Police: 911 Did Not Put Carjacking Victims on Hold
Jevontay Fleetwood, 17, charged in April 25, 2010, carjacking of four Morehouse students. [Courtesy: Fulton County Sheriff's Office]
Atlanta Journal Constitution via YellowBrix
April 28, 2010
ATLANTA – Audio provided Monday night by the Atlanta Police department showed that the students kidnapped Sunday night from Morehouse were not put on hold when they called 911.
Two of the students, who were placed in the trunk of a car during the carjacking used a cell phone to call for help, and said they eventually had to call Morehouse Police when they couldn’t get through Atlanta’s 911 emergency call center.
But recordings of two of the four 911 calls made — the students hung up before two other calls were answered — reflect conversation that was either indecipherable or gave no information that could lead police to them.
“Tell them give them money,” one student is heard saying in the first call, placed just after 5:16 p.m., as the operator repeats … “Hellooo.”
Atlanta Police spokesman Sgt. Curtis Davenport, in an e-mail, said the first call was answered in four seconds.
“The 911 operator could hear the victim talking in the background, but could not ascertain vital information needed to complete the call,” Davenport said.
The connection was lost, and the operator calls back, with no answer.
The students made two subsequent calls after 5:17 and after 5:18 p.m., both of which police said the caller hung up on before the call was answer, but after more than 30 seconds.
At a news conference at Morehouse on Monday morning, the captives said they eventually called the Morehouse College police department, where a dispatcher alerted officers to their whereabouts.
Atlanta Police received that call from Morehouse at 5:21:24 p.m., and officers were on the scene four minutes later, Davenport said.
Two suspects, a 17-year-old and a juvenile, were arrested when police arrived at a West End bank where the suspects went to use the victims’ ATM cards.
As police were arresting the alleged kidnappers at 5:27:45 p.m., a fourth call came from the students.
“They got my wallet … they got my iPhone and everything,” the students were heard saying in the final call, although it was unclear before they hung up who the students were talking to during the 33-second transmission..
Davenport said the operator called the students back at 5:28 p.m.
Morehouse College police Chief Vernon Worthy said the victims, three of them Morehouse students and the fourth a student at American InterContinental University, were in the “Collegetown” complex a block west of the Morehouse campus when they were carjacked at gunpoint.
The gunmen forced two of the students into the trunk of the Buick LaCrosse, while the other two victims remained in the back seat of the vehicle.
“These students were taken to the West End area,” Worthy said. “The intent was to take them somewhere west of this area to an ATM to gain money from their bank accounts. The kids had presence of mind to ask the robbers, or tell the robbers, they wanted to stay in the West End area to access banks there.”
Worthy said that after being kidnapped, one of the students in the trunk “got on his phone and dialed 911. He was unable to get anyone, he was put on hold at 911, so he switched over and called the Morehouse College police number.”
From the APD recording, the students didn’t seem to hear the 911 operator talking to them during the roughly 30-second call.
Morehouse police dispatcher Karen Wells answered the call, and directed officers from Morehouse and other Atlanta University Center campuses to the Wachovia Bank in West End, where police found the victims and arrested two of the suspects.
Wells said that the student on the other end of the call “seemed to be calm and whispering on the line in order not to let the people know in the car that he was on the phone with police dispatch.”
On the chilling dispatch tape released by Morehouse police Monday morning, the student is heard pleading with Wells, “please hurry, they said they are going to kill us.”
At Monday’s press conference, the four students spoke with reporters but asked that their names not be used because one of their assailants is still at large.
The student who was driving the Buick said they were at a Chevron when one of the gunmen “put a gun to my head, and when I turned around, he stuck his arm in and took the key out of the ignition.”
He said the gunman ordered him to remove his earrings and give them to him, and he initially resisted.
“He emptied the bullets to the gun, showed me the bullets, closed it back up, cocked the gun and said, ‘give me the earrings,’” the student said. “From that point on, I gave him everything he wanted.”
Another student, sitting in the back seat, said, “I had guns pointed at me from both sides.”
The student who made the call to police said the gunmen demanded all their cell phones, but didn’t notice that in the process of being forced into the trunk, “I slipped my phone into my pants.”
“When I got into the trunk, I was calling 911 over and over but could never get through to 911. It just so happened I had saved the Morehouse police number in my phone and that’s how I got through to let them know where we were at.”
He said that when Wells answered his call, “it was like an angel had just answered my prayers.”
The other student in the trunk “popped the trunk” with the emergency release, so they could see where they were and tell Wells.
When the Buick pulled into the Wachovia, a Clark Atlanta University police car pulled in front of them, “and we jumped out of the car and said, ‘they tried to rob us,’” one of the students said. Two of the gunmen were taken into custody, while a third ran and is still at large.
Atlanta police identified one of those arrested as Jevontay Fleetwood, 17. Fleetwood was taken to the Fulton County Jail, facing numerous charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping.
The second person arrested was a juvenile whose name has not been released, police said.
— Staff reporter Marcus K. Garner contributed to this story.