Friday, October 17, 2008

Widow suing 911 over husband's murder

On October 13, 2006, Raymond S. Brown II of Prince George County, Maryland was awakened the middle of the night by the sound of a car alarm and saw someone hauling away his car on a flatbed truck. He called 911 to report the theft. The dispatcher questioned him about whether the car was being repossessed and told Brown he needed to verify that with the tow truck driver.

Brown, a record producer known as Scottie Beats, got into a second car to find out. He was shot to death as he approached the truck, which had stopped. The flatbed had been stolen and was being used by car thieves.

Brown’s widow filed a $5 million lawsuit against Vernon Herron, director of the County Office of Homeland Security, which oversees the 911 call center, for putting her husband in harm’s way.

Danielle Brown’s attorney, Gregory Lattimer, said it was the call center’s practice to screen car theft calls associated with tow trucks coming from predominantly black communities to determine the probability of a car being repossessed. “Instead of responding to a car theft call, they got into a query about whether the man had paid his car loan?” Lattimer said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What is going on with the world?’ This is something that could have been easily prevented.”

Following Brown’s death, Herron’s office investigated the response and said in a news release that “the call was not handled properly.” As a result of the investigation, two 911 call takers were suspended for four days without pay and one received a written reprimand. County officials also approved a change to the existing law requiring tow truck operators to contact police prior to repossessing a vehicle.

Beyond the civil suit, police have made two arrests in Brown’s death. Neiman Marcus Edmonds was charged in April 2007 with first-degree murder, robbery and carjacking. He pleaded guilty to felony robbery and is awaiting sentencing.

On Jan. 30, police arrested Jamaal Garvin Alexis, believed to be the trigger man. Prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder, armed carjacking and other charges, and are seeking a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Alexis’ court date was postponed after a key witness for the prosecution was gunned down. (info from Maryland Daily Record)

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