No law enforcement response despite 3 DUI calls to 911

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- It was 2:24 a.m. on May 21 when Michael Phoenix called 911 about an erratic driver in front on him on Interstate 270 heading toward Commerce City.

In the 911 call, Phoenix tells a dispatcher, "If he's not drunk, he's something else. Definitely need to get someone out here before he hurts someone."

Michael Phoenix

Michael Phoenix

Dashcam video from Phoenix's vehicle shows the suspected drunk driver has trouble staying in his lane and can't maintain his speed, going just 32 mph at times in a 55 mph zone.

In the 911 call, Phoenix is heard saying, "Jesus, he just stopped ... nearly smashing into somebody. We need to get somebody out here really quick before he has an accident."

But AdCom 911, the dispatch service for Adams County, doesn't send a Commerce City police officer. Instead, seven patrol cars head to an armed robbery at a Conoco gas station.

The dispatcher determines three other Commerce City police cars are too far away to intervene when Phoenix calls 911 again at 2:27 a.m.

"Hello, I just called a few minutes ago about a drunk driver. I just need to let you know he's pulled off onto York Street.

The dispatcher responded, "He did?"

"Yes," Phoenix said.

The dispatcher doesn't tell Phoenix no one is on the way, but she does notify the Colorado State Patrol. But the Colorado State Patrol doesn't dispatch a trooper either.

By the time Phoenix calls back a third time, it's 3 a.m. and the suspicious driver has made it to an apartment complex at 78th Avenue and York Street.

A frustrated Phoenix can be heard telling the 911 operator, "Does no one care if this guy is driving around drunk?"

"OK, we do have officers tied up on emergent calls right now, that may be why they haven't responded," the dispatcher said.

But the FOX31 Problem Solvers have learned the AdCom 911 dispatcher never contacted the Adams County Sheriff's Office for help.

AdCom 911 executive director Rick Estes admits the dispatcher made a mistake.

"It was apparent that this incident was gong to move into the sheriff's jurisdiction and because of what was going on with the robbery and that dispatcher being tied up, it appears that did not happen," Estes said.

Rick Estes

Rick Estes

But Estes adds there are many times when law enforcement has no one to respond to a 911 call.

"It happens all the time. Absolutely, we have calls all the time that we simply don't have the resources to send, not immediately," Estes said.

That admission doesn't sit well with Phoenix.

"The police don't seem to care enough to respond quickly," he said.

His assumption might seem unfair, but Phoenix said he's called 911 on three different occasions in the past year about a drunk driver with no response.

"It's really disturbing," he said. "Police should be there to help you, especially when you are going out of your way to help them."

The Colorado State Patrol had two troopers on duty in Adams County at the time it was notified of the suspected impaired driver.

One was working at the office, a short drive from where the alleged drunk driver was headed, and the other was driving on patrol unassigned.

But neither trooper responded.

"When we can effect a change and contact an impaired driver, or suspected impaired driver, we are going to do that. We have to do that with the resources that are available to us," Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Rob Madden said.

When asked why neither trooper responded to this particular 911 call, Madden said, "The part of this that you're missing is we receive so many of these calls and there's nothing to say that the troopers listening to the radio heard the call."

Sgt. Rob Madden, Colorado State Patrol

Sgt. Rob Madden, Colorado State Patrol

Madden adds that moving drivers are hard to catch up to and unless a trooper is already in the immediate vicinity, they might not respond.

"In the span of a half an hour from the time surrounding this (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately report), there were three REDDI reports that were called into Adams County Colorado State Patrol dispatch," said Madden, who admitted troopers didn't respond to any of them.

That's a disappointing admission to Phoenix. He believes anytime law enforcement has someone available, it should respond.

"It's like come on, this is your job, this is what you should be doing, not rolling it off that it's not a big deal," said Phoenix, who claims he will no longer call 911 if he sees a drunk driver.

Madden said that's not the message the Colorado State Patrol wants to send. He encourages any driver who sees an impaired driver to call *CSP or *277.

He can't guarantee a response, but said if a trooper is available and nearby, they will attempt to make contact.