Thursday, January 31, 2008

911 operator found guilty of neglect

In a first-of-its-kind criminal case, a Detroit jury convicted a 911 operator of ignoring an emergency call from a 5-year-old boy seeking help after his mother collapsed.

A jury found Sharon Nichols guilty of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor, after a five-day trial and three hours of deliberations. She also faced a criminal charge in the same case that a judge dismissed

Sherrill Turner was dead by the time police arrived Feb. 20, 2006. The case marked the first time nationwide that a 911 operator had been charged with a crime in mishandling a phone call, attorneys and a top 911 official said Friday.

"I hope that it makes every 911 operator in the city and across the country think real hard before dismissing a call as a prank," Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lora Weingarden said outside the courtroom. "I'm thrilled with the verdict."

The caller, Robert Turner, now 7, said he also was thrilled. Reached by phone Friday night, he said he would forgive Nichols if she apologized to him. "She was mean to me. She didn't send help," he said. "I would forgive her if she wanted to talk." He said he thinks about his mother every day. "She was the best," Robert said. "I really miss her."

The case stems from an emergency call Robert made after his mother fell unconscious in her Detroit home. Nichols dismissed the call as a prank. Authorities later determined that Sherrill Turner, 46, died of complications from an enlarged heart. The boy called 911 at 5:59 p.m. and told Nichols, "My mom has passed out."

On the 911 audiotape played in court, Nichols is heard threatening the boy, "I'm going to send the police to your house and find out what's going on with you." Asked why she did not request a police car, Nichols testified she believed the call to be a prank and was trying to get Robert to admit it. Robert testified Tuesday that Nichols hung up on him. Nichols testified that the boy hung up on her. (info from Detroit Free Press)

No comments: