From the book “Stories of Pensacola’s Finest,” available on Amazon.com or from Mike Simmons.
As he was growing up, there were two things that Bruce Camacho always wanted to do as an adult. First, he wanted to be self-sufficient. It was important to him that he not have to rely on anyone to make it. He wanted to take care of himself. Second, he had strong feeling of right and wrong. He felt that justice should prevail, and that good should win out over evil. Unlike most people, Bruce set out to live by those standards, and they have served him well.
In 1986, he felt that he could finally live by those two principles when he joined the Pensacola Police force. Like the other cadets, Bruce was elated to be counted as one of Pensacola’s finest. But more than that, he carried with him a certain independence. While he was very much a team player, deep inside he had a fierce determination to make right things that were wrong and that meant that, if he had to do it himself, he would.
After he graduated from the police academy, he was promoted to the rank of Patrolman and went through the Field Training Program. Within a few months, his dreams became a reality when he finally heard, “Okay, Camacho, you’re on your own. Go to work.”
Bruce wasted no time. He went to work and stayed as busy as a person could. He loved working the streets and getting to know the citizens, as well as protecting them when trouble came their way. As many new officers do, Bruce kept saying to himself, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this!”
His hard work paid off when he was asked to be assigned to the Tactical Unit, which is a specialized section. Members of the Tac Squad wear plain clothes, drive unmarked cars, and focus on violent crime, spending many hours conducting surveillance. The best thing about his new assignment, though, was that Bruce had more freedom to stop the guys that were doing the really bad stuff. He loved it.
When Jacob Floyd graduated from Washington High School in Pensacola, he was already looking forward to his new life. One month later he found himself in basic training in the United States Army.
Army life was different, structured and regimented. The pay wasn’t great, but he went to new places and saw new things. Still, he wasn’t happy. He didn’t like the authority that seemed to linger over him. Over the next three years, things got worse. Finally, when Jacob was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, life got bad – really bad. Financial misfortunes and two bad checks later, he finally snapped. He used his recently purchased automatic pistol to fire off a round in the barracks. He got the attention of the others around him, but not necessarily for the good. He was reported, taken into custody, and kicked out. He received a dishonorable discharge in May of 1991.
With nowhere else to go, Jacob went home. Home to his mother. Home to Pensacola on Bakalane Court. But…the problem was not the location. The problem was inside Jacob. He didn’t want to be told what to do, but he needed a job. He had no money. Whatever was wrong before was still not right.
Beginning in late May 1991, robberies in and around Pensacola began to pick up. Reports of individuals being held up in parking lots, retail stores being robbed, and such deeds were done by a man with an automatic pistol.
These reports reminded Bruce Camacho of the reason that he joined the force. He found himself holding a deep desire to discover who was responsible for the robberies and to see him answer for his crimes. In an interview the author had with Bruce on Thursday, April 29, 2021, Bruce recalled that he determined to himself that he would spend whatever time needed to catch the guy.
Monday, July 8, 1991 10:49 AM
Church’s Fried Chicken is located on the corner of 9th Avenue and Blount Street in downtown Pensacola. The restaurant lies on the edge of an old residential neighborhood. It is more like a neighborhood restaurant than a fast-food joint. Everybody knows each other.
On the morning of Monday, July 8, the restaurant opened as usual. A few minutes later, Jacob Floyd walked in the door and placed an order. When the employee looked away to begin the order preparation and then looked back at him, he was holding a gun on her – the same automatic that he fired in the Army barracks in Washington. When Jacob demanded that she empty the cash drawer, the employee froze – shocked. Jacob lost his temper and slapped the girl. The terrified girl pulled the entire cash drawer out and placed it on the counter. Jacob removed the money and left. When the police were called, the hunt began. There was obviously a very dangerous man was on the loose with malicious intentions.
Tuesday, July 9, 1991 9:30 PM
The next evening – Tuesday – at 9:30, Jacob walked into the Whataburger restaurant on the corner of 9th Avenue and Langley Blvd. He simply pulled the same automatic pistol and demanded money. Then he ran out. He left in a 1980 blue Toyota.
Within minutes, the place was swarming with cruisers from the sheriff’s department. Every corner, every nook and every cranny were searched. Starting with the immediate area, they searched outward in all directions. They also contacted the Pensacola Police Department who joined in the search.
Deputy Wayne Ladieu was a 10-year veteran. He had worked many robberies before. He knew that, if the suspect was still in the area, there was a good chance he would be caught. They just had to find that blue Toyota…
As he worked his way west, he searched and searched for fifteen minutes. When he turned onto Sanders Street, he saw what looked like a…it looked like a blue Toyota up ahead. He sped up. Yes, it was. It was a blue Toyota. He got on the radio.
“Escambia, send some other units. I’m following a Blue Toyota that matches the description of the armed robbery suspect.”
Activating the blue lights brought the vehicle to a stop at Burgess Road and Sanders Street.
“Driver, show me both hands through window,” Deputy Ladieu said loudly.
Jacob waited a second, then slowly and deliberately, he stepped out of the car, turned toward Deputy Ladieu, and fired his automatic at him – twice. Ladieu returned fire, striking him. Jacob, slightly injured, got away on foot. The search of the Toyota found money stolen from the Whataburger robbery.
Not surprisingly, the search intensified. Deputies and officers searched and searched, but without success. The search continued for hours. When Jacob couldn’t be located, most of the force was pulled off, leaving only a few to continue.
Wednesday, July 10, 1991 5:30 AM
Linda George was up early as usual. She and her husband, Tom, were always up early. He left first for his job at Eglin Air Force Base. Linda, a federal civil service worker, left for Saufley Field at 5:30 AM. She had been a steady worker there for the past sixteen years. She was a steady, dependable worker, but she wasn’t a pushover. She had a stubborn streak about her.
As she stepped out the front door of her apartment at 2133 Schwab Ct. and walked to her car, he approached her. Jacob told her to give him her car. Her car? If it hadn’t been such a shock, it would have been funny. Her car was the neighborhood joke. It was such a piece of junk that it was all she could do just to keep it running. It was on its last leg. When Jacob demanded her car, Linda felt the hairs on the back of her neck bristle. Her stubbornness came out. How dare he demand MY car! she thought to herself.
“No, you cannot have my car!” she replied to Jacob. “Now go away!”
When he grabbed for her, she struggled. Then, with an intentional move, he pulled out his automatic handgun and shot her through the brain. She was dead before she hit the driveway.
Jacob took the car and headed north. But Linda had the last laugh. He drove for an entire two minutes before the car broke down. In the middle of the intersection of Creighton Road and Schwab Drive, he left the car. He made his way on foot to his mother’s house, less than a mile away.
With the help of Deputy Ladieu, a flyer was put out with his description and likeness on it. Officers, businesses, television, newspapers…all received flyers. Jacob was now known and he was wanted for two armed robberies, attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and a cold-blooded murder of an innocent woman.
Wednesday, July 10, 1991, 7:45 PM
“Pensacola 9-1-1” said the dispatcher on the other end of the line. “What is your emergency?”
“Yes, I want to report that guy that y’all are looking for,” said the anonymous called to the 911 dispatcher. “You know, the guy that’s on that flyer…the guy that killed that lady? Well, he’s walkin’ on Sixth Avenue from Baars Street.” The anonymous caller hung up.
Tac Officers Darryl Betts and Bruce Camacho were in separate vehicles at the corner of 9th Avenue and Fairfield Drive, less than a mile away. His determination to catch the armed robber intensified when he heard about the murder. Darryl and the other Tac officers had heard Bruce’s remarks and they could hear the resolve in his voice.
The radio crackled, “Pensacola to all units,” the dispatcher relayed, “we just got a call that the Signal Five suspect is walking south on 6th Avenue from Baars Street. Nearby units need to respond.”
Bruce thought to himself “This might be it. This could be the guy that we’ve been looking for.” The emotions that ran through him ranged from excitement to anxiety to anger to caution. In the end, though, it was a job that needed to be done.
Both officers took different routes to the location, to arrive from different angles. Bruce, who arrived first, saw a man walking south on 6th Avenue approaching Leonard Street. Bruce stopped the car nearly a block away and got out.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” asked Bruce.
“Sure,” the man said lightly and began walking toward Bruce.
This may not be the man, Bruce thought. He didn’t even hesitate.
When the man came to within six feet, Bruce identified himself and asked to see some identification. The man produced it easily and handed it to Bruce. When Bruce looked at it, he saw the name – Jacob Floyd. In an instant, Floyd lunged at him, knocked him down and jumped on top of him. When Bruce pushed him back, in one motion, the man produced his handgun and pulled the trigger.
The explosion of the gun fired a round an inch away from Bruce’s head, near his left ear. It missed. Floyd immediately pulled the trigger a second time, but the slide wouldn’t move.
“It was my training,” Bruce said. “I don’t know why, but I grabbed the action of the gun just like I was trained to do, making it impossible to fire. That saved my life.”
Bruce reached to his holster and pulled his Hechler and Koch 9mm automatic pistol and pointed it at Floyd. But Floyd grabbed his gun, creating a sort of Mexican standoff. Bruce snatched his gun back and Floyd lost his grip. Bruce fired into Floyd’s chest.
“You shot me!” Floyd said as he fell back. Bruce jumped up, suddenly realizing that a crowd had gathered. Officer Doug White kept saying something to him. Although he could see Doug’s mouth moving, Bruce couldn’t hear him. He couldn’t hear anything. It was then that he realized that the gunshot near his ear caused temporary deafness. He looked around and saw his lieutenant, Norman Chapman, driving up. Chapman took Bruce into his car and whisked him away for the debriefing.
Jacob Floyd died on the way to the hospital. He was identified as the suspect in the Church’s Fried Chicken robbery, the Whataburger robbery, and the murder of Linda George. He was probably responsible for more, but those were the official cases.
January 26, 1992 9:15 PM
Sgt. Rick Buddin was one of the favorites at the police department. When Rick was around, things were never boring. Tonight he was the master of ceremonies at the Fraternal Order of Police annual awards ceremony for the Pensacola Police Department. The ceremony was always a highlight of the year. Officers wore their Class A uniforms and wives wore their best dresses. It was a great time for all.
After dinner came the guest speaker. Then the culmination – the presentation of the awards. First came the Unit Citations. Then came the Meritorious Service Awards, the Bronze Cross awards and the Silver Cross awards. With each of the awards came an amazing story. To hear the heroics of the officers was worth attending the banquet. Finally, the finale. The Gold Medal of Valor. There had only been two presented in the history of the department. Tonight – the third. It would be presented to…Officer Bruce Camacho. When the story was told and Bruce came up to have Chief Louis Goss place the neck ribbon and coveted medallion over his head, the entire audience gave him a five-minute standing ovation. Sgt. Buddin stated it correctly. “It was unfortunate that someone had to die, but the department is proud of the way that Camacho handled himself in the situation.” A true hero.