Police: Lack of dispatch communication resulted in death
Denver police officials blame their delayed response to a woman who was killed 12 minutes into a 911 call on a dispatcher who failed to relay information to officers
By Sadie Gurman
DENVER — Denver police officials blame their delayed response to a woman who was killed 12 minutes into a 911 call on a dispatcher who failed to relay information to officers about the gravity of the situation.
An internal review released Friday says officers' response to the woman's home was reasonable and appropriate, given the limited information the dispatcher gave them. The dispatcher had information from the call-taker that should have been given to the responding officers about the possibility of escalating violence, police Cmdr. Matt Murray said.
Unspecified discipline is pending against the dispatcher, police said.
Kristine Kirk, 44, pleaded in the 911 call for authorities to hurry and send officers April 14 because her husband had asked her to get a gun and shoot him. She said Richard Kirk, 47, was hallucinating and talking about the end of the world after eating marijuana-infused candy and taking pain pills, according to police reports.
As the call continued, she frantically said her husband was getting a gun from a safe. Within a few seconds, the call-taker could hear her screaming. There was a single gunshot before the line went quiet.
Responding officers were unaware of those critical details before they arrived, police said Friday. The 911 call-taker entered notes about them into a computer, but the dispatcher, who passes the information to officers, never aired the details over the radio. She gave them initial information about the call but failed to update them for 13 minutes about the rising threat of violence.
An officer only realized the seriousness of the call and summoned backup after looking at the call-taker's notes on a computer in his squad car, but by then, Kristine Kirk was no longer speaking.
Kristine Kirk had clearly indicated that her life was in "imminent danger," which under new policies enacted since the shooting would have allowed officers to respond with lights and sirens, Murray said.
"Officers were not given verbal information while they were responding to the scene," he said. "With the policy changes, there would have been a different response."
The new policy, created partly in a response to the killing, also calls for dispatchers to air information over the radio so officers don't have to look at their computers while driving, among other changes.
But it's impossible to say whether the changes would have saved Kristine Kirk's life, Murray said.
"How many minutes it would have shaved off, we don't know," he said.
The department continues to investigate whether the dispatcher's work load and call volume played a role in the delay.
Richard Kirk has been charged with first-degree murder. A public defender representing him did not return calls for comment.
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