Erie County voters heading to the polls on Election Day were sifting through one last-minute campaign issue in the sheriff’s race, following the release of a 911 call by sheriff’s candidate Richard E. Dobson making a non-emergency request for a sheriff’s deputy 11 days ago.
The incident occurred on the night of Oct. 25 on Grand Island, when Dobson called 911, asking to speak to a sheriff’s deputy, first saying there was no emergency but eventually claiming his call was for a “dispute at the bar.”
Two sheriff’s patrol cars raced to the scene, where the first was flagged down by Dobson, who wanted to give the deputies pizza, according to multiple reports.
Dobson didn’t deny having made the call, but he criticized Sheriff Timothy B. Howard’s camp for making this a last-minute issue, over an incident that occurred more than a week ago.
“All I wanted to do was speak to a deputy,” Dobson said Tuesday morning. “This is 11th-hour Tammany Hall politics. I think it’s politics at its worst. This is an absolute desperation move on the part of the incumbent sheriff.”
Howard said his campaign had absolutely nothing to do with releasing the tape, which became public on Youtube, apparently over the weekend.
People have been talking about the incident since the night it occurred, Howard said, adding that he was surprised that it hadn’t become public earlier. Howard responded only after he was called about it.
The sheriff then was asked what he thought of Dobson’s actions that night.
“The stunt itself was incredibly stupid,” Howard said, noting that the retired sheriff’s deputy should have known the seven-digit non-emergency number.
“You certainly don’t call 911 to call two deputies off a criminal complaint for something that clearly isn’t an emergency,” Howard added. “To blame me is like saying, ‘The devil made me do it.’”
Dobson was asked about using 911 for a non-emergency call.
“I live out in the country,” the Town of Wales Democrat replied. “When we need the sheriff’s department for anything, we call 911. If we tell them it’s not an emergency, they switch us to a non-emergency number.”
Here is what was said on the 911 line, at about 8:30 p.m. Oct. 25, following a Dobson fundraiser at the Grand Island Rod and Gun Club:
“Sheriff’s 911,” the dispatcher said.
“Yeah, I wonder if you could have one of the sheriff’s deputies come over to the Rod and Gun Club on Whitehaven Road... There’s no emergency, but I do need to speak to the deputy.”
The dispatcher confirmed the site, then asked the caller for his name. The caller then identified himself as Richard Dobson.
“Can I tell them what it’s in reference to?” the dispatcher asked.
“That I need to speak to a deputy.”
“Yes, I’m asking why.”
“I would like to speak to a deputy, OK?”
“I need to inform them why they need to come over there, sir.”
Dobson then paused, apparently speaking to someone else on his end of the line, before saying, “Uh, uh, a dispute at the bar.”
“A dispute at the bar,” the dispatcher replied. “All right, I will send them over there.”
Hear the audio of the 911 call through the YouTube clip here.