People who dial 911 in the hope of police assistance often learn, to their chagrin, that they’ve made a tragic mistake. If they confront immediate danger, the police won’t arrive in time to help, and they have no enforceable duty to provide assistance in any case. If the situation faced by the caller isn’t life-threatening, it will soon become one, thanks to the arrival of armed strangers clothed in the supposed authority to kill. This is what happened in the case of Kenneth Chamberlain, the 68-year-old retired Marine from White Plains, New York who was murdered by police in his home after his medical alert system issued a false alarm.
The Denver Police Department, which consistently finds a way to make life miserable for the population is supposedly serves, has devised a new method of turning a 911 call into a death sentence: Using the 911 dispatcher as a victim-wrangler for a homicidal maniac.
On April 1, Jimma Reat was shot and killed in Denver near the city’s boundary with a suburb called Wheat Ridge. Shortly before the shooting, Reat’s cousin, Ran Pal, had called 911 to report that the occupants of another vehicle, a red Jeep SUV, had thrown bottles at their car and threatened them; one of them was brandishing a gun.
By the time the call was made, Reat and the others had left Denver’s municipal boundaries. The dispatcher instructed them to return to the scene in order to receive police “assistance.”
“The operator told them to return to Denver, find a safe spot to park and wait for police,” reports the Denver Post. Understandably, this didn’t make any sense to the person who had made the 911 call.
“He told the dispatcher that it isn’t safe there,” recalled Gatwec Dengpathot, who was with Reat’s group. “We don’t want to go there, that is where the problem happened, they were threatening us with a gun.” The dispatcher adamantly insisted that unless the group complied, they wouldn’t receive “assistance.”
After a brief argument, the group did as they were told – and Reat, a 24-year-old Sudanese refugee, was shot to death.
Describing himself as “deeply saddened” by the incident, Carl Simpson, executive director of Denver 911, insisted that the dispatcher “didn’t follow procedures.” Specifically, he followed “lower-level” procedures appropriate to a traffic accident, rather than those suitable to a “higher-level” incident. The police found the stolen Jeep the next day, but have yet to identify the perpetrators.
Reat and his friends had escaped from danger; the “help” provided by the Denver PD consisted of forcing them to return to it. If they hadn’t called the police, or had refused to comply with their demands, Reat would most likely be alive today. This is a new and somewhat inventive riff on a familiar tune: Dial 911 and die.2:27 pm on April 6, 2012