MUSTANG — A longtime fire chief was shot in the head late Tuesday at his home, and his wife told police the gunman was an intruder who apologized afterward and said her husband should have hired him.
Nichols Hills Fire Chief Keith Bryan was rushed to OU Medical Center, where he died Wednesday morning.
Becky Bryan, the chief's wife, called 911 on a cellphone from their home in the 1300 block of W Rose Hill Drive in Mustang at 10:07 p.m. and said someone was trying to break in, Mustang Police Chief Chuck Foley said. The call went dead, but she called back from a landline shortly thereafter.
She said on the call that a white man in his 20s or 30s in a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt shot her husband and sped away in a medium-size or smaller pickup, Foley said.
“The garage was wide open,” Foley said. “Apparently there was an unlocked door that leads to the interior of the house.”
The wife's description of the intruder's comments led to a lockdown at the headquarters of the Oklahoma City Fire Department, a large department that frequently hires personnel and is headed by Keith Bryant, whose name is similar to that of the victim, Keith Bryan. The two men were friends. Their homes are several miles apart.
The Nichols Hills Fire Department is a small department that has not hired anybody in four years.
“The spelling is very similar,” Foley said. “They are both fire chiefs. They are in the metro. There are too many correlations. It is definitely part of our investigation.”
Foley said Bryan's wife is the sole witness to the incident.
“People that have gone through a traumatic experience, it's hard to say what they will recollect,” Foley said. “The information we got from her is very sketchy and doesn't really give us a direction to go with regard to a suspect.”
Nothing appears to have been stolen or damaged in the home, and there are no signs of a break-in, Foley said.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents are helping in the investigation.
OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said investigators have interviewed Becky Bryan, but she hasn't been able to provide a more detailed description of the shooter than what was initially released. Brown said there are no suspects, and nothing has been ruled out.
Becky Bryan filed for divorce from Keith Bryan in January 2010 in Canadian County District Court. The case is still pending. Becky Bryan's attorney, Elaine Arnold, did not immediately return a message seeking comment, and no attorney is listed for Keith Bryan.
She cited “complete and irreconcilable incompatibility” in seeking the divorce.
Foley said police had never been called to the Bryans' home before Tuesday night.
OKC fire chief says he's
not afraid for his life
Bryant, the Oklahoma City fire chief, was at a conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. He said he has discussed the situation with Oklahoma City and Mustang police officials, but there has been no threat against his life. He said there's no need for extra security now at his home because he's out of town.
Bryant said his main concern is for the Bryan family.
“Keith was a good friend of mine. We worked together for many years,” Bryant said. “That's where my thoughts have been, really.”
Bryant said there haven't been any notable instances of people being upset about not being hired by the Oklahoma City Fire Department.
Officials were looking at records of recent applicants for local fire department jobs as part of the investigation, Foley said.
Bryan was well-liked,
well-known in two cities
The city of Nichols Hills issued a statement expressing condolences to Keith Bryan's family, saying it's “a difficult time” for the city and its employees. Fire departments from across the metro area offered assistance answering fire calls Wednesday, but the city said its firefighters remain on duty.
Keith Bryan worked for the city's fire department for 31 years.
He previously served as a city councilman in Mustang.
Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman said he had known Bryan more than 15 years.
“We're just in disbelief,” Hickman said. “A lot of the chiefs are pretty close. Keith was highly respected throughout the metro area, both professionally and personally.”
Mustang City Manager Mike Rutledge said he was good friends with Bryan during his time as Ward 5 councilman from 2004-09.
“He was a smart, strong, knowledgeable leader who was very personable,” Rutledge said. “He would help anyone with anything they needed.”
Bryan was instrumental in developing a comprehensive city plan that addressed growth of the city and guidance for city employee performance, Rutledge said.
Bryan was able to assess difficult items that came before the city council. “He took his job seriously,” Rutledge said.
Rhonda Miller, 55, said she used to live next door to Keith Bryan and his wife for more than five years.
“He was just a great person,” Miller said. “I used to take my little daughter up to the fire station, and he would make his fire buddies buy candy bars from her for school.”
She said Keith Bryan was a kind, Christian man who attended The Bridge Assembly of God in Mustang.
“I'm really going to miss him,” Miller said. “My stomach has a knot in it because I'm so sad that this happened to him.”
Jerry Morgan, 82, lives down the street from the Bryans. He said he often leaves his garage open.
“It's rarely closed because we work out of here all the time on our five acres,” Morgan said. “That scares you. We'll probably keep the doors closed for the next couple of days.”