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County dispatchers earn state award

The annual Indiana NENA and APCO Telecommunicators Conference was held in Indianapolis April 21-25. At this conference, 911 professionals from all across Indiana will learn about the latest technologies and attend instructional classes. During the opening ceremonies on April 23, several individuals were recognized for their outstanding service to public safety, including LaGrange County Dispatchers Heather Locke and Kelly Landers.

The dispatchers were recognized for their teamwork in February when a Michigan woman called from a gas station near the Indiana Toll Road and said that she had been kidnapped by an escaped convict.

On February 2, Michael Elliot, an escaped prisoner who was convicted of a quadruple homicide in Michigan, forced his way into a vehicle with a knife and kidnapped a woman, then fled into Indiana.

Around 11:35 p.m., the LaGrange County Dispatch Communications Center received a call from the woman stating she was being held hostage and they were at a gas station just off of the Indiana Toll Road. Dispatcher Heather Lock, who remained calm, instructed the woman to tell her captor that she needed to use the restroom and then to lock the door and not come out. The victim was also instructed to look for the address as she entered the gas station and she was able to provide the dispatchers this key information, which later was crucial in leading to Elliot’s arrest.

Dispatcher Landers worked with other jurisdictions and provided them with additional details as they became available. Landers and Lock continued to search the internet in an effort to gain additional information for the first responders. There were times the victim wanted to leave the restroom because she thought Elliot would be coming for her. She was instructed to stay locked in the restroom and stay on the phone.

Dispatcher Landers worked intensely to find where the woman was calling from and was finally able to determine her location and contacted the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department to respond and was able to keep them updated on the status of the situation until police officers arrived. Both dispatchers remained calm and were able to keep the victim calm as well.

The state organization noted that “it is without a doubt the instructions given to the victim likely saved her life and played a substantial role in the capture of the suspect in less than 24 hours.”