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Henrietta manhunt raises questions about emergency robocalls
by Jane Flasch
Rochester, N.Y. -- A 10 hour manhunt ended with a mental hygiene arrest in Henrietta Thursday morning. The suspect wrestled to the ground by a Monroe County Sheriff's deputy on Route 251.
"He had him pretty well held down," said Rosann Waterstraat who was driving down the road and pulled over to try to help. "He was holding him down with his left arm and trying to call for help on his radio."
48-year-old Michael Joanette has a history of mental health issues and has threatened violence in the past. He was believed to be armed and suicidal. Overnight, and this morning, people living in a 10 mile radius received robo-emergency calls to stay inside their homes.
Yet some are questioning now - why they did not receive these calls.
"It would have been nice to have been able to get a call,' said Laura Baker, a Henrietta resident.
All night as deputies searched roads and woods not far from their home, the Baker family slept soundly, unaware of any potential danger. Until 6:30 Thursday morning.
The phone did ring. It was the Rush Henrietta school district- where the three Baker children attend school. Schools were on a two hour delay.
"The school district told us it was a police investigation. Then we immediately turned on the TV and it said 'armed gunman search' in Henrietta," Said Baker. All of her information came from facebook and television news.
She never heard from police. She never received those emergency robocalls.
"I wondered if it was because we were a couple of miles away from the official perimeter," she said.
The Bakers have an internet phone service and two cell phones. No land line. Turns out, that's the problem. "You can't receive the robocalls, they don't go to wireless phones," said John O'Malley of Verison.
If you call into 911, the emergency center can get a 'ping' on your cell phone with your location. The outgoing robocalls don't work that way. "It's something they need to opt into," said O'Malley. "They need to call their law enforcement agency and say I want my cell phone on this list so you can call me in situations like this."
In Monroe and surrounding counties you can register your name, address and cell phone number via a website. It takes just minutes to make sure you are connected in case of an emergency.
"I had no idea that was even an issue," said Laura Baker who added that she will make sure to register.
Here are the links to registries in several counties: