911 call sets scene for fatal shootings
by Kellen Moore
In a 911 call that preceded the shooting deaths of a deputy and a second man in July, a woman says her husband is “flipping out” and makes references to a gun, knife and bomb.
The caller rarely speaks directly to the dispatcher in the more than three-minute call, instead exchanging words with a man whose responses are unintelligible on the recording.
“You can’t kill your whole family — my God!” the caller says at one point.
A transcript of the call and the radio traffic that followed was released Monday by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office after an Aug. 6 public records request from the Watauga Democrat.
Crystal Trivette, the widow of the man who was killed by law enforcement gunfire, confirmed Tuesday that she was the one who placed the call.
She said her husband was threatening suicide that night and that she believed he was “not in his right mind.” She said she thinks her husband might have had drugs in his system, although that has not been confirmed.
“That is not who he was normally,” she said. “He was a wonderful husband, a wonderful father. He was not like that.”
Trivette said Tuesday she was fearful that night of what might happen to her, her 13-year-old daughter and her 3-year-old son.
“I truly feel that if they hadn’t come out that night, that things would have ended up a lot worse,” Trivette said. “… They did nothing, in my opinion, but save me and my children’s life.”
The transcript provides insight into the events that transpired at about 1 a.m. July 26, when deputies William Mast Jr. and Preston Russell responded to the source of the call, a mobile home at 2130 Hardin Road in Deep Gap.
Shortly after arriving at the scene, a man identified later as 33-year-old Mitchell Allen Trivette shot at the officers, wounding Mast, according to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.
The officers returned fire, and Trivette also was shot, the sheriff’s office reported.
Despite a heavy response from officers, first responders, medics and Wings Air Rescue helicopters, both men were pronounced dead upon arrival at Watauga Medical Center, according to the sheriff’s office.
The State Bureau of Investigation is continuing to review the case, spokeswoman Jennifer Canada said Tuesday. The SBI and the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office have not released other information since the incident. Capt. Dee Dee Rominger said that the sheriff’s office is not conducting an investigation.
In a news release sent the day of the shooting, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office stated that the 911 communications center received a 911 open line call, or “a call in which there was no hang up but no one on the line.”
On the line with the 911 center, the female caller repeatedly questions and issues orders to another person, according to the transcript.
“Don’t do that to your kids. My God,” the caller says early in the recording. She repeats variations of the phrase several times in the course of the call.
Although the woman does not respond to the dispatcher’s questions, the 911 center quickly sends officers toward the home.
“You said you loved your kids. Don’t bring no gun. Stop,” the caller states later.
“Were you talking about a bomb?” she says after a man’s inaudible response.
As the conversation continues, the woman’s statements offer a fragmented description of the situation.
Trivette said Tuesday that at one point, her husband came after her with a knife because he could not find a pair of pants.
“I’d drop it and ask if that pair of pants was OK. My God,” the caller says. “I don’t think I’d throw the knife up to my throat over a pair of pants.”
The dispatcher finally gets a response from the woman toward the end of the call, according to the transcript:
Dispatcher: “This is the 911 operator. I been on the phone with an open line for about two minutes now. Can you tell me what’s going on?
Caller: “Come out. Hurry.”
Dispatcher: “What’s going on?”
Caller: “I don’t know. My husband’s flipping out. 2130 Hardin Road.”
Dispatcher: “Your husband’s flipping out? Why is he flipping out?”
Caller: “I gotta go.”
Dispatcher: “Why is he flipping out?”
Caller: “I don’t know. I don’t know. Hurry.”
The line then disconnects.
When the dispatcher calls back seeking more information, a woman picks up the phone, according to the transcript. The dispatcher again asks if she can tell him what’s going on.
“Uh, no,” the woman responds before hanging up.
Within minutes, officers note their arrival at the scene.
At 1:07 a.m., Lt. Wes Hawkins, who checked in at the scene almost immediately after Mast and Russell, updates the dispatch center on the rapidly worsening situation.
“Shots fired, Watauga. Shots fired,” Hawkins says.