A 911 dispatcher accused of hanging up on a whispering caller during the Buffalo mass shooting has been placed on leave, officials in New York say.
The caller was the assistant manager of the Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo where the shooting took place on May 14, WGRZ reported. An 18-year-old was charged with first-degree murder after he was accused of carrying out the violence that killed 10 people and injured three more, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
“When I whispered on the phone to 911, the dispatcher started yelling at me saying ‘Why are you whispering? You don’t have to whisper,’” Latisha, the manager, told WGRZ about the 911 call she made on May 14.
“I’m trying to tell her like, ‘Ma’am, he’s in the store. He’s shooting. It’s an active shooter. I’m scared for my life.’ And she said something crazy to me and then she hung up in my face. … I had to call my boyfriend to call 911.”
The day after the shooting, “immediate action was taken” against the 911 dispatcher who “is now on administrative leave pending a disciplinary hearing,” a spokesman for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told McClatchy News in a statement. The spokesman did not specify the dispatcher’s name but said the person worked for the county for eight years.
“The employee’s action had no bearing on the dispatching of the call,” the spokesman said. “The first call was dispatched for an immediate police response in approximately 30 seconds.”
An internal investigation into the dispatcher began on May 15, and the individual’s “termination will be sought” at the disciplinary hearing planned for the week of May 30, according to the spokesman.
“I felt that lady left me to die yesterday,” Latisha told The Buffalo News.
Poloncarz said the dispatcher’s alleged actions were “inappropriate” and “unacceptable,” according to WIVB reporter Marlee Tuskes.
The mass shooting is being investigated as “a domestic terrorism incident” and a hate crime attack, according to Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn, McClatchy News previously reported. Payton S. Gendron, who is white, is accused of “targeting innocent people who were shopping for their groceries on a Saturday afternoon,” Flynn said.
Gendron is accused of fatally shooting 10 Black people who were shopping for groceries or working at the supermarket, The Associated Press reported. The shooting was streamed to social media as it occurred.
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