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Georgia officer's calm action prevents harm to four hostages.

When Cheryl Chavies, a parole officer with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, got a call from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department last August saying there was a hostage situation involving a parolee, she had a good idea who the parolee might be.

"Let me guess," Chavies told the caller. "Lemira Robinson."

When the deputy said "yes," she knew the situation would be serious. Robinson was one of Chavies' parolees, and he was wanted on drug and burglary charges. According to Chavies, he had an authority problem, especially with men, and he feared that the police would hurt him when they came to take him to jail.

"I had dealt with him an awful lot," Chavies said. "I knew that he didn't have authority problems with me, perhaps because I am a woman."

When deputies arrived at Robinson's apartment to take him into custody, he crashed through a window and landed on a balcony. He climbed up onto another balcony and entered a neighbor's apartment, where he took four women hostage. Robinson found a knife and held it to one woman's throat.

He then demanded to talk to Chavies and said that he would hurt someone if she didn't come. When Chavies arrived, she began talking with him on the phone, trying to calm him down.

"I told him I just wouldn't lie to him," said Chavies, who convinced him to free one hostage after speaking with him for nearly two hours.

Deputies then cut off the power lines to the apartment, prompting Robinson to briefly become frantic before getting very quiet. The silence made Chavies nervous.

Shouting from outside the apartment, Chavies persuaded him to free two more hostages in exchange for continued time on the telephone. At that time the weather service began calling for a tornado, watch, and a S.W.A.T. team prepared to take Robinson by force. Chavies decided she had to resolve the crisis quickly.

She chose to enter the apartment with a fugitive squad officer. Chavies spoke to Robinson from the end of a hallway for 10 minutes before he finally gave up the final hostage and surrendered.

"The whole thing was over in about four-and-a-half hours, but it took me about four-and-a-half weeks to calm down," Chavies said.

For her heroism, Chavies was awarded a letter of commendation from the Georgia Parole Board.

Chavies says she enjoys parole work because it allows her to spend time with people and help them improve their lives.

"I feel that parole officers make a difference," Chavies said. "If you give parolees another avenue besides crime, some take it. I've been fortunate to have some success stories.

"I have three kids and they all want to be parole officers," she added, noting that when she arrived home after the crisis she found a banner reading: "Mom's Our Hero."

"I live for my kids and feel like as long as they see me doing right, they'll want to do right," she says.
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Title Annotation:Best in the Business; parole officer Cheryl Chavies
Author:Ogburn, Kevin
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:498
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