RALEIGH, N.C. – A bank employee who called 911 at the beginning of a three-hour standoff told dispatchers that she was ordered to call police by the armed man who was holding another worker at gunpoint, according to an audio tape released Friday.
In the conversation, the woman calmly described the situation, saying the suspect had jumped over the teller line and held a gun to the head of the bank's service manager. She called it a robbery but said the suspect had demanded only that she call the police.
"I'm standing right next to him. He told me to call," the unidentified woman said. Police in the Raleigh suburb of Cary said the caller was a bank employee. Authorities arrived at the scene within two minutes.
Police say 19-year-old Devon Mitchell of Cary barricaded himself inside the Wachovia branch with as many as seven hostages, including one who was hidden and feeding information to authorities. Four people were released during the standoff and then police shot and killed Mitchell as he emerged from the bank Thursday night with a gun pointed at the head of a hostage.
Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore has said she did not want the hostage situation to end as it did but she stands by how her officers handled it. She declined though a spokeswoman to answer questions about the case Friday.
Authorities have not released the names of the hostages. A spokesman for Wells Fargo & Co., the parent company of Wachovia, said counseling services would be available for employees.
In the 911 call, the employee described the suspect as wearing a purple shirt and red pants. She said the suspect's gun was in a hat and not visible. She said the suspect was whispering in the ear of the bank's service manager .
The employee's voice only wavers slightly during the more than two minutes that she spoke with 911 personnel.
"You're doing a good job, stay with me as long as it's safe to do so," the dispatcher says near the end of the call. A Town of Cary spokeswoman said about four minutes of the call was withheld under a records exemption related to sensitive information.
It's not clear what Mitchell's intentions were. One expert said the fact that Mitchell apparently did not demand money from the bank teller could point to "suicide by cop" — a term used to describe someone who wants a law enforcement officer to kill them.
In those cases, suspects want to die but are afraid to pull the trigger themselves and know police officers would probably respond with deadly force, said Dr. Barry Perrou, a forensic psychologist and former commander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Hostage Negotiations Unit. He said the person usually doesn't take hostages but instead commits a minor offense — such as shooting a gun in the air — before waiting for police to arrive.
Cary officials said Mitchell's family does not want to speak publicly, and management at the apartment complex where he lived closed the site to media.
Associated Press Writer Mitch Weiss contributed to this report from Charlotte.
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