Monday, June 30, 2008

911 hoax by student causes huge police response

A 911 call that warned of four gunmen at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, Florida in February led to a campus lockdown and a massive police response. But it turned out to be a hoax by a ninth-grader who said he was mad at a teacher. The 14-year-old boy, who confessed to making the call from a cellphone at the school, was charged with a felony.

Dozens of police officers responded after the single emergency call citing the gunmen. More than 2,000 students huddled in classrooms with the lights out and doors locked. Worried relatives waited beyond the school gates.

After a search of every room on the campus came up clean, the lockdown was lifted and regular school functions resumed.

With the help of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, police tracked the 911 call to the student's cellphone and arrested him at the school.

At Delray Beach police headquarters, authorities said the teenager admitted placing the call and was charged with a felony of false reports concerning planting a bomb, explosive or weapon of mass destruction in a state-owned property. The boy also was charged with making false reports of commissions of crimes, a misdemeanor. "He certainly did not take this seriously," police spokesman Jeff Messer said. "He thought it was funny."

Police were going to bill the student's family for the cost of their response. (info from The South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Car searched for after dubious 911 call

Investigators in Sarasota County, Florida were still looking Wednesday for a gray Cadillac linked to a bizarre 911 call Tuesday evening. They searched throughout the county for a woman who said she was kidnapped, blindfolded and held in a car near the interstate highway.

Neither the car nor the woman was found. Authorities continued to look even though the veracity of the phone call was in doubt.

In the aftermath of Denise Lee's death, when Charlotte County 911 operators were criticized for not reacting quickly to her disappearance, Sheriff's Office personnel said they are taking Tuesday's call seriously.

On an audio tape, the woman sounds confused, and her words are slurred. The woman made two phone calls, beginning about 5pm.

In the first call, she says two men were harassing her near a Popeye's restaurant. Later, she says a man named "Dave Stan" held her hostage in a Cadillac.

Police searched near I-75 and several ballfields because the woman told a dispatcher that she saw children playing baseball. (info from

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Man called 911 to beat traffic ticket

A South Carolina man attempted to elude traffic citations by first giving a false name and again by reporting a fictitious vehicle wreck.

On June 16, officers of the Watauga County Sheriff's Office followed a Mazda traveling 85 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Once the car was stopped, the driver provided a false name. The driver then called 911 and is alleged to have reported a fictitious vehicle collision with injury. A statement from the Sheriff's Office alleges the driver called about the collision hoping that the officer would have to leave the scene to respond.

The driver, Kenneth Hayes, was charged with driving while license revoked, providing fictitious information to an officer, and misuse of emergency communication. He was scheduled to appear in court in lieu of a secured $1,500 bond. (info from The Watauga Democrat)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Store manager says 911 call ignored during brawl

An Arco convenience store manager in Reno, Nevada says he's disappointment with the lack of emergency response to a brawl that made a mess of his store just before 2am Tuesday. Tape from a security camera shows six people fighting and knocking over shelves.

The surveillance video also shows the store clerk on the phone. The manager says this is when the clerk called 911. The manager says no one answered the clerk's call.

The director of Reno emergency communications Patricia Williams, says there was "sufficient staffing" in the emergency call center at the time the clerk called. Williams says she is waiting to hear from the person who processes 911 calls to find out if the 911 call was, in fact, ignored.

The manager says when the clerk did not get a response from 911, he ran outside to flag down a police officer. Three officers came into the store to investigate, but the store manager says police did not make any arrests.

Reno police commander Jon Catalano says officers did respond and did take a crime report. He says police could not arrest the men in the fight, because it ended before they arrived on the scene. Catalano says the officers instructed the store manager to file a formal complaint to press charges. The store manager says he plans to pursue the complaint. (info from KRNV)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Telephone cable theft knocks out 911 service

About 400 residents of Surrey, in western Canada just north of Washington state, went without 911 service for 24 hours in early June after cable thieves climbed poles and cut down about 1200 feet of telephone cable. Cable theft has become a growing international problem over the past few years as copper prices have more than doubled.

The theft knocked out telephone and internet service in the neighborhood. "About 400 customers lost 911 access for about 24 hours," Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said, "putting our customers lives at risk."

The total length of cable they brought down linked three poles. Despite causing about $50,000 damage, the thieves only took about 50 feet of the heavy toonie-thick cable with them. The rest was dumped nearby.

"Maybe they were spooked or scared off the scene," Hall speculated, adding he hopes someone might have seen them and will contact police. The theft was quite brazen, occurring "right on the highway."

Fortunately,the police and fire department did not hear of anyone needing 911 service in that neighborhood at the time. In such circumstances, residents can use their cellphones to contact 911, but they don't provide location information like land lines do. (info from Surrey Now)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lonely/horny/broke man
made hundreds of calls to 911.

Cheveon Alonzo Ford, 21, was arrested last July and charged with making obscene and harassing telephone calls. He dialed 911 to chat with dispatchers nearly 300 times in a month. He told authorities he began calling 911 because "I have no minutes on my phone and 911 is a free call."

Ford was held on a $50,000 bond.

Officers used GPS coordinates from Ford's cellphone to track his location to the west Pensacola home where he was arrested. "His phone service had been cut off and 911 was the only number he could dial from the phone," said Bob Boschen, communication chief for Escambia County. Boschen said many of Ford's 292 calls were sexual in nature.

"When he would call and a male dispatcher would answer, he would hang up," he said. "Our policy says that if a caller is belligerent in nature we have to get enough information to process the call and then we can disconnect," he said.

Ford never asked dispatchers for help or indicated he was in trouble. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, June 20, 2008

How to get faster response from 911

Last week George Wiley in Westerly, Minnesota went to his back door to turn off the outdoor light and saw that there were people in his shed stealing his lawn tractor and other items.

He called 911 and the dispatcher asked, "are any of the robbers in your house?" and he said "no". Then the dispatcher said that all patrols were busy, and that he should lock himself in the house and an officer would be there as soon as possible. Wiley said, "Okay," hung up, counted to 30, and phoned 911 again.

He said, "Hello, I just called a few seconds ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you don't have to worry about them now because I've shot them all."

Then he hung up. Within five minutes three police cars and an ambulance showed up and the burglars were arrested.

One of the policemen said to Wiley: "I thought you said that you'd shot them!"

George said, "I thought no policemen were available!"

(It's a joke.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

911 refused to send help for school bus beatings

Pittsburgh Police said earlier this month four women boarded a high school bus and beat students. Bus driver Rena Billman said she called 911, but the dispatcher at first refused to send help.

"I was outraged because I didn't have any kind of backup," said Billman. "The dispatcher from 911 said he couldn't send a city cop because I was en route, and I was still moving, which was amazing to me."

Billman remained on the line with the dispatcher as the car followed close behind. When she stopped at another red light, police said the four women got out of the car, opened the emergency door, climbed into the bus and starting beating students.

Billman said she put the bus in park and remained on the phone with 911. She said she said to the dispatcher, "Are you satisfied now? I'm parked."

Billman then went to break up the fight, and the attackers took off. Three girls on the bus were left bloody and bruised.

The director of the 911 Center Bob Full said he's very disappointed with the handling of the call, and he has launched an investigation. Full said police should have been dispatched immediately. (info & photo from WPXI)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wife called 911 to report sheriff for beating her.
Case was investigated by undersheriff.

Should the undersheriff investigate the sheriff? That's what happened on June 2nd in Barton County, Kansas after Alan Harbutz, brother of the sheriff's wife, made a 911 call.

Alan: "My sister Linda Causey has been slugged and struck in the face."

Dispatch: "Where at?"

Alan: "At her home. I suppose you may know who she is? She got struck by Buck Causey."

A few minutes later Linda Causey, the sheriff's wife, also made a 911 call.

Linda: "Hey this is Linda Causey. I think my brother called you.

Dispatch: "Yes he did."

Linda: "God, are they sending somebody out here?

Dispatch: "Linda, Linda, Linda, it's going to be ok."

Linda: "No, it won't be OK."

Dispatch: "Gary's going to stop in. It's just going to be Gary."

It was Gary who investigated. Gary Vaughan, Barton County's undersheriff. The Sheriff's Office says Vaughan saw no evidence of battery and sheriff Causey was not arrested.

The Barton County Attorney contacted the state Attorney General. The Attorney General contacted the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Reporter Adam Marshall of KWCH television said "We wanted to know what's the policy when law enforcement investigates one of its own. We asked the Barton County sheriff's Office, Great Bend Police, and the K.B.I. They say there is no written policy." (info from KWCH)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Robber called 911 to confess

Jason Church said that voices in his head told him to rob a convenience store.

Apparently the voices in his head have a conscience.

Police say that right after he robbed the store, he was on the phone reporting the crime to authorities.

“He said that he had just robbed the Go Convenience store because the voices in his head told him to,” said Springfield police Lt. Scott Leven. “They also told him to turn himself in.”

Church was charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action in connection with the crime. Church approached the ATM machine but left when clerk Doug Austin told him it was out of order. The man allegedly returned a short time later, this time pouring a cup of coffee and bringing it to the register.

“Austin asked the male if he could get him anything else (to) which the male replied, ‘All the money in the register,” the report says. “The male was holding a broken beer bottle in his hand and pointing the broken end at Austin.”

Church allegedly walked behind the counter and, making the clerk open the cash register, took $75. He fled in a maroon Oldsmobile.

“A short time later,” the statement says, Church called 911 from a pay phone. He allegedly told a dispatcher the voices in his head had ordered him to rob the store, and he was arrested a short time later. Police found $65 on the floorboard of Church’s car, which officers believe he lives in. He was held in the Greene County Jail on a $40,000 bond. (info from Springfield News-Leader)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Murdered student's family sues 911 operator

The family of a murdered University of Wisconsin student has filed a federal lawsuit against Dane County and the 911 operator who handled a call from the student's cellphone.

Kevin and Jean Zimmermann claim negligence by the county and 911 operator Rita Gahagan contributed to their daughter's death. Brittany Zimmermann was killed in her apartment April 2. Police said it was a random crime and have not identified a suspect.

The federal lawsuit alleges Gahagan took Zimmermann's 911 call but lost contact with her, then failed to call back as required, and did not send police to investigate.

Zimmermann's 911 call lasted about 90 seconds, the complaint said, enough time for Gahagan to identify the caller's name, phone number and location. Her apartment was a few blocks from a police station.

The complaint also refers to a consulting firm's report advising that the 911 center had "serious deficiencies," including understaffing and inadequate supervision. (info from Greenbay Press-Gazette)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Complaint about 911 response to dog attack

The Arlington, Texas family of an eight-year-old boy attacked by a pit bull said they are shocked and angered by the lack of response after a call to 911.

Tara Spriggs, the aunt of Devontae Kohrs, said she wants other families know what happened to her nephew. Devontae was playing with a friend down the street from his home when a pit bull wriggled under a fence and charged toward the boys.

"I started running and then it started running and bit my leg," Devontae said.

Spriggs said the bite was deep. While Spriggs called 911, she said they weren't much help, and that Animal Control was responsible. "I asked her to get dispatch out here for police because the animal could still get in and out of the fence," she said

However, Spriggs said 911 never sent anyone. "(the dog) could still attack another kid at any time."

Officers are supposed to be sent if a dog attacks and isn't confined. A 911 supervisor is looking into why this didn't happen. The pit bull was quarantined for ten days. (info from Texas Cable News)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

911 supervisor demoted for mishandling call

A Denton, Texas police communications shift supervisor will be demoted and two officers will receive discipline in connection with the mishandling of a 911 call that left a man lying unconscious in the street for 17 minutes before help arrived.

Police Chief Roy Minter said that although the victim’s condition turned out not to be life-threatening, the dispatchers didn’t know that and the situation could have had serious or fatal consequences. “This was a very serious situation that was handled very poorly by several people,” Minter said.

He said he has forwarded his recommendations to the city’s human resources department to suspend a call-taker for one day without pay. He has recommended the employee who was dispatching the calls receive a written reprimand.

The disciplinary action stems from a 911 call in the early morning hours of April 20. Willie Hudspeth was walking when he saw a man lying unconscious on the street. The man was not moving and didn’t appear to be breathing. Hudspeth called 911.

According to the 911 tape, Hudspeth explained the situation to a call-taker and asked for help. He was told someone would come, but he waited a long time. He called 911 again. He was told the call-taker would “get right on it.” According to the tape recording, he asked three times for the woman’s name but she avoided answering him.

Seventeen minutes after the initial call, an officer arrived and used a procedure to rouse the man to consciousness. He was obviously intoxicated, according to a police report. He was checked out by paramedics and taken to jail on a charge of public intoxication.

Hudspeth called to complain, and Minter started an investigation. Hudspeth said he believed the way the call was handled stemmed from the incident’s location in a part of town mostly inhabited by minorities. On Tuesday, Minter said the investigation showed him that the location was not the cause of the problem. It was human error, he said.

The suspension of the dispatcher who took the call was based first on her failure to identify herself when she was repeatedly asked her name, Minter said. Her second error was in the way she coded the call for dispatch, which should have been a medical emergency but was instead coded “welfare concern,” a much lower priority.

“She knew it was more serious,” Minter said. “She admitted during an interview that she told the dispatchers, ‘This call needs to go.’” The employee who dispatched the call had no reason not to act immediately, Minter said. “He had four units in service, and he didn’t send them,” the chief said. That employee should have either questioned the call-taker or realized by looking at the notes passed along to him that the priority needed to be upgraded.

“The lead operator was in the room when the initial call came in,” Minter said. “The dispatcher informed her that Hudspeth was upset and gave some details of the call. As shift supervisor, she should have looked at the call notes and asked questions.”

When she was later asked about giving her name to callers, the shift supervisor stated, “I don’t,” Minter said. That is contrary to the department’s policies and procedures.

“The other thing I looked at is the lead operator was aware of the incident and the response time and the fact that Hudspeth was upset and never advised the manager in charge of the communications section,” Minter said. “The first we knew was when Hudspeth called.”

Additionally, Minter has issued three orders to take effect immediately. First, dispatchers will identify themselves each time they answer a 911 call. Then, lead operators will review each call and make sure it is coded properly for quickest dispatch. And third, every dispatcher will re­ceive additional training on customer service and coding calls, he said.

Hudspeth said he was disappointed in the reaction of paramedics who ar­rived on the scene, however. The police officer had roused the man and they did not have to work on him. “But they stood around for a while and joked and laughed.”

“That’s the behavior my side of town has received for years,” he said. “What Chief Minter has done helps me to change my feelings and thoughts about the police department. He’s going to deal with everybody equally. The fire department is still way behind.” (info from Denton Record-Chronicle)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Women arrested for calling 911 after being stopped by cops

A woman in Bradenton, Florida was arrested after calling 911 during a police traffic stop to request help from sheriff's deputies, but will not be prosecuted.

Bradenton police arrested Jessica Jones on a misdemeanor charge of abusing the 911 system. Jones said she called 911 because she believed policemen were going to hurt her. Police said there was no emergency when Jones dialed 911 during the stop in April.

Police said Jones, who was a passenger in the car, was belligerent and cursing. Jones told a dispatcher she wanted to know why police pulled over the vehicle. The driver of the car ran away during the traffic stop. There were five officers at the scene.

A judge released Jones on her own recognizance, finding that the facts of the case did not support a criminal charge. Jones did not misuse the 911 system when she called asking to obtain public safety assistance, Assistant State Attorney Pamela Buha said in a memo. The 911 call lasted less than 30 seconds. (info from

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Naked drunk called 911 for rescue from porta-john

Emergency dispatchers receive millions of calls, but not many like this. On Sunday, Shannon Hunter of Lebanon, Pennsylvania used his cellphone to call 911 – from inside a port-a-potty. Police say he had been drinking, took off his clothes and somehow immersed himself in the holding tank under the toilet seat.

"I've been on the job for 21 years, and this is the first port-a-potty rescue I've ever had," said deputy fire commissioner Chris Miller. Rescue crews actually had to cut apart the out house to pull him out safely. Emergency personnel needed to treat the situation seriously due to the waste and chemicals inside the port-a-potty.

Authorities say Hunter did not suffer any serious injuries. His reputation is a different story. Police charged him with being drunk in public. He's also facing charges for creating a health code violation. They still have no idea why he was in the port-a-potty with his clothes off. (info from Fox43 TV)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Cops nabbed champion 911 prankster

Salt Lake City Police have caught a 14-year-old girl accused of making more than 1,600 prank 911 calls over the past five months.

"Pretty much the whole office got calls," said dispatcher Angie Renteria, who once received six calls from the girl in one hour. The girl had a disconnected cellphone that worked only for 911 calls. Because the phone was disconnected, the dispatchers could not pinpoint its location, but they could see that the calls were all coming from the same number.

When she called, the girl sometimes appeared to hand the phone over to younger children, set it down, or simply sit quietly without speaking. She called mainly in the afternoon and evening. "I think she listened to us typing and asking questions because she would hang up as soon as we said we were going to send officers," Renteria said. At other times, the girl would "taunt" dispatchers, Lt. Dave Hoffman said, saying she could see officers outside her window.

Though disconnected cellphones do not provide exact coordinates, they do indicate to dispatchers a 150-meter area from where a call originates. When a dispatcher picked up a fake call around 2 a.m. Friday, she kept the girl on the phone. An officer headed to the area, and the two worked together, using background noise to pinpoint the location as the officer knocked on doors. Eventually, he found the house. Police seized two cellphones, and issued a juvenile citation on suspicion of 911 abuse, a misdemeanor. The girl's penalty could include paying the hefty cost of the 1,500 calls officers responded to. (info from The Salt Lake Tribune)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Frustrated mother killed baby and called 911

A woman in Winnipeg, Canada accused of killing one of her triplets was heard sobbing to a 911 operator that she had “slammed” the infant’s head. “I can’t believe I’ve done this,” Michelle Camire cries in the recording of the call, which was played at the 26-year-old woman’s trial in late May.

Camire was heard sobbing to a 911 operator that she had slammed her son's head. “My baby was crying. I was frustrated. I slammed his head down, now he’s dead.”

Camire pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in the October 2004 death of three-month-old Michael Helgason, who suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain injury. During the recorded phone call, the woman tells the operator it happened two hours before she called 911.

A paramedic got on the line and told Camire to lie the baby flat on his back and to check his breathing and start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. “He’s gone,” Camire sobbed. “He’s my first-born.” Her 17-month-old daughter can be heard in the background calling, “Mommy!” “I can’t believe I did this to him,” Camire said over the phone.

“You did a good job,” the paramedic told her. “No, I didn’t, but thank you,” Camire replied.

When Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service first-responders Bradley Mazor and Nicholas Carlson arrived, they testified, they found Camire kneeling next to her son with her hands on his torso.

The baby wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. He couldn’t be revived and was pronounced dead in hospital.

The court also heard from a worker who was hired to help the family. She said Camire was a “good mother.” (info & photo from Winnipeg Free Press)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Campers in trouble from 911 prank call

Two kids making a prank 911 call on a cellphone resulted in sheriff's deputies conducting an extensive search early Wednesday morning, a situation that also highlighted the shortcomings of "unsubscribed" cellphones and the lack of GPS tracking systems in squad cars used by deputies.

The 12- and 13-year-olds were on a school district camping trip at Lake Kegonsa State Park in Wisconsin, said Elise Schaffer, public information officer for the Dane County Sheriff's Office.

A call came in to the 911 center at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, but the caller hung up. Since the call was from an unsubscribed phone, there was no phone number available to the dispatcher to call back.

"It could have been from a 'pay as you go' phone or from a recycled cellphone that can only be used to make 911 calls," Schaffer said. "Since they were on a camping trip, they might have had a cellphone just for emergency use."

The 911 call couldn't be pinpointed so deputies would have been stuck if not for a sergeant who had a GPS program. By using coordinates provided by the 911 center, the sergeant used the GPS computer to narrow the search to within 300 feet of the phone.

"A chaperone on the camping trip found out the two students were misusing the phone and called the 911 center at about the same time the deputies arrived," Schaffer said. The two were cited for making false reports to the 911 system and were released to the chaperone.

Deputies don't have GPS systems on their computers while supervisory personnel, such as sergeants, do. Since the sergeant was able to help in finding the 911 callers, the deputies located the kids.

About seven hours earlier on Tuesday night, the same two pranksters made a 911 call that couldn't be located because there wasn't a GPS-equipped car available. "The deputies were dispatched to the earlier call but were unable to locate the caller or anyone needing assistance," Schaffer said. (Info from The Capital Times, Wisconsin)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Man blames 911 center for wife's death

Richard Boos of Minneapolis said he couldn't reach anyone Saturday when he called 911 when his wife Phyllis said she couldn't breathe. The 67-year-old woman, who was on oxygen and had asthma, diabetes and a bad heart, died. They were married for over 50 years.

"I tried so hard to keep her alive and it didn't do any good," Richard said. "I blame those people because they wouldn't answer."

According to 911 records, his first call came in at 11:02 p.m. When the operator picked up one minute and 28 seconds later, Richard hung up in frustration. When he called again at 11:05 p.m., it took operators 29 seconds to pick up. Again, Richard had given up.

John Dejung, the 911 assistant city coordinator, admits that it took too long to pick up the call from Richard. The goal is to answer calls within 10 seconds or less. "First and foremost, I apologize to the family. I do understand that the patient died in this case," said Dejung. "We're looking into every angle, technological issues, how busy the 911 center was, was human error involved? (We'll) look into all those things."

From the time Richard made the first call, it took firefighters seven minutes and two seconds to get to the scene. Phyllis later died in the emergency room. (info from KSAX TV)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Man called 911 to say he killed his wife

A man in South Carolina called 911 after he shot himself and killed his wife at home in late May. William E. Poag III was in grave condition at Greenville Memorial Hospital.

The motive for the attack isn’t clear. Peggy Poag was pronounced dead at the scene about 30 minutes after the shooting, said Kent Dill, a Greenville County deputy coroner.

Investigators said they were summoned to the home and a man told them: "I shot my wife". When deputies arrived, they found the couple and thought both were dead. They learned later that the man showed signs of life, and he was airlifted to hospital. The police spokesman said Peggy Poag had suffered from Alzheimer’s for a number of years, but investigators do not know if Poag was distressed after seeing his wife deteriorate. (info from Greenvill online)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nothing wacky, but a good story:
911 call saved 911 supervisor's life

911 operators in Knox County, Tennessee take hundreds of emergency calls, but they're usually from outside the 911 center.

A 911 call from within the center saved Alan Bull's life.

Alan Bull is a manager at the 911 center. Friday morning, he was not feeling well. He went to the restroom, where he suffered an often-fatal aortic aneurysm.

A blood vessel burst. He used his cellphone to call 911 co-workers. Within seconds, Bull's officemates and nearby medics got him the help he needed.

Bull endured a three-hour surgery. Friday night, he was in stable condition at a hospital. (info from WBIRTV)