Sergeant Michael B. Webb
Kentucky State Police
Public Affairs Branch
Office (502) 782-1780
Shooting Incident Challenged Radio Room Staff At Kentucky State Police Post
Date of News Release: 04/07/2011
(Frankfort, Ky.) -- April 10-16 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a time set aside to recognize the more than 200,000 individuals throughout the U.S. who play a vital role in the delivery of public safety services. Often called the "unsung heroes of public safety," these men and women are usually the first point of contact for those in need.
The Kentucky State Police employs 187 telecommunicators at its 16 posts throughout the state. In 2010, they received 460,976 requests for assistance. The following is an account of one incident handled by four telecommunicators at KSP Post 13 in Hazard on Sept. 11, 2010.
The first call came in at approximately 11:30 am. A female caller told KSP Telecommunicator Deanna Whitaker that a male subject had entered her home and shot her and her daughter. Whitaker quickly dispatched a KSP unit to the scene.
More calls soon followed, reporting a male subject walking door to door in a trailer park firing a gun at multiple victims.
"I was on the phone with a male caller when the man came in and shot him and another subject," remembers Greta Huff, who was also on duty in the Post 13 radio room that day, along with fellow telecommunicators J.J. Farler and Brenda Standafer.
Still on the line with the initial caller, Whitaker heard the gunman return and fire more shots. The line went silent.
"The calls were graphic and disturbing," says Huff. "Horrible," says Farler.
Answering another line, Standafer heard a caller report that the gunman was outside her home and her boyfriend was outside as well.
"I kept telling her to stay inside and get her boyfriend back inside and lock the doors. Before disconnecting, the caller was able to give a description of the gunman's clothing and his direction of travel," she says.
"It was hectic at times," says Farler. "People calling to say the gunman was going around to other homes, calls from other homes saying he had shot someone there, people leaving their homes and going to neighbors' homes and calling, people wanting to go back home to check on family members."
Throughout it all, the four worked as a team. They dispatched additional units to the scene and kept them updated while enroute. They notified emergency medical services. They relayed information between troopers, KSP supervisors and other KSP posts. They talked with the news media and checked criminal histories and other intelligence databases.
As troopers arrived at the scene, the telecommunicators heard an ominous message: shots fired.
"Initially, we weren't sure what that meant," recalls Standafer. "Had the gunman shot at our units? Had our units shot at him? We were all requesting the field units for an answer and hearing nothing in return."
"Before we could get it clarified, it seemed like a century had passed," Whitaker remembers. "It seemed like forever before we were advised what had happened," adds Farler, "but it was actually only a few minutes."
The entire incident lasted close to an hour. In the end, the gunman killed himself. Unfortunately, five innocent victims also lost their lives.
Thinking back, Whitaker, Farler, Standafer and Huff all express strong emotions and credit training and teamwork for their successful performance during this incident.
"When the initial call came in, I was in a sense of shock," says Whitaker. "I couldn't believe it was happening. Then my training kicked in and I just tried to remain calm. It was such a hectic call. The caller was hysterical. There was no reason for me to be hysterical with the caller."
"At first I couldn't believe it," says Farler. "Then we just had to get the job done. I just had the safety of everyone involved on my mind. I was really too busy to think about much else than taking care of it until it was all over."
"I remember thinking it was unbelievable that something like this could be happening and that I had to do the best I could to keep my troopers safe and try to prevent other people from being harmed," says Huff.
"In training, they teach us to be prepared for everything. They tell you to stay calm and make sure to get all the information possible and pass it on to responding units. We are their eyes and ears until they get to the scene," explains Standafer. "However, they can't prepare you for the helpless feeling you get knowing that despite your efforts, people died anyway."
"I have taken many calls that have eaten at my soul," notes Whitaker, "but to hear someone shot to death on the phone will be something that lives with me forever."
To recognize their performance during this incident, KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer presented Whitaker, Farler, Standafer and Huff with certificates of excellence.
"These individuals handled these extremely violent and shocking calls in a very efficient and thorough manner," said Brewer. "They demonstrated the utmost compassion and concern for the victims while dispatching EMS and worked as a team to garner information for law enforcement units enroute to the scene. If not for their composure, diligence and professionalism under horrific circumstances, more people could have been killed in this incident."
While such recognition is much appreciated, Brenda Standafer sums up the feelings of telecommunicators throughout the country. "The best reward," she concludes, "is knowing that I helped someone in need, whether they were locked out of their car or having chest pains. I made a difference in their lives."