DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Fear of a killer cop impersonator is running rampant after two deadly shootings last week. The victims were lured to the side of the road.
Officers across the northern part of the state are cautioning people to be on the lookout. Now as investigators check out hundreds of tips, 911 dispatchers are receiving call after call from concerned citizens, afraid to leave their homes and when they see an unmarked police car on the road.
In this case, dispatchers are the most important link between officers and the public.
"It's worse than scary," says Laura Oliva.
The situation is dangerous not just for drivers, but cops as well.
"Mississippi people carry guns," says Martha Hamm. "If an officer walks up and doesn't feel comfortable, they're liable to shoot them."
That's where 911 dispatchers are key, acting as the liaison between the 911 calls to the officer in his patrol car.
They've been working on overdrive the last few days.
"To say the least it's been very busy," says Desoto Captain Deeanna Davis, "hundreds [of calls]. Every other phone call it seems like. There are a lot of people out there in the public who are scared."
"Everybody is convinced it's a policeman," says Dick Hackett with the DeSoto Sheriff's Department.
"Everybody thinks when they see an unmarked patrol car that there could be danger in the area," adds Cpt. Davis. And they call 911.
Dispatchers in half a dozen counties are tasked with the increasing number of calls to ease fears.
"We're going to keep them safe and keep them calm," Davis says. So far, DeSoto hasn't dealt with any emergencies related to the two highway killings.
But the county's not taking chances, following up on every call. "We need to know where they are, what they're driving and what are we looking for," Davis describes.
"You just can't cross your fingers and hope it doesn't happen here, you have to act on it," says Hackett.
Investigators will not say whether either of the two shooting victims made 911 calls.