Johnson County 911 dispatcher receives national award after calming down knife-brandishing teen

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind – A Johnson County 911 dispatcher is being honored with a national award for her work in calming down a volatile situation, potentially saving the lives of three people.

911 Operator Kaitlynn Rhude, 25, says the December 19 call initially sounded like a typical domestic dispute between a mother and her 18-year-old son. A few minutes into the call, the situation took a turn when Rhude realized the teen was threatening violence.

In the background of the call, Rhude could hear the young man threatening to kill his mother and her boyfriend with a knife while holding them in a room of the house.

“So, that’s where the adrenaline rush comes into play and I was like, okay this getting more serious than just your everyday standard juvenile problem,” Rhude said.

“Ma’am can you separate yourself from him, or go into another room,” Rhude asked the woman during the call.

“No, he’ll just barge in the door,” the woman replied.

As police officers were on the way to the house, Rhude says she could year the teen continuing to threaten his mother in the background. That’s when she decided she was talking to the wrong person.

“Instead of talking to mom, because that’s who seemed to get him agitated, get him riled up, I was like let me try to talk to him,” Rhude said.

The mother handed the phone to her son, and the conversation started.

“Hey, this is Kaitlynn with the 911 center, what’s up man,” Rhude asked the teen on the phone.

“I know, this is the police,” the 18-year-old son said. “You’d better get here, I’m gonna do time-time. I’m trying to tell you I’m gonna get attempted murder.”

As the exchange continued, Rhude continued efforts to calm the teen down.

“Can you just sit down and talk to me for a minute,” Rhude asked the teen.

“No, ‘cause I’m about to do life,” the teen replied.

“No you’re not. Don’t do that, bud. You’re only 18,” Rhude said.

Over the course of several minutes, Rhude was able to calm the young man down and convinced him to drop the knife. A few minutes later, police officers could be heard on the call telling the teen to lay down on the ground.

“If the officers would have went in there and he still had that knife and they were still in the room, that could have easily turned into something else,” Rhude said.

Rhude’s supervisors say she potentially saved three lives over the course of the 13-minute call. Her work earned her the “Teammates in Action” award from the Association of Public Safety Communicators.

Rhude says she is honored by the award, but believes she was just doing her job.

“You know, the work we do in this room is so extraordinary,” Rhude said. “And it starts with the call.”

Rhude believes her previous experience working in juvenile detention helped her to strike the right tone with the 18-year-old.

“Honestly, just was talking to like it was one of my friends, one of my family members,” she said. “So that’s how I treated him, I acted like it was someone I know.”

Rhude has her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and a master’s degree in forensic psychology. Her goal is to one day become a police detective, and she believes her experience as a 911 operator will benefit her greatly.

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