CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Chase Fowler, a 911, dispatcher, admits he got a “chill” when taking a particular emergency call early Friday morning.
On Wednesday, Belmont police released a five minute clip of the 40-minute long exchange Fowler had with CVS employees and the suspect.The first call was made by a pharmacist, who was released early on, soon after Russ entered the CVS Pharmacy on Wilkinson Road in Belmont.
"By the sound of the woman's voice who called me the first time, I knew something was wrong,” he said.
The call got disconnected. Fowler called back, but got a CVS recording.
Ryan, the store clerk, eventually answered the other line, but at first did little to acknowledge anything was wrong.
“He didn't want to answer me directly, the guy was beside him,” said Fowler.
Fowler began asking questions, and soon the clerk confirmed the situation which was underway.
Dispatcher: “Are you aware of that?”
Ryan: “I’m looking right at him sir.”
Dispatcher: “You are looking at him?”
"I wasn't sure if sure whether he was telling me the truth. I didn't know who I was talking to,” said Fowler.
Ryan, can be heard on the 911 call growing increasingly nervous when two Belmont police officers stormed in.
Ryan: "He says, don't try and come into the store.”
Dispatcher: "Listen to me, listen to me. What does he look like? (gunshots) Shot's fired!
Dispatcher: "Sir, are you there? Where are you at in the store?”
Ryan: “Back Up! Back Up! He's going to kill me, back up!”
Police say Russ fired his rifle twice. The officer returned fire, shooting nearly dozen rounds before retreating.
Ryan: "Nobody is hit. Please tell him to get out!”
Dispatcher: “Is the police there? Back up, back up! Get out of my store!"
"I just told myself to stay calm. The training we have here is very helpful. You can't prepare yourself for that one call,” he said.
Dispatch: “Ryan, listen to me. We are going to make it through this, okay? I just need you to keep talking to me.”
Eventually, Fowler found himself speaking with 46-year-old Edward Russ. They were at the pharmacy counter. Police say he ingested several prescription drugs during the hostage standoff.
Ryan: “He is coming to the phone. Nobody needs to fire on him."
Dispatcher: Yes sir, could you tell me your name?
Russ: “You keep your damn police out of here or he is dead. You understand?”
Dispatcher: “Sir, just talk to me. What is going on?
Russ: "I'm just having a bad night, dude, okay. It's all coming to a head, I'm not going to hurt this man as long as you stay out!”
Fowler says his intention was to keep Russ on the phone. He wanted to Russ distracted, so they would know the hostages would not be hurt.
“I tried to get where he was in the store. I tried to get descriptions of the two in the store, what kind of gun he had, was anybody hurt, had anybody been injured. For the most part, it was a casual conversation,” he said.
Fowler says Russ was apologetic for his actions and cooperative over the phone.
"He wanted to work with you. He needed some time to calm down a little bit,” he said.
Fowler kept the line of communication open for 40 minutes until the hostage negotiator arrived. He was commended by Belmont Police Chief Charlie Franklin, who said he did “an excellent job.”
More than 140,000 calls come in to the Gaston County Communication Center every year. Although dispatchers are trained to handle every emergency, even for them, a call like this is rare.
Fowler, who is a psychology graduate from UNCC, says he enjoys his job because it allows him to be there, just when people need his help the most.
"I get to help people. It's just what I do every day,” he said.