Augusta dispatcher commended for calm in murder-suicide call

Published On: Feb 07 2014 04:40:49 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 07 2014 07:03:07 PM CST

Dispatchers are the first line of contact in an emergency. Often the person on the other line is panicked and it's their job to keep them calm.

Thursday night, Officer Mark Windholtz, known as Marcus at the Augusta Police Department, answered a 911 call from a 12-year-old boy.

"The young man on the phone was telling him he heard shots, he heard his mother screaming and he was locked in his bedroom," said Chief of Police Tyler Brewer. "Marcus immediately began sending units to the scene, kept the young man on the phone, talking with him, settling him down and got units there where he could get them situated correctly."

Then Windholtz proceeded to ask the young boy questions as police started to arrive on scene. He knew that the young boy needed to be out of the home for his own safety and also for law enforcement to enter the home as an active shooter situation.

"He was able to talk him into opening the window, and crawling out the bedroom window where officers were able to take him to safety," said Chief Brewer. "It was a ranch style home and his bedroom was in a converted garage. The window he came out of was fairly high. Police came around the back and got him out."

Chief Brewer said that maneuver allowed police to gain entry into the home within 17 minutes.

"It's just one of those things that kept us from arriving, being in a barricaded situation where we had to stand off," he said. "We prefer to go in an active shooter situation with something like that because we don't know if the victims are still alive and need medical assistance. Our job is to go, get in the house and take care of people. If Marcus hadn't done that, we could have been out there for hours, and this unfortunately didn't turn out the way w wanted it to."

When they entered the home, they found two people dead in an apparent murder-suicide. Gary Weaver, 45, was identified as the shooter. His wife and the 12-year-old's mother, Erin Weaver, 31, the victim.

Chief Brewer also commended the 12-year-old boy for how he handled this difficult situation.

"This young man was pretty calm in the situation," said Chief Brewer. "The young man deserves credit too. He did a good job, kept his senses about him and knew that he was in a situation where he needed help, so they worked together."

He said the information they've received over the past 24 hours showed the boy had been taught by his mother, what to do in an emergency situation.

"If something happens, go to your room and lock the door," said Brewer. "I don't know if it had anything to do with the relationship or with her job as an emergency person that works in public safety."

Erin Weaver, the child's mom, had worked for Butler County Dispatch for a year.

Lance Hilton, the Communications Supervisor for Augusta Police Department said dispatchers train for weeks to handle situations like this.

"We go through 6-8 weeks of training where we practice just about every scenario we can come up with," said Hilton. "We try to think ahead and basically try to plan for what we would do in any situation."

He said it's the dispatchers job to keep the caller calm in many times traumatic situations.

"That's pretty much what we do, maintain the individual try to keep calm,  so that we can guide them through the steps to keep them safe," said Hilton.

He said Windholtz is "very calm" and is able to keep the caller calm as well.

"We're the unseen eyes and ears," he said. "We're usually the first voice that's heard. We try to maintain the safety of the caller and we also relay that and keep our officers as safe as we can.

Chief Brewer said parents need to talk to their kids about what to do in emergency situations.

"Whether it's a fire, it's a criminal act, they should have a plan," he said. "Some sort of evacuation plan where they should meet, code words for problems, just so they know. He reacted in a very good manner, the young man in the home, but it was at the prompting of a very professional 911 dispatcher."