Wanted man reports fake robbery to avoid arrest during traffic stop in Cleveland
Cleveland police say a man called 911 saying the Taco Bell he was at was being robbed, but police say when they arrived that wasn't the case at all.
It started with a traffic stop on 25th Street NW on Tuesday at 10:35 p.m. when a Cleveland police sergeant stopped a car for reckless driving, according to an arrest report.
Seven minutes later at 10:42 p.m., a robbery call came in.
“911, What's the location of your emergency?” the dispatcher asked.
“Yes sir, I'm at the Taco Bell right here,” the caller responds.
When the dispatcher asks what street the Taco Bell is on, the caller says, “I'm not sure. You'll have to use my location to find out.”
The caller goes on to explain the Taco Bell is being robbed.
“A man is holding a gun to my head right now,” the caller told the dispatcher.
The dispatcher eventually asks if the caller knows the robber. The caller says no. He then asks if the caller works at the taco bell, but the call is disconnected.
Another dispatcher calls back.
This time the caller confirms he is at the Taco Bell on Keith Street and then rushes off the phone.
“He's making me hang up right now. I'm sorry,” the caller said before hanging up.
Police arrived at the fast-food restaurant minutes later. After speaking with employees, they learned the call was fake.
“They walked in and they said there's no robbery here. They looked at the parking lot. No, no one called. So dispatch looked at the number and saw that it came from the same area where the traffic stop was,” Evie West, spokesperson for the Cleveland Police Department said.
The traffic stop, where a Cleveland police sergeant was holding a driver for reckless driving, was just 0.3 miles away from the Taco Bell.
Police identified the female driver's passenger as Terry Lee Brown, who they say was wanted for a felony warrant out of South Carolina. West says dispatchers confirmed the number connected to the robbery call had a South Carolina area code. She says officers then asked Brown and the driver if they called 911 and they said no.
But West says the officers were not convinced.
“They had dispatch call the number back that had made the 911 call and it rang to the passenger who had the warrant. It rang to his cellphone,” she explained. “He was trying to think quick. [He] didn't want to go to jail and was hoping that the officers would just throw back the stuff and run to Taco Bell and answer the call.”
In addition to the warrant from South Carolina, Brown now faces two charges in Cleveland, including false reporting, which is a felony charge and carries a one to two-year jail sentence.
West says Brown’s actions were bold, and put the community and officers at risk.
“I don't think people understand the magnitude of filing false reports," she said. "When you call 911, that is a line that is specifically purposed for emergencies. you are tying up the dispatcher from other emergencies that could be happening. Not only that, but you're taking resources from officers to get there."