The Marion County, West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has released a transcript of a 9-1-1 call made just prior to a suspect taking his own life.
On Monday, December 1, 2014 at about 10:00 am Jody Hunt, a 39 year old man from Westover, West Virginia started a series of events that would end with a total of five people dead. The day began when Hunt went to the towing business of a competitor where he shot and killed Doug Brady the owner of the company. Hunt then proceeded to his former girlfriend Sharon Berkshire’s residence where he shot and killed her as well as her new boyfriend Michael Frum. Hunt continued his rampage when he shot and killed his business partner Jody Taylor. Police began a massive hours long man hunt for Hunt and his vehicle. Hunt called 9-1-1 and spoke with a Marion County dispatcher for several minutes about the days events before disconnecting. Later Hunt was found in his truck in a wooded area dead from a self inflicted gun shot wound.
Media reports indicate that Hunt and Brady had a history of business disagreements stemming from taking towing jobs from each other. Hunt and Berkshire had a long history of domestic violence, including a restraining order. Local media also reports that Taylor was Hunt’s cousin and may have been romantically involved with Berkshire.
Throughout the search Hunt posted several messages on Facebook speaking about his actions, his victims, and explaining his feelings. He ended by asking that his dogs be looked after.
Suicidal callers are common calls to any department, and most telecommunicators receive training on handling these difficult calls. Conversing with someone who is despondent, regardless of their reason, is taxing on dispatchers. It is easy to become complacent with frequent callers, and just as easy to become overly involved with the caller. We have an obligation to our responders, our callers, and our citizens to remain vigilant despite the challenges the caller faces.
In the Westover situation Hunt shows several classic signs of being truly at risk to harm himself. The dispatcher also employs several techniques to connect with Hunt, get his location, and bring the incident to a safe conclusion.
This is a good time to review your department’s policy and procedure on handling suicidal callers as well as remind ourselves that the next time “a regular” calls in it might be the real deal.