Local woman, dispatcher help break case

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 8, 2002

[03/08/02]A Vicksburg woman’s phone visit with her brother was interrupted Thursday when a robber entered the Rankin County bank where he was but her action and the help of a local 911 dispatcher led to a police response and the arrest of a teen-ager.

“I was talking to my brother on the cell phone, and he said, We are being robbed, call 911,'” said Vicksburg resident Ann Wheeless.

Wheeless’ brother, Thomas Harvey, is manager at the Grant’s Ferry BancorpSouth branch, about an hour’s drive away. At first, Wheeless said she thought her brother wasn’t serious.

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“I said, you are kidding,'” Wheeless said.

“He said, No, call 911,’ and hung up.”

Wheeless dialed 911 at 11:06 a.m., and got Vicksburg supervisor Peggy Wright. Later, Wheeless praised the Vicksburg 911 dispatcher for quickly figuring out what to do. And Wright praised Wheeless.

“She was calm, she did real good,” Wright said. “Once I figured out it was in Jackson, I didn’t waste any time.”

With Wright listening in, Wheeless was transferred and explained the situation to the Jackson-area dispatchers. An hour later, Wright saw on lunchtime TV that a teen had been charged as the bandit.

Chris Williamson, 15, was arrested at Northwest Rankin High School by Flowood Police shortly after the holdup. The ninth-grader is accused of skipping class, robbing the bank and then returning to the school with the money in a backpack, police said.

The bandit had a stocking cap pulled over his head and used a knife to rob the bank branch, which is on Highway 25 near Grant’s Ferry Road.

Wheeless and Wright both said they were glad to have helped.

“This woman was just awesome,” Wheeless said of Wright. “She took the quickest action possible for the situation.”

Wheeless said that Wright didn’t burden her with unnecessary questions, but got her to the right people.

“I was really impressed with that.”

Wheeless said she also called BancorpSouth’s district office, but she said they asked her too many questions for instance, whether her brother pushed the alarm button?

“Who cares?” she said. “Get the police.”

“That is just an amazing coincidence,” Wheeless said. “How many times do you talk to your brother and he tells you his bank is being robbed?”