Denver 911 operators under scrutiny: 60 complaints filed in last 2 years

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DENVER -- The fatal shooting of a woman in Denver last Monday is raising questions about the actions of the 911 dispatcher who handled the call.  Kristine Kirk died after police say her husband shot her in the head.

According to records obtained by FOX31 Denver, she was on the phone with 911 for 13 minutes before she was killed at her home on South St. Paul Street near East Evans Avenue.

Sources tell FOX31 Denver there were police officers less than one mile away from Kirk's house while she waited for help to arrive.  After the fatal call, the 911 dispatcher was suspended while the department investigated how she handled the call.

Complaints Against Denver 911 Employees

A FOX31 Denver Investigation found despite more than 60 complaints against employees of Denver 911 in the last two years, they are rarely written-up for complaints deemed justified by 911 supervisors.

Records obtained through an open records request found the majority of the time, operators, call-takers and dispatchers are primarily given coaching or counseling following complaints.

In the last two years we found two operators were written-up for errors made during emergency calls.

Another 911 Call Leads To Shooting Death

A Denver 911 operator was fired after he handled a call where the victim was shot and killed following the directions of the operator, according to a lawsuit filed by the victim's family.

On April 1, 2012, Denver 911 operator Juan Jesus Rodriguez answered the frantic call from Ran Pal. He said a group of men driving a Jeep Cherokee threw a beer bottle through the back window of his car and began yelling racial slurs. Pal also told the operator he thought the men had a gun.

Part of the 911 transcripts obtained by FOX31 Denver details how the victims were scared and in shock, but were able to escape from the suspects in the Jeep and get to an apartment complex in Wheat Ridge, seven blocks outside of Denver city limits.

"Yeah that's going to be out and uh that's going to be outside of Denver. I need you to come back into Denver so we can take a report,” Rodriguez told Pal, according to 911 transcripts.

Pal asked Rodriguez several times if an officer could come to the apartment because he is trying to recover from the attack, but the operator insists Pal and his fellow passengers must come back into Denver to file a police report.

According to records with Denver 911 that's not true. Rodriguez could have sent an officer to Pal's location.
Despite the victims’ request to stay outside of Denver city limits, in their apartment, they followed instructions and did return to Denver to wait for an officer.

Minutes after Rodriguez told them to wait at the intersection of West 29th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard with their hazard lights on, the suspects in the Jeep returned before police.

"They're back, they're back," Pal can be heard saying on the 911 call; Rodriguez asks if they can get away, and Pal told him his brother, Jimma Reat, was down. "They hit Jimma," a sobbing Pal told Rodriguez.

One minute after Reat is shot and dying in the arms of his brother, Rodriguez dispatches an officer for the first time, more than 12 minutes after Reat called 911.

In Rodriguez's 20-page termination letter it shows the operator failed to "decipher the situation" and despite the "caller stated six separate times that he was injured, in shock and didn't want to drive and needed time to recover," he still insisted the men return to Denver.

Rodriguez, who was fired more than a month after the death of Reat, "Showed a blatant disregard for the caller's health in your quest to have the caller return to the city of Denver," the termination letter states.

His termination also uncovered another complaint against him where he handled a call from a teenager who called to say he just killed his mother's boyfriend. The February 29, 2012 call, took place a little more than a month before Reat was shot and killed.

911 Call error in February 2012

The 911 call started with the juvenile admitting to have killed a man, “And he started to get aggressive and he forced my mom on the floor and I choked him out but I don’t know how long I choked him out for I think I killed him," the caller told Rodriguez.

Instead of sending help, Rodriguez spends more than five minutes trying to get an exact address for the apartment building where the incident happened.

The 911 call obtained through court records shows within 60 seconds there was enough information to dispatch help to an area indicated by his call screen pulled up.

Rodriguez asked the teenager to go outside to find an exact address of the apartment where he was located. When the teen follows the instructions, the door locks behind him. "I have to hop the fence because I'm locked out."

The teen hops the fence when Rodriguez instructs him to do CPR on the man.

"Can you get close to him?" asked Rodriguez. "No, I told you I choked him out," the teen responds.

"At no point during the conversation did you actively listen to what the caller had to say or appear to understand that a homicide had occurred," was written in Rodriguez termination letter.

It also said he "harangued" the caller with questions and had no appreciation for the caller’s environment.

In the verbal reprimand for this call, Rodriguez’ supervisor discussed scene safety with him. He was allowed to go back to work without any retraining.

FOX31 Denver contacted Juan Rodriguez through his attorney, but he did not want to talk to us.

The 911 employee who handled Kristine Kirk's call last week is on suspension while an investigation in that call is under way.

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