A man accused in multiple burglary cases faces additional charges for trying to distract authorities from break-ins in progress by placing phony 911 calls, Decatur police said Monday.
Christopher Don Stricklin, 20, of 1227 Lawrence County 294, Hillsboro, was arrested late last month by Trinity police on three counts of third-degree burglary, three counts of second-degree theft and possession of burglary tools. He was out of Morgan County Jail on $17,500 bail when Decatur police brought the new charges.
Investigators said a man claiming his name was “Billy Horton” called the Morgan County E911 Center on Oct. 10 and reported he had seen someone in a red Ford Mustang drive by and shoot someone at Vulcan Materials in Trinity.
On Oct. 23, a man claiming his name was “John Strode” called from the same cellphone and reported he was driving in Trinity and following a drunk driver, Archer said.
Lt. Rick Archer said that during his investigation of the reports, Stricklin gave a statement admitting he made the false calls with the intent of diverting Trinity police so he and others could burglarize businesses in Trinity.
Morgan County E911 Director Ryan Welty said 911 records show the officer dispatched to the drunk driver call was unable to respond to it because he was already at the scene of the burglary on Alabama 20.
Archer said the burglars accidentally triggered an alarm and went into hiding when the officer arrived to investigate.
“They were waiting for the police to leave and they were taking a long time, so he made the call to get them away from the business,” Archer said.
Decatur police investigated the 911 reports because the calls were received within their jurisdiction. Stricklin turned himself in Wednesday after Archer obtained warrants for his arrest on two counts of false reporting to law enforcement, a misdemeanor.
Welty said it’s the third arrest of someone for a false 911 call in about a year.
“This doesn’t happen very often,” he said, “but when it does, we try to investigate it and prosecute it. We want to keep public safety resources available for real emergencies.”
Units from Decatur police, Trinity police, Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, Trinity firefighters and Decatur EMS were dispatched to the non-existent shooting.
“What this guy did, in trying to cover up his own criminal activity, was he tied up six public safety agencies that needed to be available to take other calls,” Welty said.
Welty said that as far as he knew, none of those units were pulled off real calls to respond to the fake one.
Stricklin made the calls on a phone registered to the U.S. Army, Welty said.
“We don’t know if it was stolen,” he said.
He said Trinity apprehended Stricklin while he was selling metal at Moulton Metal Exchange last month.
“Chief (Chris) McLemore took the phone off of him and placed a 911 call so that we could see that it was the same number that the 911 calls originated from,” Welty said.
Attempts to reach McLemore for comment were unsuccessful. Few details about the burglaries and any others who were charged in connection with them were available.
Stricklin was booked into the Decatur City Jail and later released on $1,000 bail. If convicted, he could face up to one year in jail and up to a $6,000 fine for each charge.
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