Alert cabbie, 911 dispatcher help police capture assault suspect

October 11, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • Washington County 911 dispatcher Mike Shifler helped cab driver Kathy Rhodes deliver a criminal suspect to police.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — A cab ride from Waynesboro, Pa., to Hagerstown.

Sounds simple enough, but cabbie Kathy Rhodes said instead she found herself in the middle of a harrowing ordeal a week ago when she watched her rider get out of the cab, allegedly force his way into a house on Reiff Church Road and hit someone inside.

The man then jumped back into the cab as she tried to drive away. But Rhodes — with the help of a Washington County 911 dispatcher on her cellphone — hatched a plan to go to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, where police were able to capture the man after a struggle.

Rhodes said she called 911 at 5:23 a.m. when the man allegedly started assaulting a person in the house. She stayed on the phone with 911 dispatcher Mike Shifler throughout the rest of the incident.

To avoid arousing his suspicions, Rhodes told her passenger that she was talking to her work supervisor. At the other end, Shifler only asked Rhodes questions that required a yes or no answer.

At the McDonald’s restaurant on Maugans Avenue, Rhodes was able to flee from the cab into a police cruiser while officers apprehended the man.

“I’m thinking I might go back into banking,” Rhodes said with some humor as she recounted the incident Tuesday at the county’s 911 center on Elliott Parkway.

“That’s one face I will never forget,” Rhodes said.

Juan Rivera, 34, of 246 W. 2nd St., Waynesboro, was charged with third-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary, three counts of assault and resisting arrest in the incident, according to a Washington County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Rivera was being held Tuesday night in the Washington County Detention Center on $40,000 bond.

The sequence of events began the morning of Oct. 5 when Rhodes went to Waynesboro to pick up the man, who initially told her he wanted to go to 140 East Franklin St. in Hagerstown. The man said he then wanted to be taken back to Waynesboro, officials said.

Rhodes said the man later changed his mind and wanted to go to a house in the 17000 block of Reiff Church Road in the Maugansville area.

That’s when Rhodes started to get suspicious.

When Rhodes took the man to the house on Reiff Church Road, she said she saw him allegedly force his way in through a door and start hitting someone.

The man allegedly assaulted two people in the house, including a woman who was his wife or former wife, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said during a news briefing on the incident with Rhodes and Shifler Tuesday.

While the man was in the house, Shifler told Rhodes to drive away.

Rhodes said she left the house, but the man caught up to her cab and jumped in when she stopped at the intersection of Reiff Church Road and Maugans Avenue, Mullendore said.

Rhodes said the man asked her who she was on the phone with, and she told him she was talking to her dispatcher at work.

Rhodes and Shifler were able to discreetly come up with a plan for Rhodes to drive to the McDonald’s on Maugans Avenue. Rhodes said she told the man she had to go to the McDonald’s to get some food for her dispatcher.

Rhodes arrived at the McDonald’s and started ordering food at the drive-through window. Rhodes said she then got out of the van, ran to a sheriff’s office cruiser, and Deputy 1st Class Damien Broussard entered the van from the side.

The man and Broussard struggled. The man was able to escape around the front of the restaurant and ran into the side of a cruiser being driven by Deputy Cody Rhodes, Mullendore said. Deputy Rhodes had to shock the man twice with his Taser to apprehend him, Mullendore said.

The cab was searched, and a large knife was found on the seat where the man had fled the vehicle, the news release said.

“I lost it then. I started thinking about the things that could have happened,”  Kathy Rhodes said.

“She was pretty frantic (and) understandably so,” said Shifler, recalling when Rhodes first called 911.

Mullendore praised the dispatchers who worked on the call, saying it points to the effectiveness of the county’s consolidated 911 center.

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