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Dispatchers praised for calm during burglary

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

The ability of two emergency dispatchers to remain calm during a burglary helped out in a difficult situation.

The Paducah-McCracken County E-911 Emergency Communication Services received a call around 4:20 a.m. Saturday when a man police identified as Jon M. Mullins, 42, entered a home in the 4000 block of Magruder Road. While the resident hid inside a closet with a loaded pistol, dispatcher Misty Beal was on the line.

The caller was hiding in the closet when the intruder opened the door.

The caller remained on the phone when she confronted Mullins with the gun. McCracken Sheriff's Sgt. David Shepherd then arrived, the man fled, and Shepherd chased him into a cornfield, tackled and arrested him.

The homeowner was not injured.

Beal said she was on the line about 10 minutes with the caller. She made sure not to get off the line until an officer was inside the home, Beal said.

"(The police) were all outside of course, but I made sure that there was at least one officer inside so she didn't feel alone," she said. "I didn't want her to feel like our job was done. Our job was to make sure that caller is comfortable, make sure that officer was there with her."

E-911 Services Acting Director Brent Stringer presented a letter of commendation to the Paducah City Commission Tuesday for the assistance of Beal and dispatcher Nicole Strader, who communicated between Beal and officers to direct police to the location and through the situation. 

SDLqI believe the actions of both of you greatly impacted the outcome of this incident," Stringer wrote. "Your professionalism and calmness displayed under these circumstances was brilliant."

While Beal updated Strader on what information she needed to know, she said her focus was on the caller. Beal has been a dispatcher for 11 years, and this was not her first burglary call.

She credits her ability to remain patient in tough situations with her experience as a mother.

"I think it just stems from being a mother and always being prepared," she said. "You never really know what life's going to throw at you so you've just got to roll with the punches."

Beal also credited the ability to communicate effectively during the incident to the caller herself. Sometimes, Beal said, she receives calls from people who are too hysterical to be clear. While Beal tries to calm them, she could be helping them.

"(The caller) really did an excellent job," Beal said.

"It's a good thing for people to remember: when you call 911, we do ask a lot of questions, but that doesn't mean help isn't already on the way ... give us that information you need and we ask for," Beal added.

Mullins is in custody at the McCracken County Regional Jail, where he is being held on $10,000 cash bond. He faces charges of first-degree burglary, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, first-degree criminal mischief, fleeing or evading on foot, possession of burglary tools and theft by unlawful taking, more than $500.

A preliminary hearing is set for 1 p.m. July 3 in McCracken District Court.

Following Mullins' arrest, police searched his home and found multiple homemade improvised explosive devices, including pipe bombs, literature on the making of bombs and IEDs, Kevlar vests, ammunition, tear gas and other related items. The Kentucky State Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded in addition to Paducah police and sheriff's officers.

George Huffman, spokesman for the federal agency, said charges currently remain in local jurisdiction. He said the agency will be in contact with the U.S. attorney's office to see if federal charges are warranted.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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