Denver and 911 Dispatchers Sued
On November 18, 2012, it took more than an hour for dispatchers to send the police to the home of 44-year old Loretta Barela. One of Loretta’s neighbors called 911 reporting that she saw Loretta shirtless and being hit by a man who was dragging her across the street. About 45 minutes later, the neighbor called again because the police had not arrived. Police knocked on the door and not getting an answer, left.
It was not until about six hours later when Loretta’s husband, Christopher Perea, called the police saying that he killed his wife, that police arrived and found Loretta’s body. Her family has now filed a lawsuit alleging “a pattern of inadequate 911 dispatching.” The lawsuit names the city of Denver, four 911 employees and two officers. One dispatcher resigned pending further discipline in the case.
The pattern of inadequate 911 dispatching includes an incident that happened in April 2012. Jimma Reat, an immigrant from Sudan, was with three relatives when he called 911 to report an altercation with men in a red Jeep in the area of 10th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard. A second call was made by one of Jimma’s relatives, reporting that men in the Jeep had broken out the car windows. One of Jimma’s relatives drove home to avoid the men in the Jeep and wait on the police. However, the 911 dispatcher told him that they needed to return to the scene of the incident, inside Denver city limits. They did so.
As Jimma and his relatives were standing outside of his car waiting on the police to arrive, the red Jeep appeared and the men inside opened fire, shooting Reat in the back. The Jeep then sped away from the scene. Jimma was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
In April 2014, Kristine Kirk called 911 frantically, reporting that her husband was hallucinating after eating marijuana laced cookies. She told 911 that he was getting a gun from a safe. Kristine was on the phone with 911 for about 12 minutes, and was still on the phone with dispatch when she was killed. The police department is located about a mile from where Kristine lived.
With Kristine’s death, officials have made several changes to their response policies. Dispatchers are now required to give certain calls, such as those involving weapons, the highest priority. Officers are now given authority to decide how to respond to calls when a person is in imminent danger.
Loretta, Jimma, Kristine — rest in peace. Our condolences to your families and friends.