Next week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a time set aside to recognize the more than 200,000 individuals throughout the U.S. who play critical roles in the delivery of public safety services.
Often called the “unsung heroes of public safety,” these men and women provide a lifeline to both residents in need and officers in the field. They serve as an unseen but vital link in keeping law enforcement officers and the public safe at all times of the day or night.
Telecommunications Supervisor Marty Broaddus was working at his console in the radio room of KSP Post 7 in Richmond on the morning of Nov. 21, 2011, when he received a teletype from the Madison County 911 Center. A shooting had occurred in Berea.
One man, 25-year-old Zackary Flower, was shot to death in his apartment on Chestnut Street. His roommate, Kevin Price, also was shot but survived.
“The teletype indicated that the suspects had fled the scene and were armed with two high-powered rifles and a handgun,” Broaddus said. “We immediately notified all available troopers, commercial vehicle enforcement officers and surrounding agencies about the incident and provided a vehicle description which was limited to a dark-colored passenger car.”
The community of Berea was on edge during the incident. Nearby schools were locked down and, at one point, it was erroneously reported that the suspects had entered the local hospital.
As on-scene investigators interviewed witnesses who identified the suspects, additional information flowed into the radio room.
The suspects were brothers, Ryan and Matthew Denholm. A third person, Sherry Bratten, was in the car with them as they fled the scene, according to police reports.
“Julia Hicks, our criminal intelligence analyst, was able to obtain several possible cell phone numbers for the suspects,” Broaddus said. This led him to contact several mobile communications providers for help.
“After one of the cell phones was activated, we focused on that signal,” Broaddus said. “I received updates from the providers in five minute intervals and was able to use the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Explorer website to map the coordinates and visualize the location of the signal.”
The first coordinates were just off I-64 in Frankfort, and law enforcement agencies in the area were notified.
“We really had to pay close attention to all of the information coming into our radio room,” Broaddus said. “We had to be forward-thinking. Just keeping up with the signal was not good enough. We had to figure out the location, direction of travel and get ahead of them.”
Finally, Broaddus narrowed down the suspects’ location to a parking lot in Louisville. The Louisville Metro Police Department was notified and, after a brief pursuit and standoff, the suspects were taken into custody.
The Denholms were eventually indicted by a Madison grand jury on charges of murder, attempted murder and first-degree burglary. Bratten and another man, Randall Burgess Jr., was charged with facilitation to murder, facilitation of attempted murder and facilitation of first-degree burglary.
Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith has not announced yet if he will be seeking the death penalty against the Denholms. Their trial is scheduled to start July 8.
According to Broaddus, one of the hardest parts of this five-hour incident was keeping up with the volume and flow of information coming into the communications center.
“It was a rather daunting task to manage the details of this incident while answering other calls for service, handling troopers’ requests and criminal history inquiries as well as making sure everything was documented properly,” he said. “Dispatcher Darrell Melton and I were able to keep up, but we were sure glad to see Shift Supervisor Connie Taylor who came in to assist.”
“The diligence and professionalism displayed by everyone involved was truly commendable,” Broaddus said.
The Kentucky State Police employs 185 telecommunicators at its 16 posts throughout the state. In 2012, they answered a total of 555,123 requests for assistance.
Register News Writer Sarah Hogsed contributed to this report.