GREEN BAY, Wis. - We're hearing the audio recordings for the first time as dispatchers and police in Green Bay worked quickly to help rescue a local woman who called a non-emergency line to the Brown County Communications Center, telling them she was being held captive in a foreign country.
"Brown County Public Safety. This is Leah."
"I'm in a different country, and I'm kind of being held without my own will of being here. I want to go home. I want to go back to Green Bay."
In a story we were the first to share Monday on Action 2 News , dispatchers at the Brown County Public Safety Communications Center spent several hours Sunday afternoon trying to locate and help a Green Bay woman who called for help, saying she was being held against her will in the Dominican Republic.
Their quick thinking led to the woman's safe return.
The woman reached out to Action 2 News Wednesday and told us she is safe and OK. She's in the process of returning to the United States. The woman asks people respect her privacy and refrain from judgment. She's also thankful for the people who helped to rescue her.
Green Bay Police tell us the investigation is in the hands of authorities in the Dominican now.
"Where are you calling from?"
"I'm calling from a free call, like a free call app. I'm in the Dominican Republic."
"You're in the Dominican Republic?"
"I'm from Green Bay Wisconsin."
You can hear the surprise in the dispatcher's voice that a woman from Green Bay is calling the non-emergency line at the Brown County Dispatch Center in the middle of the afternoon, saying she needs help, but is trapped in the Dominican Republic.
The questions start rolling.
"How do you know this guy? How did you end up in the Dominican Republic?"
"I... him on online and then I came here, but now (inaudible) yesterday, he locked me in the house with a chain thing outside so I couldn't get out. Every time I try to go, try to find a way out of here..."
"So when he leaves, he locks you in the house?"
"Yeah... I ripped the door off the thing to get out of there. I don't know where he is right now."
"How long have you been down in the Dominican Republic?"
"I've been here since October."
She tells dispatchers she willingly went to the country several months ago, but the man with her then took her passport and phone, locked her in a home and hurt her.
"Are you being abused?
"Yeah. All he did was choke me yesterday."
Dispatchers and police try to pinpoint where she is, getting her to describe what she sees around her. They use Google Earth to zoom in to where they think she is, but are still unsure.
"Do you know what the address is that you're at?"
"Honestly, I don't."
Working frantically back here, dispatchers are worried her captor would return at any moment but stay calm to keep her calm.
They use another phone line to call for help in the Dominican.
"Welcome to the United States Embassy in Santo Domingo."
"This is the Marine security guard at Post One. What can I do for you?"
Supervisor Tracy Ertl:
"Yes, sir. My name is Supervisor Tracy. I'm calling you from a police agency in the United States. We have a U.S. citizen who's being held captive right now in the Dominican Republic."
That gets things moving quickly, and three and a half hours after the whole ordeal began, comes the much anticipated happy ending.
"They're here now."
"They are? Do you feel safe disconnecting with me or do you want me to stay on the phone?"
"I feel safe now."
You notice there's very little panic in their voices.
Dispatchers tell us people react to emergencies in very different ways, but in such an extraordinary call as this, their training, instinct and compassion all kick in.
"It's not a typical call we get, but we're trained to take those calls," says communications supervisor Tracy Ertl. "Our people are well-trained not to make assumptions, judgments, but to ask the questions that need to be asked."
In this three and a half hour phone call, that some may think is a hoax, you hear dispatchers realize the dire situation and ask just the right questions.
"Where are you? Are you being abused? Are you being hurt? How are you being held? How long have you been there? Who's holding you? Do they have any weapons?" says Ertl, listing off many of the questions they'd need answered.
As a supervisor, Ertl helped the original call-taker and police Sunday, and says the team knew what to do, because they'd thought about this before.
The Brown County Public Safety Communications Center partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2017, putting the whole staff through special training for handling child abductions.
But she says this call shows it can work for endangered adults, too.
"It was another awesome lesson for our people. Emergencies don't always come over 911 lines," says Ertl.
While we still don't know the exact details of this situation, Ertl says a growing number of human trafficking cases highlights the importance that first line responders be ready to help the most vulnerable, even if it's a call in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.
"It sounds like one of those far off calls, but you have to be ready at any time," she says.