Three 911 operators whose cool heads and quick actions may have saved lives drew plaudits Friday from Suffolk County officials during the celebration of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
County Executive Steve Bellone, Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and other officials honored emergency complaint operator Nancy Hawkins, who fielded a call from a restaurant employee during an active-shooter situation in March, when, law enforcement officials said, a Bloods gang member shot and injured a rival inside a Lake Ronkonkoma IHOP.
“When the call came in, my training kicked in,” said Hawkins, who went through active-shooter training just a few days before the March 5 shooting. “You try to get an address and find out where it is happening. You try to get as much information as possible and you try to keep the caller calm and on the line.”
Also receiving recognition were public safety dispatcher Cindy Dickson, who helped police apprehend suspects after shots were reported fired in Bay Shore, and public safety dispatcher Nancy Cebollero, who helped police locate and disarm a person who had threatened suicide.
“Day or night, our 911 call center operators are the unsung heroes that help resolve a crisis when every second counts,” Bellone said.
The three operators were recognized at Suffolk County police headquarters in Yaphank.
In the incident at IHOP, Hawkins said the caller, who was locked in a bathroom with two other employees during the shooting, was frightened, but calm enough to relay information that Hawkins then passed along to officers.
“The department’s emergency complaint operators bring a sense of calm during crisis situations as the first point of contact for 911 callers,” Hart said.
Deontrae Green, 19, of Islandia, was charged with first-degree assault, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and other charges in the shooting.
Police said the shooting stemmed from an “internal dispute” between Green and the victim, Tyriek Corbin, 20, of Amityville. Green has pleaded not guilty, with his attorney saying his client shot his rival because he felt threatened. District Attorney Tim Sini has dismissed the idea that Green was defending himself.
Corbin's injury was not life-threatening, authorities said, and no one else in the restaurant was harmed. More than 20 other people were in the IHOP at the time, officials have said.
“We couldn’t have asked for more than what Nancy did that day,” said Capt. Peter Ervolina, the commander of the Suffolk police command center.
With Ellen Yan