Marianna, FL. can no longer say murder only happens in the big cities. This small town of around 6,200 people lost an honored citizen and police officer. On January 30th, 2007, Mellie McDaniel, a victim’s advocate and wife to a Marianna police officer, and Deputy Harold Altman were killed in a shootout with Lionel Sands and Daniel Brown. The assailants were also killed in the shootout.
Mrs. McDaniel was talking with her husband as she pulled up to their home of 5 years. Mrs. McDaniel noticed two men she did not recognize and spoke of it to her husband. He was able to alert the police of intruders in the area and Deputy Altman was the closest officer to the call. Mrs. McDaniel was attacked immediately after exiting her car. The Deputy was shot as he arrived on the scene. An eyewitness claimed around 20 police cars arrived seconds later and proceeded to exchange gunfire with Mr. Sands and Mr. Brown. Both were killed in the fire fight.
It is believed the assailants were targeting Sheriff John McDaniel, husband of the victim, for refusing to close a six-year-old case which prevented an insurance claim being cashed in. One of the assailants was also under suspicion in the unsolved murder case of his wife in 2001.
Volunteers from all over the state assembled at Christian Center Church in Marianna to help support the family in any way. Many of the volunteers were from neighboring police departments.
The Bay County Sheriff’s Office served as Mrs. McDaniel’s honor guard while the Jackson County’s Officers were her pallbearers. Her procession made its way form the Christian Center Church to Altha, FL where she was finally laid to rest among thousands of friends.
Deputy Altman’s services were held at Damascus Pentecostal Ministries where the casket was carried by the very columns he built in the church while he was still alive. The family did not hold the funeral at the church to preserve the memories of his great giving spirit and service to the church.
The town of Marianna as well as the families of the slain are keeping the spirits of their loved ones in their hearts. It is sad to say this town will never be able to forget the harsh actions of desperate men. A volunteer for the McDaniel family puts it best. “We’ve learned to accept the danger in our jobs, but when it is family and the people we love, it’s devastating. It’s hard to take,” says Captain Larry Draughon of the Dothan, Alabama, Police Department.