Former Hostage Meets With Negotiator
Wednesday night, The News On 6 reported about a man who killed a police officer in Florida 25 years ago, came to Tulsa and took seven employees hostage inside a grocery store. The officer who negotiated with the gunman to save those seven lives, has been wondering what became of those hostages. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports one of those hostages has met with the negotiator.
George Haralson has been in law enforcement for 35 years, but the case at McCartney's from 1982 has always stood out in his mind. For the first time on Thursday, he got to hear from a hostage first-hand about how grateful she is.
Debbie Berryman was 18 years old, working as a cashier at McCartney's Grocery Store when Joe Greer came inside, fired shots and herded her and six other employees to a back office. At the time, she didn't know he was a convicted cop killer who had escaped prison. He told them to call someone to say they wouldn't be home for awhile. Debbie called her dad.
"Said, I'm going to be late coming home from work. He said, ‘so.' I said we're being held hostage at the store. He was like, good one. Joe Greer actually got on the phone and explained the deal, so my dad called all the media, all the radio stations and got everyone into the parking lot," said former hostage Debbie Berryman.
She says what kept her calm, was the reassuring presence of police negotiator George Haralson, who spent six hours, trading things Greer wanted for hostages.
"George said, ‘I'll be glad to give you something to drink if you let one of them go," and he said, ‘yes.' I realized we would eventually get out."
When Greer wanted to air his grievances on television, George Haralson ran the TV camera. Greer had kept the employees next to him, as shields. Debbie was the next to the last hostage released.
"He wanted them to reroll the film so he could see it. The minute he saw that, he pointed to me and said I could go," said Debbie Berryman.
A newspaper photo shows her emotional reunion with her parents. Debbie says that night taught her to appreciate every day and how to overcome adversity. She regretted never having thanked George, so The News On 6 arranged a surprise meeting for the two.
The two talked like only those who have bonded through a traumatic ordeal can do, no matter how long ago.
"The lives you helped save. I could've just graduated, turned 18 and that was it. It would've been terrible," said Debbie Berryman.
Debbie got to say her thanks, and George got to learn on that one night, he made a huge difference in someone else's life.
After Debbie and the final hostage were released, Joe Greer shot and killed himself. Debbie took one day off from work, and then went back to the grocery store as a cashier.
That building is now the Southern Agriculture store at 71st and Sheridan. Debbie Berryman says she's been in there a few times and while it doesn't bother her, it does make her think back to that night.