Online suicide threat stymied

News on August 1st, 2016 Comments Off on Online suicide threat stymied

From the Murfreesboro Post:

From left are Dispatchers Tim Juneau, Michelle Rowland; Asst. Police Chief Michael Bowen; Supervisor Lindsay Callahan; Dispatchers Bri Dunn, Cassandra Scott; MFRD Chief Mark Foulks, Mayor McFarland. JOHN BUTWELL / The Murfreesboro Post


She was chatting online, webcasting live. Nothing unusual about that, except – she said she intended to commit suicide, and she had a gun. Two of them, in fact – two handguns.

A telephone call from Texas and the compassion, ingenuity and persistence of Murfreesboro dispatchers, police officers and EMS recently saved a woman’s life, the Murfreesboro City Council learned Thursday night.

The entire second-shift team of 911 supervisors and dispatchers at the Police Department’s Communication Center received the city’s prestigious STARS award at council from Mayor Shane McFarland for their compassionate heroism.

STARS stands for “Succeeding Through Attitudes Reflecting Service Excellence,” and the Murfreesboro dispatchers certainly had that – if refusing to give up despite repeatedly encountering a frustrating lack of tangible clues adds up to that sort of “can do” attitude.

Or in this case – “must do.”

‘Difficult to locate’

Simply put, they weren’t going to let the suicidal woman kill herself – not if there was any way at all that they could stop her.

But it wasn’t easy, according to the description of the incident that Murfreesboro Police Lt. Jimmy W. Puckett filed.

The night was May 16. The call came through to Dispatcher Bri Dunn around 8:09 p.m. – from Texas.

A Murfreesboro resident was threatening to commit suicide – but the caller only knew her name, approximate age, and “that she was armed with two handguns and staying at a local hotel,” according to Puckett.

Which hotel? The caller didn’t know. Dispatcher Michelle Rowland sent patrol units to go look while the communications staff searched the Internet for more clues.

‘Listened to cry for help’

They located the website and live feed, and “our staff listened tirelessly to her suicidal cry for help,” Puckett reported. “Staff attempted to make contact via chat – but the sheer volume of messages from those pleading with her was overwhelming, and their efforts fell short.”

Officers arrived at the scene of the only possible address the staff had been able to obtain, but didn’t find the suicidal woman, Puckett continued.

However, “communication staff never gave up in the attempt to locate her,” Puckett said. “Dispatchers Cassandra Scott, CTA Jessica Christian and Trainee James Ray, with guidance of Supervisor Lindsay Callahan and Sgt. Chad Hershman, began calling local hotels in hopes of locating her.”

Frustratingly, “this also reached a dead end,” according to Puckett – but again, the dispatchers refused to give up.

“Communication staff made contact again with the original complainant from Texas,” according to Puckett, “in an attempt to obtain any additional information that might give them a better chance to locate her. Fortunately, the complainant was able to contact a friend who was able to provide a cell phone number for the woman.”

‘Pinged’ her cell phone

Bingo! At that point, around 8:58 p.m., “Christian began efforts to ping the woman’s phone,” Puckett described, giving the 911 team her approximate location.

“From information provided by the phone company, dispatchers once again began calling hotels in the surrounding area,” Puckett added. “Dispatcher Tim Juneau made contact with the clerk at a local hotel who was able to confirm that the woman was checked into the hotel.”

From there it became a matter of responding to the known scene – at long last.

“Officers were immediately sent to the location,” Puckett said. “Communications staff continued to observe the webcast. Supervisor Callahan advised that it was apparent that the woman was becoming extremely lethargic.”

Rowland dispatched EMS as well, at that point, as officers located the suicidal woman.

‘Never gave up – went extra mile’

The second-shift 911 team “did an outstanding job and never gave up,” Puckett concluded. “If it had not been for their efforts, saving her life would have not been accomplished.”

Puckett added, “This group always takes pride and goes the extra mile. I am very thankful for each of them and the job they do every day. I am requesting that a copy of this letter be placed in their file for a job well done.”

Plus, they were recognized as STARS. Even better, a local woman is still alive.

Original article available here.

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