Three Huber Heights 911 dispatchers are under internal investigation after a three-hour delay before police responded to an elderly man with dementia, the Dayton Daily News found in a review of city documents.
The three communications officers are each being investigated for “possible violations of city or police division rules, regulations, policies, directives or orders,” according to documents the newspaper obtained under Ohio’s public records law. Police administration said the investigation remains open.
“The delay in the dispatching of an officer was recognized and a full internal investigation will be conducted to determine if there were any policy and/or procedure violations,” Chief Mark Lightner wrote in an email to City Manager Rob Schommer.
In an email to city council, Schommer said the incident “does not reflect our standard operations” and the city “remains committed to providing the best service possible to keep the community safe.”
“I appreciate your support, and I assure everyone this incident is a mistake in performance and will be examined to determine what actions need to be taken,” Schommer wrote in the email.
‘Higher priority call’
Last week, truck driver Mark Higgins was delivering fuel to the Marathon service station on Old Troy Pike when an older man who appeared confused approached him and repeatedly asked where they were.
According to records obtained by the newspaper, Higgins’ initial phone call was received at 8:37 a.m. June 27. At 10:53 a.m., Higgins made his last of five 911 calls and told dispatch he “waited there for over two hours and not one cop showed up, so if he gets hurt or something else, it’s on you guys.”
The dispatcher replied officers were “on a higher priority call, and there’s nothing I can do about a higher priority call.” The newspaper used Ohio’s public records laws to obtain the incident report related to the priority call.
The report shows police were on a “found property” call involving a man sitting in a car off Rip Rap Road near Taylorsville Road. The man reportedly told police he was “just hanging out down by the river and slipped in,” adding he was “waiting for his brother to get back.” Police then handcuffed the man for “investigative purposes” before they found a cashier box on the river bank. Though he was not under arrest, police read the man his Miranda rights, at which time he accused Huber police of shooting his brother.
Police searched the vehicle and found, among other items, crow bars, electrical tape, a saw and five 9 mm firearm cartridges. The car’s owner then arrived on scene. She refused to press charges, and the man was apparently released at the scene.
Huber Heights police redacted the man’s name and other information related to the incident. The newspaper is appealing the agency’s decision to withhold the information.
Details remain unclear
How and where police eventually located the elderly man with dementia remains unclear.
The police chief’s email to the city manager states an officer arrived at the gas station — after the truck driver said he had left — “and was unable to locate the male in question.”
Then, at 11:16 a.m., another officer reported he identified the male and “transported him to his residence” on Gateview Court, where the officer requested a medic. A family member then took the man to Soin Medical Center.
Police entered the man into the department’s Huber Heights Endangered Life Saving Program, or H.E.L.P. The program is designed to help individuals at risk of wandering or needing assistance in their homes.
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