Police from Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale swarmed the heart of Wilton Manors after a man stormed into Wilton Manors Dental on NE 9th Avenue with a device he said was a bomb.
This is more than a story of a bomb threat though. This is a story of heroism and bravery by police, the staff at Wilton Dentistry, and residents forced from their homes.
SFGN was the only media outlet inside the perimeter throughout the day, and at one point was only about 10 feet from one of the SWAT trucks that were called to the scene.
Wilton Dental Targeted
Around 3 p.m Oct. 27, a man showed up at the Wilton Manors Dental building at 2517 NE 9th Ave. between Wilton Drive and NE 26th Street. One of the dental assistants told SFGN he showed what appeared to be a bomb and told her to call the police or the FBI. Staff recognized the man, saying he had been in the building three days this week asking when they open and close.
Within minutes Wilton Manors police were surrounding the building. By 4 p.m., a SWAT truck was outside the building, a bomb squad truck was down the street, and Fort Lauderdale officers were helping secure the area and setting up a mobile command center. Officers went door to door at surrounding buildings forcing people to evacuate.
From 4 p.m. to about 5:30 p.m., SFGN was at the gas station across from the scene. The SWAT truck withdrew from the Wilton Dental lot and was sitting on 9th Ave. feet from where SFGN was. A police drone briefly buzzed overhead while surveying the area. SFGN saw the man walking past the glass front door. A robot was deployed to the front door, where the suspect was placing notes. A camera on the robot lets the police read them.
The robot also brought a phone to the door, which the man rejected and eventually threw back. A person in the SWAT truck, now just off the property, began asking the man to pick up the office phone. He appeared to refuse. They kept asking him his name. He appeared to want a message conveyed because the police announced they wouldn’t deliver the message and that the person didn’t want to talk to him.
At about 5:30, Police also asked “how much time” was left on the device. At this point they were cordoning off more of the area and SFGN moved next door to Rosie’s.
Waiting For Sundown
Attempts to get the man to surrender failed. Around 8:30, police shot a canister through the glass front door and smoke filled the foyer. Police quickly moved in and arrested the man identified as Brian Koller. His motive for the attack is still unknown.
Once the building was secure, the bomb squad moved in. The device turned out to be fake, but one member of the bomb squad told SFGN it looked real.
Calm In the Crisis
The dental practice was still open, and patients were being treated as this all began. Tammi, who declined to give her last name, said, “The gentleman walked in with these big canisters with a light blinking. He says ‘I have a bomb, call the police and the FBI.’” The staff has actually been trained for this type of emergency and managed to clear the building and avoid a hostage situation.
“We grabbed the patients and directed them outside the backdoor, came around front and went to the end of the block.”
Tammi said the man is not a patient and didn’t know who he is. She was still in shock and said it hadn’t hit her yet.
“It really hasn’t. I’m just glad everyone got out safe.”
‘They Saved Our Lives’
Vinny Peragine and Arron Barnes are patients, and Barnes was in the exam chair as this all began.
“One of the nurse practitioners said to me ‘Can you come with me, sir?’ Once we got to the back of the facility we were told there was a gentleman inside with something. Then they said a bomb,” Barnes said.
“We came out of the back of the office and came around the front,” Peragine added. “We saw him through the glass. It didn’t seem he wanted hostages. But when we came around the front he opened up the door and screamed he wanted the FBI, very aggressively.”
Barnes said the man then slid the bomb over, turned it on and it started flashing red.
Scared & Stranded
Early rumors suggested there were hostages. But that was incorrect. All of the employees and clients evacuated from the building early on in the crisis.
The people inside Wilton Dental were grateful to be safe, but they were also stranded. The staff left their purses, car keys, and other personal items behind when they evacuated.
Eventually they went to Rosie’s to wait, and were joined by neighbors who were forced to leave their homes and weren’t being allowed back in.
Eventually some left, while others waited. They made the best of it by going to Rosie’s, having a drink or dinner, and commiserating with others in the same predicament. The restaurant closed early at around 9 p.m. when just about everyone had left. Rosie’s management said they were glad to be able to be a place people could come to at a time like this.
Shortly before 11 p.m., the last of the police cars left and most of the streets were reopened and people were being allowed back into their homes.
Koller was booked into the Broward County main jail on three charges: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill and a $20,000 bond, criminal mischief over $1,000, and manufacture/possession/selling/delivering/displaying/or using a weapon of mass destruction and a $50,000 bond. If he is released on bail he will also be required to wear an electronic monitoring device. As of Oct. 28 he was still being held in the main jail.
Photo by John Hayden.