Dispatchers handled two 911 calls “appropriately per policies” when it took Kent police 52 minutes to respond to a June 14 domestic violence case at a local motel when a man reportedly beat his girlfriend to death, according to an internal investigation by Valley Communications Center (Valley Comm).
Kent Police Cmdr. Rob Scholl contacted Valley Comm executive director Lora Ueland after the killing with a concern over “missing” information in an incident that may have changed the Kent Police Department’s response, according to an inquiry synopsis obtained by the Kent Reporter through a public disclosure request.
The Valley Comm internal investigation, including interviews with the dispatcher by a supervisor, determined the inquiry to be “unfounded” and that more information should have been shared.
“Employee operated within reasonable expectations for processing this type of call. This inquiry is unfounded,” according to documents.
At about 10:56 a.m. June 14, a member of hotel security at the Ramada Inn, 22318 84th Ave. S., called 911 and said there was a “very violent” 911 situation and “we have someone getting murdered in 214!” according to second-degree murder charging papers filed against Phillip Jonathan Lopez, 36, of Auburn, in the killing of Amber Keith, 33, of Auburn.
Kent police officers were dispatched, but had to divert for another call involving a subject with a weapon, according to probable cause documents.
At 11:26 a.m., the security member called 911 regarding the time delay and expressed imminent concern for the woman’s safety. He said the man “was really beating her really bad.”
At 11:43 a.m., Lopez called 911 to report his girlfriend, Keith, had overdosed on opiates and was not conscious and not breathing. He said she had been unconscious for about 5 minutes prior to his call.
At around 11:48 a.m., while Lopez was still on the phone with 911, the 911 call receiver instructed him to open the hotel door for King County medics to enter, and he complied.
Two Kent police officers arrived moments later, according to court documents, 52 minutes after the initial 911 call.
Medics found Keith lying supine on the floor with blood coming from her nose and mouth, and she did not have a pulse. Lopez was the only other person in the room. Medics attempted live-saving measures, but pronounced Keith dead at 12:07 p.m.
“The call receiver obtained the necessary information and entered a call for service for Kent PD,” said Angee Bunk, Valley Comm operations manager, in an Aug. 30 email to the Kent Reporter. “The dispatcher informed the sergeant of the pending active physical domestic call as there were no available officers to dispatch.”
When asked if the calls and information released by the dispatchers were handled properly, Bunk replied, “Yes, they were.”
Bunk said she agreed with the findings that whether more information should have been included was “unfounded.”
“This call was handled appropriately per policies,” Bunk said. “Nevertheless, the tragic outcome of this event has caused us to examine our policies and consider possible adjustments. We always take the opportunity to learn how we can improve and do things better.”
Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said the department contacted Valley Comm to see how dispatchers handled the 911 calls from the Ramada Inn on that day.
“We reached out to gather information regarding how the information came into the 911 call receiver and how it was later dispatched to the officers,” Padilla said in an Aug. 18 email to the Kent Reporter.
The chief said officers were on other calls when the call about the Ramada Inn came in.
“I can confirm that officers were assigned to several 911 calls, including a dangerous emergency call that tied up several officers at one location,” Padilla said when asked about an internal investigation by his department. “There were also several additional calls for service holding.”
Padilla was then asked about any changes being made to improve response times to similar calls.
“We have good policies and procedures in place that are designed to prompt responses to calls based on priority level,” Padilla said. “Both VCC (Valley Comm Center) and KPD are accredited organizations adhere to the highest industry standards in this regard.”
Padilla added that a shortage of officers doesn’t help when responding to calls. He said the department needs as many as 190 officers for a city of more than 130,000 people and the current cap is 160 officers.
“The senseless death that resulted from the violent actions of the suspect is a horrible tragedy and our condolences are with the family,” Padilla said. “Our officers take every opportunity to intervene and protect life whenever they can. The Kent Police Department, like other departments in the region, is dealing with a shortage in resources, and more and more, the demand for police services is exceeding the number of available officers.”
Civil lawsuit expected
Padilla and Bunk each said they were limited in what they could say about the incident because of a potential civil lawsuit against both agencies by the family of Keith.
“We have been contacted by an attorney for the deceased’s family in this matter,” Padilla said. “There is clear indication that they intend to take civil action against the city.”
Bunk had a similar message.
“I hope you continue to understand we are expecting a lawsuit and are limiting how much we comment at this time,” Bunk said.
Here is the transcript of the second 911 call at 11:26 a.m. on June 14 from the Ramada Inn to Valley Comm:
CR: Non emergency
RP: Yeah, this is Gene at the Ramada again, I called about 20 minutes ago about the domestic violence.
CR: What was the address that you gave?
RP: 84th Ave in Kent
CR: Lemme see here… Okay, what’s going on now?
RP: She’s now panting against the door breathing very heavily. Their doors are locked up.
CR: Okay, I’ll let them know that you called about the time delay as well and give them the update.
RP: All right, thank you. … Well, there’s nothing that we can do, they have us locked out.
CR: Do you know what he looks like?
RP: I have no idea. It was really bad. I’ve been doing this a long time and never heard anything like that. He was really beating her pretty bad. She’s against the door panting.
CR: Okay, all right I’m gonna go ahead and update them, thank you so much.
RP: All right, thank you.
Duration 57 seconds.