Saturday, April 12, 2008

Botched 911 Response Before Raped Woman Murdered

This tragic mistake was featured on the Today show with an interview with this woman's widower and the AP has covered this case as well.

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) -- The husband of a 21-year-old mother who was kidnapped, raped and killed plans to sue a sheriff's office over how it handled 911 calls about her disappearance.

Nathan Lee blames Charlotte County sheriff's officials for not saving Denise Lee in January.

Four 911 calls tipped authorities to Lee's struggle. Three were from Lee herself. Another caller said she saw a child screaming and banging on a car window. The caller was actually describing Lee, but no deputies were sent to look for the car.

This is inexcusable.

Because of a case in my town where a 911 call was forwarded to the police, I know that there was a possibility that this woman might have been saved before she was murdered.

In the local case the 911 caller didn't know there was a rape victim in the trunk of the car she and her mother were following. All that caller knew was that the man had intentionally bumped the car she was in with the car he was driving (which belonged to the woman in the trunk) and when they pulled over to exchange insurance information he was clearly violent.

The decision to follow this man when he took off and to call 911 and the subsequent response by the police led to this man's capture and the freeing of that rape victim. Those combined actions likely saved that rape victim's life.

Her rapist kidnapped her from a parking lot at gunpoint so she could have been shot to death like the woman in Florida. It's terrifying to think that a call like that could have been mishandled.

These sorts of mistakes are more likely when the funding for 911 staff and training are inadequate for the needs of the community they serve. This can also happen when law enforcement is stretched so thin that dispatchers have to decide which emergencies can't be responded to.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:39 AM   1 comments links to this post


At April 12, 2008 11:00 AM, OpenID finchtree said...

I would be really interested to find out what kind of training 911 operators actually receive; is it the same kind of half-assed OJT that Collections reps get?

On the other hand, I can't help but connect this to the overall trend that women are not taken seriously when reporting crimes, even when they call 911. I just wonder if a dude had called about seeing a screaming woman banging on the inside of a car window, would it have turned out differently?


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