Pensacola, FL – An Oklahoma police detective has been charged with homicide in connection with the brutal beating death of his longtime friend and police chief.
Mannford Police Chief Lucky Miller, 44, and Detective Michael Patrick Nealey, 49, were attending a law enforcement death scene investigation conference at the Hilton hotel on Pensacola Beach when the altercation occurred, WEAR reported.
The men had traveled together to the conference from Oklahoma, and were sharing a room at the hotel, police said.
At approximately 9:50 p.m. on Sunday night, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office (ESCO) received a report of a disturbance at the hotel, WEAR reported.
A hotel employee later told investigators that he went to the men’s room after the hotel received complaints about loud noises and yelling coming from the room.
One witness said the men were yelling and laughing for hours, causing such a disruption that the complainant requested a room change, WEAR reported.
Another witness said they heard a “roaring” noise, before someone repeatedly started to yell “stop it, Mike,” according to a police report.
The yelling gradually diminished, then stopped altogether, the witness said.
The hotel employee said he could hear a “grunting” noise coming from the room when he went to investigate the complaints, WEAR reported.
When he entered the room, he spotted Chief Miller lying on the floor. Det. Nealey was sitting on top of him, the employee said.
The hotel worker yanked the detective off of Chief Miller, at which point Det. Nealey’s face slammed into the floor, causing injuries to his lip and nose, according to police.
When ECSO deputies arrived at the scene, Chief Miller was unresponsive and did not have a pulse, WEAR reported.
They found Det. Nealey “mumbling” incoherently nearby, according to the police report.
His hand was red and swollen, but he had no other significant injuries.
Chief Miller suffered extensive injuries to his face from being beaten, police said.
One of his eyes was swelled completely, according to investigators.
ECSO spokesperson Sergeant Melony Peterson said that both men had been consuming alcohol prior to the altercation, The Washington Post reported.
There were no weapons found inside the room, Sgt. Peterson said.
“It was a physical altercation,” she told The Washington Post. “That’s how he died.”
Det. Nealey was booked into the Escambia County Jail, where he is being held without bond.
According to Sgt. Peterson, Det. Nealey has not provided any statements to investigators since his arrest.
The events leading up to the altercation are still under investigation.
Chief Miller, a married father-of-three, had served as the Mannford Police Department (MPD) chief since 2007, the agency said in a Facebook post on Monday.
Mannford Mayor Tyler Buttram said that Chief Miller and Det. Nealey were more than coworkers – they were best friends, The Washington Post reported.
“They were the best of friends, both on the force and off,” Buttram said. “Their families knew each other very well.”
“Where you saw one you saw the other,” he explained, according to Heavy.com. “That’s why it’s hard for everyone, because it just doesn’t make sense.”
The mayor said the small town has been in shock since they learned about the deadly altercation.
“If this tragedy would have happened serving a police warrant or pulling somebody over…that’s the kind of stuff you can wrap your head around,” Buttram told The Washington Post. “But when two friends go to training class together, you just don’t expect something like this to happen. It just doesn’t make sense. Not two best friends.”
The mayor said that Chief Miller’s murder resulted in the loss of two well-respected members of the eight-man department.
“We basically lost two great men today,” he told The Washington Post. “Two families, two wives, a whole bunch of kids lost their fathers today. One permanently and who knows about the other one.”
Mannford Interim Police Chief Jerry Ridley said that Chief Miller had an “open-door policy,” and that he was always willing to help others.
“If you were having a problem, you could go in and talk to him, and he’d try to help fix it,” Chief Ridley explained. “And he was a leader that led by example and not by telling you what to do.”
Chief Miller was also a Stroud Public Schools (SPS) board member, KFOR reported.
“He is a young man that will be deeply missed by our community and by myself personally because I considered him a friend," SPS Superintendent Joe Van Tuyl told the news outlet. "He had that quality to be friendly with the public but still enforce the law. Lucky will be missed by the entire area.”