Frantic callers dial 911 after mall shooting - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Frantic callers dial 911 after mall shooting

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May 11, 2007

Albany--Just moments after Thursday's shooting, terrified witnesses dial 911 on their cell phones. Because the mall is near the Dougherty/Lee County line, dispatchers in Lee County got some of those frantic calls.

There are two cell phone towers near Ledo Road. If a callers' cell phone drew a stronger signal from one of those towers, the call went immediately to Lee County dispatchers.

But as you listen to some of those calls that came into Lee County shortly after the shooting, no matter what county what called, dispatchers got police on the scene fast.

911: "Lee County 911. What is your emergency? Caller: Someone's been shot outside Penney's at the mall."

Moments after Thursday's deadly mall shooting, frantic callers quickly flooded area dispatch lines.

911: "You need the police? Caller: I need the police and ambulance. Someone's been shot outside Penney's. 911: Someone's been shot? Caller: Yes, shot!"

911: "Can you tell me what the person looked who shot him? Caller: He was a black male. 911: A black male? Caller: Yes."

Some of those calls went to Lee County Dispatch. Colonel Duane Sapp was in this room as his team of dispatchers took those frantic calls.

"It went from relaxed and calm to routine business to intense immediately," he says.

And as those calls came in:

Caller: "There's a guy out here with a gun and he's gone around the mall."

Lee County dispatchers immediately contacted Dougherty County.

911: "I need to transfer your call. Please stay on the line with me."

"We screen the call. We find out it's not in Lee County, so we put it in whatever jurisdiction it's in," says Sanders.

Dougherty County EMA Director Jim Vaught, says there's a reason why not every call made from the mall went directly to 911 dispatch in Albany.

"We have a series of towers throughout the county. And that location, the mall, is very close to Lee County.  When a tower is full, it searches for the next available tower to pass the call onto," says Vaught.

When those calls came into Lee County, with the touch of button dispatchers there reached Albany dispatchers.

"We have a speed dial where we just mash a button and we get straight to them. That's what happened in this case. She said hold on I'm going to transfer you to 911 stay on the phone with me," says Sanders.

From there, dispatchers in Albany got police and EMS on the scene.

911: "We've got officers and ambulances on the way."

"They're quickly on the scene within minutes," says Vaught.

So no matter who takes the call, Colonel Duane Sapp says dispatchers work closely to get help where its needed--and quickly.

"We want to get people there as fast as we possibly can," says Sanders.

Lee County and Dougherty County dispatch are both in the process of updating their equipment.  Soon, they'll both have a system that allows dispatchers to pin point a caller's exact location from that caller's cell phone.

Lee County Dispatch currently has three dispatchers working for the county. They hope to hire another one in the near future.

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