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  1. #1
    racing04's Avatar
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    Angry Lawsuit against 911 dispatcher

    Murdered woman’s husband: 911 botched call
    Emergency dispatchers did not pass along exact location of suspect


    By Mike Celizic
    TODAYShow.com contributor
    updated 1 hour, 44 minutes ago
    Nathan Lee knows a day will come when he will have to tell his two young sons what happened to their mother. He’ll tell them about how she was kidnapped, tied up and thrown in the back of a car, managed to call police and got another motorist to call 911 with the exact location of the car transporting her to a brutal death.

    And then Lee will have to tell the boys, 2 and 8 months, that the 911 operators didn’t pass on vital information to patrol officers, possibly erasing their mom’s last hope at being rescued. It’s a heartrending task he doesn’t want anybody else to have to face.

    “Someday I’m going to have to tell our little boys, who have very few memories, if any, of their amazingly courageous and brave mommy. I will have to tell them that she died needlessly,” Lee told NBC News.

    “I want to make sure that somebody else doesn’t have to tell their kids that their mom could have been saved if the proper training was put in place. That’s what my goal is,” Lee told TODAY’s Matt Lauer from Venice, Fla., on Friday.

    Lee and his attorney, Thomas Marryott, have announced their intention to file a lawsuit against the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department in Florida claiming that the 911 call center’s alleged negligence contributed to his wife’s death. The aim isn’t to get money, he said, but to mandate standardized training for all 911 operators.

    “The ultimate goal is that some changes need to be made and light has to be brought to this issue, not just on a local level but I think on a national level,” he told Lauer.

    Denise Amber Lee was kidnapped at about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17, from her home in North Port, Fla. At 6:14, she managed to use her kidnapper’s cell phone to call 911 and leave an open connection that allowed the Charlotte County Sheriff to know about the kidnapping. At 6:23 another 911 call from a witness reported a woman who might have been kidnapped in a dark green Camaro.

    With police on the lookout for the car, another motorist saw a woman screaming and kicking and beating on the windows of a dark-colored Camaro on I-75. She called 911 at 6:30 and gave dispatchers an exact location of the vehicle and its direction of travel, but for a critical half-hour they “forgot” to pass the information along.

    By 9 p.m., the driver of the Camaro, 36-year-old unemployed plumber Michael King, was in custody and a ring and hair that Denise Lee had left in the back seat connected him to the kidnapping. But by then, the 21-year-old wife and mother of two was lying in a shallow grave, stripped of her clothes and dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Her body was recovered two days later.

    Lee blames the 911 operators for not passing along the information about a woman in distress in the back of a Camaro. Two operators were suspended for the way they mishandled the information, one for two days, the other for a month. Lee says that’s not long enough.

    “It’s a deeper issue than just somebody forgetting. There’s a lot of issues in that call center,” he said. “The fact is, Denise did everything she possibly could to save her life and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office did not do everything it could to save her life. I think that’s what the deepest issue is.”
    Victim dialed 911
    The thought that her life could have been saved continues to gnaw at him.

    “It’s extremely frustrating, knowing we were so close to being able to see her again,” Lee said. “It’s already hard enough dealing with what happened to her, but knowing that we were so close is just extremely difficult.”

    A classical musician, Lee has not been able to go back to his day job with Florida Power and Light, but he has continued to play the trumpet with the Venice Symphony orchestra. He has described Denise Lee as his soul mate. Family pictures show a slight young woman with a big smile playing with the two boys she devoted her life to as a stay-at-home mom.

    Coincidentally, Denise Lee’s father is Charlotte County Sheriff’s Lt. Richard Goff, and it was he who identified his daughter’s voice on the call she managed to make to 911. Goff has joined Lee in lobbying for a mandatory standardized training law for 911 operators in Florida.

    Lee is also fighting to prevent the release of the call his wife made from the Camaro. He had talked to her earlier in the day.

    “My last words to her were, ‘I love you,’ ” he said. He said he has not listened to her 911 call and doesn’t want to.

    “I have not listened to that call. I never, ever want to have to listen to that call. Nobody should have to listen to that,” he said.
    Life is not measured by the breaths we take,its measured by the moments that take our breath away

  2. #2
    Just KC's Avatar
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    UGH! Just awful all the way around
    Nobody is perfect....911 never will be. It is extremely sad this happened.....but of course we never focus on the abundance amount of times they did save someone.......
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  3. #3
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    Well, we knew this part of the story was coming out.

    On the tape I heard, you can hear the call-taker tell the RP she can't hear her because someone's yelling at her. Sounds like a chaotic situation.

    I still can't get my head around how the ball was dropped. When we had the Santana HS shooting, the call-taker stood up and yelled across to the radio side that there was a shooting at the school. The dispatcher had units going before the call was even entered. I think about the heightened awareness you have when there's a critical incident, and how I notify when good information comes in during hot calls.

    Of course, we are lucky enough to have the phones and radios separate. I can't imagine having to answer 911 calls while working a radio. Without knowing their set up, and if this was written up on a tip sheet, or written as a call, it's hard to tell where that critical break in information happened.

    I think there are important lessons to be learned, and this event will definitely be a part of my lesson plan as a trainer.

    I happen to think standards are important, and dispatchers in California have to meet POST requirements, much like sworn. We also have great training, and a clear P&P at my agency, so we get liability training.

    Just knowing what lengths that young woman went through to assist in her rescue, I can't help thinking she deserved more from dispatch.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDawg View Post

    Just knowing what lengths that young woman went through to assist in her rescue, I can't help thinking she deserved more from dispatch.
    Well said, PDawg.




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    How embarrassing is this? This my agency, and I knew her and I know her dad. Good people and this whole thing really sucks. A bunch of us were not far away when this call happend. I was just turning off the interstate exit at that time and made a right turn instead of a left. Pretty crappy deal and I really wish we had gotten this information. I honestly feel that if we did, we would have had a pretty good chance on catching him before he executed her near that very exit. This really sucks.

    I tell you what, we have been complaining about how our dispatch is run for years. It is not uncommon to be attempting to call dispatch, just to be told to stand by because they are on 911. Pisses me off royally to hear that, especially when I am attempting a contact or a traffic stop.
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  6. #6
    racing04's Avatar
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    To ex401mp, Im sorry that this happened to your station..We are always told NEVER tell a deputy stand-by no matter what the situation is, officer safety first.. I feel bad for the dispatcher but then at the same time why didn't she pass on the information..Have alot of mixed emotions on this case, espically with being a dispatcher myself. I agree alot with what Pdawg said also.
    Life is not measured by the breaths we take,its measured by the moments that take our breath away

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ex401mp View Post
    It is not uncommon to be attempting to call dispatch, just to be told to stand by because they are on 911. Pisses me off royally to hear that, especially when I am attempting a contact or a traffic stop.
    We have similar issues and could probably double the number of people working in dispatch. I've heard officers tell other officers to air their traffic stops etc when they were being ignored by dispatch. The most important thing is your backup knows where you are so we do that for each other when dispatch isn't.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by racing04 View Post
    To ex401mp, Im sorry that this happened to your station..We are always told NEVER tell a deputy stand-by no matter what the situation is, officer safety first.. I feel bad for the dispatcher but then at the same time why didn't she pass on the information..Have alot of mixed emotions on this case, espically with being a dispatcher myself. I agree alot with what Pdawg said also.
    My question remains....

    Can you really be on a radio and a 911 call and do either one well?

    I consider myself to be an excellent multitasker, but the fact remains - humans are monaural. You cannot listen to two different conversations without missing something.

    I listen to more then one frequency when I'm on a radio, but my primary covers anything else, so if a deputy is talking to me, I will miss details on the BOL on another frequency. I count on my radio partners to get it and write up a call. If I'm on a 911 call for a crime in progress, I'm going to stay on the line to keep things updated. I may get a phone partner to call the FD if there are injuries.

    I realize I am spoiled - I work for a big agency. We have the money to staff dedicated 911 positions, non-emergency call-takers, and radio positions. We pay well, have screening tests, and background checks. We also having a year long training process.

    We are proactive. If something big is happening, supervisors immediately split the radio, so one dispatcher is responsible for only that event. Day to day traffic gets handled by another dispatcher.

    It's easy to blame the dispatcher/call-taker, but it's also an agency issue. If you aren't willing to spend the time and money to develop a good staff, you will spend it in lawsuits that result from tragedy.
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  9. #9
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    I am not surprised this happened. Although I also work for the agency, I don't know enough about it to make much of a comment. Whether her death could have been prevented, I don't know...I just wish she could have been saved. An absolutely wonderful family. It is just really sad all around.

    And I understand where you are coming from PDawg and respect the job that you guys do...but Ex401MP is right...depending on the dispatcher/squad...we get told to stand by a lot. Some of the squads are wonderful...but some...need to get someone who can multi-task a little better. Luckily I have never been in serious trouble yet and told to hold but it is a fear.
    Never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way" ~Martin Luther King, Jr

  10. #10
    Willowdared's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolven View Post
    And I understand where you are coming from PDawg and respect the job that you guys do...but Ex401MP is right...depending on the dispatcher/squad...we get told to stand by a lot. Some of the squads are wonderful...but some...need to get someone who can multi-task a little better. Luckily I have never been in serious trouble yet and told to hold but it is a fear.
    That's really my point. I think, for both Officer Safety and Public Safety, that call-takers and radios should be separate positions.

    Follow up with on-going training.

    I can assure you that this call will live in my heart, and anyone I train will hear this story, so they know how important it is to never take things for granted.
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  11. #11
    Pudge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDawg View Post
    My question remains....

    Can you really be on a radio and a 911 call and do either one well?

    I consider myself to be an excellent multitasker, but the fact remains - humans are monaural. You cannot listen to two different conversations without missing something.

    I listen to more then one frequency when I'm on a radio, but my primary covers anything else, so if a deputy is talking to me, I will miss details on the BOL on another frequency. I count on my radio partners to get it and write up a call. If I'm on a 911 call for a crime in progress, I'm going to stay on the line to keep things updated. I may get a phone partner to call the FD if there are injuries.

    I realize I am spoiled - I work for a big agency. We have the money to staff dedicated 911 positions, non-emergency call-takers, and radio positions. We pay well, have screening tests, and background checks. We also having a year long training process.

    We are proactive. If something big is happening, supervisors immediately split the radio, so one dispatcher is responsible for only that event. Day to day traffic gets handled by another dispatcher.

    It's easy to blame the dispatcher/call-taker, but it's also an agency issue. If you aren't willing to spend the time and money to develop a good staff, you will spend it in lawsuits that result from tragedy.
    I can sort of agree with you, but will disagree on one point. In a large agency with a lot of traffic it does make sense to have call takers and dispatchers separate, where in smaller centers which may only be responsible for a half dozen or so channels to do both.
    BUT.....with information like that there is no excuse not to drop whatever it is you're doing and dispatch that information. Suspensions are too soft and that should result in temination.

    From an officer safety standpoint, what would happen if they simply forgot to pass on information on an officer in trouble?
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  12. #12
    Willowdared's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pudge113 View Post
    BUT.....with information like that there is no excuse not to drop whatever it is you're doing and dispatch that information. Suspensions are too soft and that should result in temination.
    That's what bothers me the most. I think I would have been standing on my chair to get attention if I got a call like that - even without there being a full search underway.

    I know what you're saying about agency size too, that why I say I'm lucky to work for a big agency.
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  13. #13
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    We do have some people assigned to just take 911 calls, but it seems that they forget to gather alot of information that we need while enroute to the calls themselves. There are times when one of our dispatchers has to get that info for us, because the call taker did not already do it. We do have some really good people there in our dispatch, but the good ones get hammered because of all the extra work caused by bad call takers who seem incapable of getting basic information for us alot of the time.
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  14. #14
    10-42Adam's Avatar
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    Seems like a new dispatch center is needed and should run differently. In my state, we have different people answer the phones other than the ones on dispatch and the computers. They never switch jobs, so both sides are trained totally for that specific task. The info gets out quick, and two of the biggest departments in my state on the north end of things share the room, so backup is quicker because the two sides obviously share info. I guess there are some perks for living in a very small state...
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-42Adam View Post
    Seems like a new dispatch center is needed and should run differently. In my state, we have different people answer the phones other than the ones on dispatch and the computers. They never switch jobs, so both sides are trained totally for that specific task. The info gets out quick, and two of the biggest departments in my state on the north end of things share the room, so backup is quicker because the two sides obviously share info. I guess there are some perks for living in a very small state...
    The thing is, I am a better call-taker for working the radio. Working the radio teaches you about what the officers really need to know. It also teaches you to get right to the point, and leave out the stuff that is not germane to the call.

    Believe me, we have the same issues though. You can't really teach good judgement though. **sighs**
    Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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