CORTLAND - Although a hoax was at the center of his concerns, a Warren man said he has no regrets about dialing 911 on Saturday when he spotted a sign in the front passenger window of a vehicle that read "HELP."
"I'd do it all over again. I'd have to. You really have no choice in a situation like that. It's always better to be safe," Bryan Canty said Monday. "What if it had been real?"
The 51-year-old man told police the vehicle, a black Chevrolet Trailblazer, was traveling north on Route 11 when he spotted the sign, but that he could not see the head of the passenger and was concerned the person could have been a child or "someone smaller in stature."
Police charged the woman they said was at the center of the hoax, Priscilla E. Wooten, 22, of 232 Park Ave., Cortland, with making false alarms, a misdemeanor. She made an initial appearance in Central District Court on Monday and was released on a $1,000 personal bond. She is due back in court for a pretrial May 21.
Canty said he doesn't think Wooten or the driver meant any harm.
"But look at what it caused. Look at all the police and emergency people who responded, called away from what they were doing," Canty said. "What if something serious had happened somewhere else and they were tied up with this? It's just disrespectful to the police, the people who had to pull over to the side of the road to let the emergency vehicles pass, the people who worried something might really be wrong all just so you can get a laugh on."
Canty called 911 just before 7:30 p.m. to report seeing the sign, according to a Cortland police report. Dispatchers kept Canty on the line and advised the police agencies in the area.
Reports stated that the SUV exited Route 11 onto Route 305 and traveled into Cortland.
Cortland police spotted the vehicle at the intersection of Route 46 and Route 305 and stopped it in the parking lot of the BP gas station at Route 46 and Route 5.
Officers from Bazetta Police Department, Trumbull County Sheriff's Office and Ohio State Highway Patrol assisted.
Reports state that Wooten got out of the vehicle and told police that everything was fine. Police said she laughed and stated that she had written the sign and was holding it on the window to "screw around."
Police said they determined there was no emergency. They said Wooten showed them a five-by-seven-inch handwritten sign with the name "Cory Cameron" with a star written in small letters and the word "HELP" in large letters written on it. Police identified Cameron, 24, of 2170 Kinsman Road, North Bloomfield, as the driver and owner of the SUV.
Police said when they asked Wooten why she would hold up a sign like that she replied that she was just being funny and did not think it was a "big deal."
Police said they advised Wooten that she had caused six different police agencies to try to locate her. Police said eight police cars responded to the scene.
Wooten was issued a summons and advised she would have to appear in court Monday morning. She and Cameron were released at the scene.
Police commended Canty for calling 911 noting he acted appropriately given the situation.
"It's always better to be safe than sorry. I think, what if that were my child? I would want someone to step in," Canty said.