Mendelson to 911 Director: “How can you ensure that this type of call-handling will not reoccur?”

DC Councilman Phil Mendelson has asked the District’s 911 system director for a full explanation of how a 911 operator failed to respond to a call for help from a witness to Angelo Jones’ 2010 shooting death in Clay Terrace.

The call, placed in the early morning hours of October 2, 2010, was part of the investigation into Jones’ death. It was made public as part of evidence at trial and first reported by Homicide Watch.

On the 911 recording, the witness and the operator go back and forth trying to determine the address where help is needed for more than five minutes. Then, with the witness still on the phone asking for help, the shots ring out.

During conversation the caller gave the operator a total of six locations or landmarks, all within about a square mile of each other in Northeast DC. All were within a quarter mile of where Jones was found, but officers were not dispatched because the addresses the caller gave could not be verified by the operator’s computer system. The caller tried to impress upon the 911 operator the importance of the call, saying there were two people, one with a gun, one with a knife, and that an altercation was beginning. When he asks the operator again for help, she responds, “Sir, I’m not coming.”

Then shots ring out in the background. Jones, a 31-year-old father of two, was shot six times.

Mendelson, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, first pressed Office of Unified Communications Director Jennifer Greene for answers about the call at a meeting last week. In a letter sent to Greene Thursday, and obtained by Homicide Watch Monday, he asked for specifics about the call taker’s retraining and any disciplinary action that was taken.

“How can you ensure to the Committee and the residents of the District that this type of call-handling will not reoccur?” Mendelson wrote in the letter sent Thursday to Office of Unified Communications, which manages the District’s 911 and 311 call systems.

He also asked why the 911 call wasn’t traced to determine the caller’s location when the operator couldn’t verify the address.

“When a person calls 911 to report an emergency, an efficient response is crucial,” Mendelson wrote. “I request a full explanation of how the OUC will ensure it can locate callers.”

Homicide Watch reporter Stephanie Czekalinski contributed to this report.

This post has been updated since it was published Monday late morning.

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