The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released the 911 call made by Peachtree City Police Chief William McCollom around 4 a.m. Thursday in which he said he had accidentally shot his wife while the two were laying in bed.
In the recording, which lasts nearly six minutes, a relatively calm McCollom, 57, explains to the 911 dispatcher that he had shot his wife, who is 58, twice accidentally when his gun went off as he attempted to move it. At various times in the call Margaret McCollom can be heard moaning in pain.
At the beginning of the call McCollom gives his address and says “Gunshot wound. Accidental. Need medical ASAP.”
The dispatcher asked where she was shot. McCollom says in the back and side. Asked again if she was shot twice accidentally, McCollom says yes.
That detail has turned out to be incorrect, according to GBI spokesperson Sherry Lang. She said in a press conference Thursday that the gun was only fired once.
When asked “How did you shoot her?” McCollom says, “the gun was in the bed. I went to move it, put it to the side, and it went off.”
Through most of the call McCollom remains fairly calm, but at times makes comments like “Come on guys. Get here,” referring to emergency responders. At one point he says “Oh my God. How the hell did this happen?”
McCollom says that Margaret is conscious and alert, but having trouble breathing. When asked if there was serious bleeding, McCollom says, “Well, it’s internal, but yes there is. She’s starting to have trouble breathing now so it must be internal.”
The 911 dispatcher then instructs McCollom to apply direct pressure to the wound with a dry, clean cloth because he could see blood externally.
At one point he asks his wife, who can be heard moaning in the background, if she is alright.
“You alright dear? I know you’re not alright. You still breathing? Stay alert for me,” McCollom is heard saying to his wife.
At another point he tells the dispatcher he is the chief of police. Asked to confirm that he is Peachtree City’s police chief, he says “Yeah, unfortunately, yes.”
As of Friday, McCollom had not been charged with any crime. Lang noted he had been interviewed by the GBI and had been fully cooperative.
Mrs. McCollom was airlifted to Atlanta Medical Center and described as in critical condition. As of Friday she had not been interviewed by authorities, though the GBI said in a press release that she would be “when her medical condition improves.”
The released audio of the 911 call is the most substantial piece of information that has been shared with the public. Otherwise, the GBI, Peachtree City Police Department, and District Attorney have said very little.
District Attorney Scott Ballard said Friday that it is common practice in cases like this, where there would be a clear conflict of interest for Peachtree City Police to investigate a case, that it is sent to an outside organization like the GBI. He said in this case Peachtree City Police “almost immediately” called the GBI for assistance. The 911 call was made around 4:20 a.m. Thursday and Lang said the GBI was contacted by 5 a.m.
Ballard has said he plans to wait for the GBI investigation to be completed before making a decision on whether to press charges. Ballard said in similar cases the GBI does a “very, very thorough investigation,” in which they update the D.A.’s office along the way and then, when the investigation is finished, render a written report.
Fayette Newspapers asked Ballard if his office would likely have already made a decision on whether to press charges if McCollom were a civilian.
“Yes and no,” Ballard said. “When you ask the GBI to come in and do an investigation, it’s not uncommon at all for you to wait to finish the investigation to make an arrest.
“When you don’t call the GBI in then, yeah, probably that decision to bring charges would have been made [already]. The very fact that you’re calling in the GBI will cause issues that slow the pace a little bit.”
Lang said on Friday that her office wasn’t going to comment on the ongoing investigation. She said the decision to release the 911 call was made, partly, because there had been some public confusion about how many times Mrs. McCollom was shot. Early reports accurately reflected that Chief McCollom said he’d shot her twice, but an investigation showed that only one shot was fired, according to Lang.
Lang said that the GBI has an extensive protocol in shootings involving police. She said the GBI has already interviewed “a lot of people.”
She would not give an estimate, however, of how long it could take for the investigation to be completed.
“There are a lot of different factors that go into how long it takes to conduct an investigation,” Lang said. “We can never say, ‘oh our cases are completed in two weeks or two months.'”
Lang would not comment on Mrs. McCollom’s condition, only saying in a press release that the GBI would interview her when her condition improves. Asked if that meant her condition is expected to improve, Lang would not comment.
At Thursday’s press conference Lt. Mark Brown of the Peachtree City Police Department said McCollom’s weapon was a 9mm Glock-17, the same as other officers in the department.
Brown said McCollom is a “very well liked, well loved Chief. The department is hurting at this point.”
Comments from Mayor Vanessa Fleisch and City Manager Jim Pennington were put on the city’s website Friday.
City Manager Jim Pennington said, “This morning, I met with every department manager, and the City of Peachtree City, including the Peachtree City Police Department, is continuing with normal operations.”
Peachtree City Mayor Vanessa Fleisch said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Maggie and the McCollom family right now, as we wait for the state investigation to proceed.”
Listen to the audio of the 911 call here: soundcloud.com/fayette-news/chief-mccollom-911-call