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Robbery victim also confused; questions continued after dispatch

[2/3/04]A pharmacist who dialed 911 during a robbery two weeks ago said he was also confused while he answered a dispatcher’s questions because he didn’t realize police were being sent.

“I was uncertain when I was on the phone as to why I have to answer all these questions,” David Neal said. “I thought that was something I would tell the police.”

Neal is a staff pharmacist at the Durst Discount Drugs store at 2122 Clay St. He was on duty when the store was being robbed on the evening of Jan. 21.

Neal said the dispatcher he reached asked him for the store’s address and continued with questions about things like descriptions of the robber’s weapon and the clothing he was wearing.

He apparently transferred the call to another employee who was told police were on the way, but Neal didn’t realize that and was under the impression response was being delayed while the bandit was still in the area.

South Street Shopette owner Rodney Dillamar told city officials Jan. 9 that dispatchers delayed sending officers to his store when he called about a fight Dec. 31.

A letter signed by E-911 dispatchers and published Jan. 18 explained that dispatchers don’t have to stop asking questions about weapons and descriptions and other information while separately notifying police or other first responders.

During such a situation, Neal said, “You’re pretty excited. The adrenaline is flowing.”

He said he wished he’d been told or knew immediately the call had been dispatched, but otherwise complimented the Vicksburg Police Department. Even though the suspect wore a mask when he robbed the store, limiting the description, police had a suspect in custody with a confession within 48 hours, Neal said.

“I was very impressed,” he said.

Allen Maxwell, director of the 911 Dispatch Center, said he had reviewed a tape of the Durst call and affirmed it was handled correctly. Officers were on the way in 25 to 28 seconds, he said.

Accused in the Durst robbery is Bobby Ellis, 23, 1480 S. Frontage Road. He was arrested at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 24 and is also charged with possessing a weapon as a convicted felon. He remained in the Warren County Jail Monday with no bond set due to a hold placed by the state Department of Corrections, jail records showed.