Skip to comments.911 dispatcher sued over woman's violent death
Posted on 12/05/2005 8:01:43 AM PST by Millee
Lawyers say it appears to be a first of its kind case in Colorado. A Denver woman is suing a 911 dispatcher for not sending police after two emergency calls for help.Le Thu Nguyen was killed in 2001 after she was kidnapped and murdered by her ex-fiance, Omar Green. A witness and Nguyen's mother called 911 during and just after the kidnapping, but the 911 dispatcher who answered both calls wouldn't send police.
The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act outlines when citizens can sue the government and when they can't. In this case, the city of Aurora is immune from a lawsuit so the city is not named as a defendant.
The rules are different for when citizens can sue government employees individually, so Nguyen's mother has filed a lawsuit against the individual dispatcher who took the calls, Jeanette Price.
Susan DuVall, Nguyen's mother, says she still can't believe that when she called to report that her daughter was being kidnapped, that Price didn't believe her.
"I knew it was serious. I needed to give her the main concern of this call, her life was in danger," DuVall said.
Price didn't send emergency help even though an eyewitness, John Chauvin, who called 911 and talked to Price minutes earlier - while the kidnapping was still in progress.
Here is part of a transcript from Chauvin's 911 call to Price: "This black guy jumps into this Asian lady's car, like she was squealing away from him, and then he parked it in the parking lot still - he's still in the car with her."
Emergency help was never sent. Nguyen's body was found the next day.
The city of Aurora is now defending Price in the lawsuit brought by DuVall on behalf of Nguyen's two surviving children. The city says Price was reprimanded for her handling of the calls, but in court papers, the city has argued that there is "no evidence" that Price's actions were "anything more than simple negligence."
9News legal analyst Scott Robinson says that wording is key, since proving negligence isn't enough to win a case against a government employee.
"It isn't enough to show that the 911 operator didn't do her job very well," Robinson said. "They have to show that she was willful and wanton, which essentially means that she completely disregarded the rights of a human being and ignored the emergency calls."
Susan DuVall's attorneys, Gregory Gold of Greenwood Village and Jeffrey Hill of Colorado Springs, argue that this case rises to that higher level. They cite Price's tone of voice and her repeated attempts to end the 911 calls after being told of the urgency of the situation.
"How much more of an emergency do you want before you send the police?" Gold asks.
Because of statutory caps - if DuVall makes it to court and wins - then most experts say she could hope to collect is $150,000 dollars per child.
If that happens, the unresolved question becomes this: Would Price have to pay it herself - or would the city pay it for her. Robinson says while the city is legally obligated to defend Price, the city is not obligated to pay a judgment if Price's conduct is found to be "willful and wanton".
Because the case is still pending, the city of Aurora said Jeanette Price would not be able to comment.
Omar Green, Nguyen's ex-fiance, was convicted of her murder.
The dispatcher wasn't fired?
And sad that the lady wasn't armed and prepared to defend herself, but instead thought she could rely on police. She can't have been unaware that her "ex-fiance" was a nutcase.
This makes me so angry.
Why wouldn't you send someone?
Not sure what the mother intends on accomplishing
through the lawsuit though. I hope the city has
already fired her.
Negligence leading to death. I would go for criminal charges here, but then again, this is the police we're talking about. Lords are held to a different standard than we peasants.
I would bet that it will be dismissed because of the prior rulings that the police (i.e. the government) has no obligation to protect the individual.
She was reprimanded. Unbelievable!
It is? Here Dispatch is not police, but also fire and rescue.
Of course, any stick will do to beat a dog with, and folks who like to stomp on the police will do so with or without facts. But still I'd like some clarification in this particular case.
Dispatcher: Aurora 911 is this an emergency?
Chauvin: I believe it is...
Dispatcher: What's going on?
Chauvin: This black guy jumps into this Asian lady's car, like she was squealing away from him. And then he parked it in the parking lot still (sic). He's still in the car with her.
The operator wasn't convinced it was an emergency. After getting some details, the dispatcher asks Chauvin the following questions:
Dispatcher: Are they yelling and screaming at each other? Are they talking? Are they fighting?
Chauvin: I, I think he's just telling her what to do.
Dispatcher: OK, so they're taking off right now?
Dispatcher: Which way are they leaving?
Chauvin: They are heading out on to Hampden it looks like.
Dispatcher: OK, if they come back in the lot give us a call and let us know, OK?
That was less than 50 seconds into the call. Chauvin was baffled that the operator was trying to end the call.
"I still can't believe that she didn't believe me that it was an emergency," Chauvin said after listening to the recording for the first time in years.
Realizing the 911 dispatcher was trying to end the call, Chauvin tried to press on - tried to convince her to send police.
Here are more outtakes from his call:
Chauvin: OK, would you like the car description?
Dispatcher: Well, they're - they're really not, I mean they're not fighting, they're not yelling, they're, they're nothing.
Chauvin: He jumped through her window while she was squealing away.
Dispatcher: OK, well you think she should be fighting or something. I mean, I can have the officers check the area, but that's about - I mean she would be fighting or screaming or something if she needed help.
Later the dispatcher says this:
Dispatcher: . they may have just been playing around.
Chauvin starts to say he doesn't think so, at which point the dispatcher appears to cut him off and ends the call by telling him that she'll have someone check the area.
But according to DuVall and her attorneys, crucial minutes passed and police didn't come. Meanwhile, the car - with the man and woman inside - drove off.
A woman from the salon saw Nguyen drive off - and saw the man inside the car. She believed the man was Nguyen's ex-fiance, Omar Green.
When police didn't respond to Chauvin's emergency call - the worried friend called Le Thu's mother, Susan DuVall.
DuVall again called 911. The same 911 dispatcher, Jeanette Price, answered the call.
Here are some outtakes from DuVall's call:
DuVall: I'm calling to report that my daughter has been car-jacked by her ex-fiance in the car.
DuVall went on to tell the dispatcher about previous abuse and a restraining order. The dispatcher still didn't sound convinced it was an emergency.
Dispatcher: I talked to people there. She was not fighting. She was not screaming. She did not ask for help, nothing.
DuVall: Right, we don't know whether he has a weapon or what.
Dispatcher: Is he known to carry a weapon?
DuVall: I don't know him as to, no, I don't. I just know, you know, threatening things that he's trying to do to her.
Dispatcher: I mean, (because) a lot of times they end up making back up together - they end up making up.
DuVall: Right, well that's not this case...
Dispatcher: OK, well we don't know because we haven't talked to her
Cases like this are the most compelling reasons why most government-run emergency services shouldn't even exist. If the State is not responsible for the protection of its own citizens, then the State has no business implementing a 911 system in the first place.
You can hear the two 911 calls here:
Since a lawsuit has been filed, she has employment at least as long as the case is pending, in order to make her keep her mouth shut.
Some places they are police, I don't know about this one in particular. She's government, anyway. Government agents, generally, are held to a different standard than us peasants.
Reminds me of the scene in "Foul Play" where Goldie Hawn says to the 911 operator, "There's a man here trying to kill me............OK, I'll hold."
I listened to both calls as well. It was instructive. The 911 operator wasn't that interested. The first caller, a man, made a couple of mistakes.
First, he didn't insist from the beginning that it was an emergency.
Second, on being asked whether the woman was screaming or whatever, he stayed calm and said that she wasn't.
The mother, in the second call, was also too calm and simply didn't get through to this bored 911 operator.
Here's a tip, if you ever have to call 911 in a case like this:
Say, "I think I saw a gun. It was black."
Do not be calm in your call. Do not take no for an answer from the 911 operator.
Answer question in the affirmative, as in "Was she screaming?" "Yes, she was screaming her head off....hurry! The man looked like he was going to kill her!"
Is that sick or what?
Makes me just want to scream
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