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McDonough County Dispatchers Honored

Rich Egger
(From left to right): Micheal Phelps, Jayson Sams, Dispatch Center Director Eric Lenardt, and Macomb Mayor Mike Inman.

The McDonough County Communications Board awarded Letters of Recognition to two of the county's emergency dispatchers. Micheal Phelps and Jayson Sams were the two dispatchers on duty the night of the shooting at Western Illinois University.

The initial call from Thompson Hall came in at around 10:35 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. Sams answered the call, which came from the shooting victim, Amarion Hargrove.

While Sams handled that call, Phelps quickly got out the word to local law enforcement departments.

“He (Sams) is trying to talk to the actual victim who was shot and I’m trying to get everybody there,” Phelps said.

Sams said he got disconnected from the victim while giving first aid instructions.

“Then the R.A called back and Micheal picked up. And he started doing the medical while I took over what he was doing before – getting resources to the scene,” Sams said.

Through the next several hours the two kept track of officers and their locations, handled law enforcement radio calls, and took calls from parents and the media. They also took tips about the shooter.

The dispatchers said it was a team effort and the emergency could not have been handled by just one person.

Phelps said he has been a dispatcher on and off for approximately two years while Sams said he has dispatched on and off for 11 years. Sams said this is the first time he has handled a call for an active shooter case.

“It was nerve-wracking, to say the least,” he said.

The student accused in the shooting, Kavion Poplous, was a freshman at WIU. He turned himself in to police in Chicago the next day.

Poplous remains in the McDonough County Jail on a $1 million bond, charged with Attempted First Degree Murder and other offenses.

A pre-trial conference, originally scheduled for January 5, 2021, has been rescheduled for February 9, 2021.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.