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Durham woman says 911 calls were unanswered after she found car involved in Amber Alert

A Durham woman said she made multiple calls to 911 and nonemergency numbers on Monday after finding the car involved in Monday’s Amber Alert.

Lorna Ziegler said she called 911 three times and Durham police’s nonemergency number three times too after spotting a white Mercury Mystique in the Big Lots parking lot at 3420 Southwest Durham Blvd. near the intersection of Interstate 40 and US 15-501.

“I just kind of had a weird gut feeling,” Ziegler said of seeing the car.

Inside the car was food, clothing, a base for a car seat and baby blankets. Authorities found the missing boy, Jaxton Brown, nearby in his car seat.

As of Tuesday evening, authorities are still looking for Jaxton’s parents, Destinee Ariel Cothran and Justin Lee Brown.

Cothran and Brown walked away from the shopping center and into the nearby woods. As police searched for them Tuesday, WRAL reporter Chelsea Donovan found Brown’s wallet near those woods and turned it over to police. The abandoned car remained in the parking lot until Tuesday afternoon.

Ziegler explained what she did when she realized the car matched the description in the Amber Alert issued.

“I parked, called 911 right away, did not get an answer [and] called about 30 seconds later,” Ziegler said. “Not an answer again.”

After three failed calls to 911, Ziegler flagged down two people walking inside who did get through to first responders.

“It’s really frustrating,” she said.

Staffing has been a long-running issue at the Durham Emergency Communications Center.

The latest stats from earlier this month show of the 60 operational positions, which include call takers, 36 jobs are filled.

On the administrative side, which includes radio department staff, 19 of 20 positions are filled.

In total, about 69% of all positions are filled at the Emergency Communications Center.

Also, there are 10 part-time employees.

Ziegler says getting the calls answered is an important issue.

“Your heart is beating fast,” Ziegler said. “Iit’s terrifying. You’re like, ‘I need an answer right away.’ It’s important, you’d think someone would answer for this emergency.”

Ziegler, who is a mother of two children, said she loves Durham.

“I feel like we could help out as a community, not just police looking around,” Ziegler said. “I think it’s good to look out and be alert.”

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