Holland to exit. A gunshot was heard, and soon after, the house began to smoke and then caught fire. Despite the efforts of law enforcement, Holland emerged from the burning home and fired at the Polk County SWAT team members, prompting return fire from the deputies. Tragically, Holland retreated back into the fully engulfed home and could not be rescued. An autopsy will be conducted to determine his exact cause of death, while the children, who were taken to a local hospital as a precaution, have been placed in protective custody.
Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman commended his deputies, the SWAT Team, and Crisis Negotiators for their unwavering dedication during the 12-hour ordeal. He also expressed gratitude to Sheriff Grady Judd and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance and resources. As the community continues to grapple with the aftermath of this traumatic event, Sheriff Blackman urged the public to keep the children and the rest of the family in their thoughts and prayers.
The tragic standoff will be investigated by the 10th Judicial Circuit’s Officer Involved Deadly Incident Task Force. The deadly outcome underscores the profound impact of domestic violence on families and communities, highlighting the need for greater awareness, prevention, and support for those affected. As the investigation unfolds, the focus remains on providing care and support to the children and ensuring their well-being in the wake of this harrowing experience.