Home News Local news WAPA Customer Dispute on St. Croix Nearly Ends in Tragedy

WAPA Customer Dispute on St. Croix Nearly Ends in Tragedy

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Jan. 30, 2007 — Tragedy was averted Tuesday at WAPA's St. Croix customer service office when an irate customer seeking a refund became involved in a scuffle with a WAPA security guard that culminated in a struggle for the guard's dislodged firearm.
While a WAPA press release issued Tuesday noted that "the regularly stationed security guard responded quickly to the situation and effectively subdued the customer until police arrived," one WAPA employee says the altercation wasn't so cut and dried.
According to Melecia Heywood-Terrell, one of the six customer representatives present during the mayhem, the security guard's weapon was dislodged and both guard and customer (yet to be identified by police) were in a fight to retrieve the weapon.
Terrell said the guard was eventually able to recover the weapon and handed it to her for safety.
Terrell added that the customer had begun his tirade when speaking to the cashier about a refund he was expecting. According to Terrell, the customer then took his anger and frustration to the customer service office allegedly saying, "Y'all have me as a joke."
"The customer felt like his check should have already arrived," said WAPA spokesperson Cassandra Dunn. The customer was due a refund and was informed by the cashier, a customer service representative and her supervisor that he needed to wait a few more weeks for the process to be complete. "The supervisor called for information on his check and relayed it to the customer," Dunn said. "He was not satisfied."
According to the authority's press release, it took three officers to subdue the customer who was described by Terrell as an older man with obvious strength.
Terrell said once the customer was finally removed from the offices, she and her co-workers were told by their supervisor return to work. The employees refused to continue the workday, and all six reportedly visited Dr. Wilbert Williams, a family physician, for evaluation.
The WAPA customer service department then closed early.
According to Terrell, Williams has drafted a letter to the authority excusing the representatives involved from work until Monday, Feb. 5.
"I am frustrated because we have been telling management about this over and over again," Terrell said. "I am scared because there is no protection. My stress level is way gone."
Deichelle Berry, St. Croix WAPA Employees Association vice president, said the employees are traumatized. "Anything could have happened if the customer had gotten a hold of that gun." Berry said the association is still waiting for a meeting with security personnel and WAPA officials on safety issues in light of the recent bomb threats to the authority. Berry said the head of security did tell her there would be added security in the customer service office.
"Starting tomorrow morning," said Dunn, "we will have an additional guard stationed in customer service." Dunn said other security measures have been put in place. "WAPA will continue to do everything in its power to make sure our customers and employees are protected," Dunn said. "There is nothing else that's more important."
Terrell said the problems have been going on too long and that customers are regularly irate. "People have tried to spit on us," she said.
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