Fort Worth

Ax-wielding UNT student shot by police was easygoing, ‘nice’

Ryan McMillan
Ryan McMillan Courtesy

Co-workers of the University of North Texas student fatally shot by police early Sunday morning said the Fort Worth man was a “really sweet guy” with a “good disposition.”

They were surprised to learn that university officials said Ryan McMillan, 21, was advancing on a school police officer with an ax before the officer shot him near the Denton campus.

All evidence from the scene, including the police officer’s report, has been turned over to the Texas Rangers, who are investigating.

The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on desk duty.

On Monday, McMillan’s co-workers at Flowers To Go, a downtown Fort Worth floral shop, said they had no idea why McMillan had an ax and why he might have threatened the officer, as reported.

The student used the ax to damage about 10 cars, which includes smashed windshields and windows, said officer Ryan Grelle, a Denton police spokesman.

McMillan was studying hospitality management at UNT.

He worked part-time at the flower shop the past year, delivering orders and doing odd jobs around the store.

“He was very quiet at first,” said Tarah Hoover, the shop’s lead designer. “But once he got to know you and he was comfortable, he was constantly making jokes.”

Marie Holliday, the shop’s owner, described McMillan as a “very nice, really passive guy.”

Holliday, who’s also a dentist, hired McMillan at the flower shop last October. She knows his mother, who worked at her dental office as a hygienist.

“I believe it was the first job that he had, so he had a lot of training, and he took to that well,” Holliday said. “I couldn’t believe that this tragedy occurred. He was just helping us when he was on his holiday break during Thanksgiving.”

McMillan’s mother could not be reached to comment Monday.

McMillan was close to Hoover and Dan Elliott, another designer at the floral shop. The three ate dinner together Tuesday night. When Hoover offered McMillan an alcoholic drink ahead of his 21st birthday Saturday, he declined.

“He said, ‘No, I can’t. I have to drive home, and I have a final tomorrow,’ ” Hoover said. “He was a really laid-back guy. He said he was just excited to go into a bar [on his 21st birthday] and buy a beverage himself.”

McMillan exercised regularly, and one of his favorite foods was tofu, Hoover said.

“He’s not the kind of guy to really do drugs or anything like that,” she said. “He’s not the kind of guy who would seek that out.”

McMillan was killed by multiple gunshots to his chest and abdomen, the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office reported. Results of toxicology tests typically take a few weeks.

All UNT patrol officers wear body cameras, and all their patrol cars are equipped with video cameras, university spokeswoman Margarita Venegas said.

Video of the scene will not be available until the Texas Rangers have completed their investigation, a DPS spokesman said.

McMillan had just finished his first semester at UNT after transferring from Weatherford College, where he lived in a dorm next to Alex Hall and her roommate starting in 2013.

“He has never shown us anything to believe he was violent,” Hall told the Star-Telegram on Sunday night. “It was his birthday, so we are guessing maybe he drank too much, but he would never … We still are questioning why he would have an ax.”

Staff writer Monica S. Nagy contributed to this report.