Bits 'n' Pieces: 'Panic 911' episode details odd crime case

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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The apparently random East Minnehaha home invasion that led to the death of an inebriated intruder last summer was "the strangest case I've ever worked," said Clark County Sheriff's Office Detective Lindsay Schultz.

The makers of "Panic 911" found it strange, too. Last month, a crew from the A&E Network thriller show, which analyzes and dramatizes actual 911 calls, turned a sheriff's office conference room into a television studio while interviewing Schultz and K-9 deputy Brian Ellithorpe about the case.

"It was a unique experience. I'm not used to doing stuff like this," said Schultz, who worked as a patrol officer for five years before moving up to detective with the Major Crimes Unit. Her own crime investigation interviews have been known to grow "long and stressful and tiresome," she said — but nothing like her own interrogation by a TV crew. That lasted for four long hours and was minutely detailed, she said. "It was a little bit fun and incredibly stressful," she said.

It was also quarterbacked from afar. The interviewer who sat opposite Schultz was in constant electronic contact with a producer back at the home studio; that producer monitored the interview and prompted the interviewer, in real time, about what details to pursue.

"They really knew the case. I was impressed with their accuracy and research. They were very, very well prepared," Schultz said. Also, she added, the A&E crew was "very sensitive to the family."

That family, Robert and Janice Blakemore, decided not to participate, and a different name is being substituted for theirs in the show. But the couple didn't have a problem with the sheriff's office participating, Schultz said.

What happened, according to news reports and Schultz's recollection, was this: Early on the morning of Aug. 25, 2012, a 42-year-old man named Chris Billings, of Kansas City, Mo., was visiting Vancouver friends. The friends found Billings to be "out of control," Schultz said, and sent him packing in the direction of a state trooper they noticed making a traffic stop. The trooper was busy and called for backup, but in the meantime, Billings stumbled farther down the street, smashed through a fence and let himself in the open back door of the Blakemore home on Northeast 54th Avenue.

When Billings broke through their locked bedroom door, Robert Blakemore shot and killed him. Police showed up moments later. Blakemore was not charged with a crime.

"They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. This thing was so random," said Schultz.

Schultz said she was not a fan of "Panic 911." "I never even heard of it. But I watched an episode the other day. It's not a bad show," she said.

"It was interesting. I think they are looking to show how situations begin" — and the sketchy nature of the information that dispatchers and police must go on, she said. "I guess I'm used to that stuff."

The episode of "Panic 911" is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Thursday on A&E.


Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.