RICHMOND, Ind. – It’s something they hoped to never deal with in their career. Dispatchers with Wayne County Emergency Communications described what it was like to get 911 calls about a school shooting in Richmond last week.
They were able to alert police before an armed 14-year-old got inside Dennis Intermediate last Thursday.
Indiana State Police said the initial 911 call came from the teen’s mother. CBS4 is not able to get a copy of her call yet because of the ongoing investigation.
A crew of four dispatchers in Wayne County worked that day. Some of the same crew came back to work a few days later and they never stopped answering phone calls during their shift. Some were about parking problems, domestic disputes or a burglary.
“Normally, we don’t have too much violence,” said Thomas Koorsen, Deputy Director of Wayne Co Emergency Communications.
Koorsen said they were not expecting that call last Thursday about an armed teenager heading towards a school.
“I was hoping I would make it a career without doing one of those,” he said.
Pam Leffel is the shift supervisor and one of her dispatchers answered it. Leffel said the caller said the teen was in a car but she was not sure what school he was heading towards.
“That phone rang just like any other call we get. You’re expecting an ambulance call, someone has fallen and then you get a call you don’t want,” she said.
Dispatch made calls to local and state police to look for the car and Leffel said an officer spotted it at Dennis Intermediate.
“An officer stopped that vehicle before he approached the school and we knew he had a weapon,” Leffel said.
She said she has done this for 19 years and this is the first time she was terrified for their officers. Through the trauma, they calmly made quick decisions to save lives.
“We hope to never use it the information and training you get. Apparently, it paid off,” said Koorsen.
Counselors will be available for dispatchers and first responders on Friday. Some said they are suffering from PTSD, so they will take advantage of that service.
The dispatchers in Wayne County said they went to a seminar on school shootings in September. It was held by a woman who was the 911 director in Newtown during Sandy Hook.
They learned how to deal with the emotional stress that comes days after the shooting.