Hostage call proves as hoax

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 9, 2007

POWELLSVILLE – What began as a tense situation here Tuesday ended without incident.

Three separate phone calls for help dealing with a possible hostage crisis proved to be false as 11 units of the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office raced to a residence on Sally Freeman Road. There, they found the three occupants of the residence safe and sound.

“In our response to the scene as well as putting together a plan of how we approach the residence in regards to our safety and the safety of those inside, we treated this as a real crisis,” Bertie Sheriff Greg Atkins said. “It wasn’t until shortly after our arrival that we learned it was a hoax.”

That fact was upsetting to Atkins.

“Again, because we had to assume this was a life-threatening hostage situation, we committed a lot of manpower to answering this call,” the Sheriff said. “It bothers me to think what if there was a real need for our help at the same moment in another part of the county. It bothers me to think what if something had happened to one of my deputies who were rushing to the scene.”

Atkins also expressed concern over the safety of the students at C.G. White Middle School, located within sight of the residence.

“That thought was already going through my mind as I drove to Powellsville,” he said. “What if we did have a gunman at a residence that suddenly changed their mind and decided to threaten the community, including the school? That scenario drastically changes our main focus towards protecting the community and the students.”

Now, according to the Sheriff, the focus switches to the individual responsible for providing the false information. Atkins said Detective Sgt. Ed Pittman was investigating the matter.

“Once we find out who is responsible, we will seek charges that will allow for the stiffest penalties that the law will allow,” Atkins said.