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OOPS, wrong house, sorry

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Devon, Oct 14, 2005.

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  1. Devon

    Devon Member

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    The wife and I talked about what would happen if they broke in our house. Kinda gives you a sick feeling in your gut, nobody wins. Hope they catch the gal that made this call.


    http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/oct/14/police_911_call_break_wrong_house/?city_local





    Police on 911 call break in wrong house
    Caller actually dialed from Oklahoma; 80-year-old says officers were rash

    By Eric Weslander (Contact)

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    advertisement

    It was 3 a.m. when 80-year-old Bernice Kennedy heard the Lawrence Police officers break through her front door.

    “It’s a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack,” said Kennedy, who got out of bed in her nightgown and found three officers searching through the home where she lives with her 82-year-old husband, Bernard.

    It was all a big mistake.

    The officers went to the Kennedy’s home in the 2500 block of Alister Drive early Monday after emergency dispatchers incorrectly told them there was a suicidal woman in the home. The intrusion happened because of a mix of human error and good intentions, officials said later — but the Kennedys said they weren’t satisfied with the answers they’ve heard so far.

    “It needs to be corrected somehow,” Bernice Kennedy said. “I hate to think that somebody else would go through this.”

    Here’s what happened:

    Early Monday morning, dispatchers at the county’s emergency-communications center, 111 E. 11th St., got a call from a distraught woman who asked for information about a suicide-crisis line. The dispatcher kept the woman on the line and began talking with her about her situation.


    Photo by Richard Gwin

    Bernice and Bernard Kennedy, of Alister Drive, look though their new front door Thursday. The old door was damaged early Monday after Lawrence Police officers forced their way into the Kennedy home about 3 a.m. The officers were responding to a 911 suicide call and entered the wrong dwelling. The right dwelling was actually somewhere in Oklahoma. The Kennedys say the officers did not adequately investigate before barging in, but officials say it was an honest mistake.
    The call didn’t come in on the 911 line, so the dispatchers’ computer display didn’t show the number or address from where the woman was calling, said Selma Southard, assistant director of emergency communication.

    Instead, the call came in on a nonemergency line and rolled to a four-digit extension within the dispatch center. As the woman described her suicidal intentions, another dispatcher decided it would be a good idea to trace the line to find the origin of the call, Southard said.

    But instead of asking the phone company to trace the line — which would have revealed the call was coming from Oklahoma — the dispatcher called directory assistance and asked for a “reverse lookup,” which matches a phone number with an address, Southard said.

    By mistake, the dispatcher looked up the Kennedys’ number, which has the same last four digits as the dispatch-center’s extension.

    About the time officers arrived at the home, Southard said, the woman in Oklahoma who called for help told dispatchers she’d taken a drug that would kill her in five minutes and that she was sitting in an idling car in her garage.

    Bernice Kennedy said officers should have done more investigating before breaking down her door. But Sgt. Dan Ward, a police spokesman, said the officers acted properly in an emergency, given the information they had.

    “We forced entry to try to save somebody, but we weren’t at the right place,” Ward said. “We did everything that we thought we needed to do.”

    Ward said the officers knocked before forcing their way inside. But Bernice Kennedy said her hearing is fine, and she insists she didn’t hear a sound until her door was broken.

    Southard said that after realizing the mistake, the phone company traced the phone call to Oklahoma. She said authorities there are trying to find the woman, and she and Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said they’ve been told the woman has been placing similar calls to other states.


    6News video: Lawrence Police break down door by mistake (10-13-05)
    Douglas County information on 911 calls
    Link to FCC discussion on accidental 911 calls
    “What we found out subsequently is that this is a person in Oklahoma who has done this to numerous law-enforcement agencies,” Weinaug said.

    The Kennedys said their door was replaced earlier this week and the county has agreed to pay the bill. As of Thursday, the Kennedys didn’t know how much it would cost because they hadn’t received a bill.

    Southard said that after the mistake, she reviewed procedures with dispatchers and did extra training to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again. She said she also apologized to one of the Kennedys’ sons.

    In Southard’s view, it was a freak accident.

    “It’s kind of one of those things that you wouldn’t think would happen that just happened,” she said. “It’s three dispatchers working. It’s busy, and it happened. We wish it hadn’t.”
     
  2. 50 Freak

    50 Freak Member

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    It happens, glad no one got hurt.

    But more glad the LE's didn't break into some of our houses.

    If I'm woken up at 3 am by a bunch of guys in black assault gear porting machine guns and shining their surefires into my eyes, I'm likely to pick up my bedside AR and start firing at the "home invaders". Definitly a no win situation for both sides.
     
  3. Deavis

    Deavis Member

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    Somehow I doubt the officers who showed up with the intention of stopping a suicide were decked out in full mall ninja apparel ready to lay waste to the scene like a John Wu movie. I could be wrong, but I somehow doubt they had time to mobilize the SWAT team.

    I'm not sure I see the logic in saving someone who wants to commit suicide but I guess it really was a call for help in this case :) Bad pun, I know.. ;)
     
  4. carebear

    carebear Member

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    Why wouldn't they?

    They're responding to a suicide. By definition they are confronting a person who has expressed an intent, willingness and ability to take a human life.

    (I was gonna put a smiley, but I'm not sure how I feel about the truth of that statement)
     
  5. pax

    pax Member

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    Obviously a mistake, which could have been tragic but was not.

    Sounds like the county has its stuff together: they've figured out exactly how the error happened, they've apologized to the homeowner and agreed to pay for damages, and they aren't in full CYA mode.

    Glad there's a happy ending.

    pax
     
  6. Devon

    Devon Member

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    It certainly could have had a very different turnout. Kudos to the city police and the county for making things right with the folks. I wonder how they are sleeping after all this. If they catch the gal that caused all of this, she should be held liable for damages.
     
  7. Lupinus

    Lupinus Member

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    The police acted accordingly so it isn't their fault, it sounds liek the dispatchers screw up.

    Though is it just me or did they not say of the real caller actually died or not? Or did I miss it?
     
  8. Devon

    Devon Member

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    Lupinus, the real caller was calling from somewhere in Oklahoma. She allegedly has been making these calls to police departments in several states on the non-emergency lines to avoid being call-traced.
     
  9. DontBurnMyFlag

    DontBurnMyFlag Member

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    what happens if they break into your house, its dark you cant see and they dont identify themselves as police right away because they cant see anyone to say police too...?

    say you open fire, kill em all only later to find out they were cops. Whos in the wrong here?

    they broke down the wrong door, didnt identify themselves and it was a low light situation.

    I still gaurentee you will be in lockup for a while, if not forever.
     
  10. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    I love how the newspaper posts a google map to these people's house :rolleyes:

    Now every thug that can read in the area knows exactly where to find the helpless old people with a broken front door!
     
  11. svtruth

    svtruth Member

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    Mistakes

    Does anyone else have a problem with the PO saying we were acting on the information we had? Don't they feel any duty to make sure they are acting on good info?
     
  12. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    I agree that they should make sure they are acting on good info ... however had they sat on their hands and waited for proper confirmation of the address, they could just as well have shown up after the chick offed herself and then people would be whining about how the cops didn't do their job (ala FEMA).

    From the cops position its a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't sort of thing (although I would prefer they "don't")
     
  13. rmgill

    rmgill Member

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    The cops, they broke in the wrong house. If I go into the wrong house and get shot by the owner because my behavior makes them think I'm a threat, its my fault. Same thing for cops. They're not super citizens. They just do different things for their jobs.

    Though it depends on the state. I've mentioned the instance before, but we had a citizen shoot a plain clothes cop whom he thought was robbing their store. (stood in the door, no badge, displayed a firearm, yelled for everyone to get on the floor). The citizen was not charged.

    The litmus test is, do you fear for your life or someone else's? Can you convince (12) other people such was the case? If yes, then it was probably a justifiable shoot. Cop or not.

    Because we know, home invaders never flash fake/stolen badges as part of their drill to get the victims to accede to their demands.
     
  14. Deavis

    Deavis Member

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    Since there is no legal responsibility for the cops to protect any individual citizen, they couldn't get in trouble for taking it slowly. Of course, it is natural to want ot help someone in an emergency, so you can understand their desire to get in there. In their case, since they have the option of not helping, they could wait it out I guess but if it was a loved one, would you really wnat them to wait? Then again, if you had a close family you could argue that this sort of thing would never happen.
     
  15. Alex45ACP

    Alex45ACP Member

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    Why are police resources being wasted on things like this?

    If someone wants to kill themselves, let them. They're perfectly within their rights to do so. The police can focus on real (non consentual) crimes instead.
     
  16. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    Legal responsibility and "court of public opinion" are two different things ... bad PR can damage a cop's career as much as an indictment.

    Cops are going to err on the side that covers their behinds (although they probably didn't consider that they'd be facing down a homeowner's gun).

    And to be fair, these cops thought they where going to save a life ... so I could see where they'd put aside any concerns over "rights" in that circumstance.
     
  17. MikeIsaj

    MikeIsaj Member

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    Maybe in the Peoples republic of N.J., but in the USA you would not be in lockup. Police knock on the door and shout "POLICE" If they make entry in a situation like this, they will move through the house shouting "POLICE". If you shoot them in this situation, you will rightfully go to prison for being a dumba**. If they do not continually announce their presence and ID themselves, they are probably not cops and it is reasonable to think they aren't.

    All those who say "let 'em die", you have no idea what you are talking about. Most suicides are the result of something other than a true, well thought out, rational will to die. It is no different than helping someone with a physical injury. If a person in an auto accident with a head injury wants to walk out on the highway, would you let them? Know what you are talking about before you say stupid things.

    (Rant off)
     
  18. Hawkmoon

    Hawkmoon Member

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    Add me to the list of people who don't understand why suicide is illegal. If someone wants to end it ... let 'em.

    Some years ago I was talking about suicides with a friend who was a psychotherapist. His view was that many, perhaps most, attempted suicides are not cries for help, just cries for attention and relief from responsibility. His approach when someone was sitting in his office, whining about maybe they should just end it all, was "Fine, I'll buy the gun if you promise to use it."

    That usually shut them up. Sometimes it even got them back to the subject.
     
  19. beerslurpy

    beerslurpy member

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    I think the police have better things to do than save people from darwin. If someone wants to end themselves, who cares? Just sent a patrol car by a week later to feed the cats and collect the body. If they didnt go through with the suicide, arrest them for filing a false police report.

    The police shouldnt be kicking in people's doors to "prevent suicide." Its a dumb idea for the same reason no-knock warrants and "undercover cops waving guns around" is a bad idea.
     
  20. Old Dog

    Old Dog Member

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    So, Beerslurpy, if it's your mentally-ill family member involved, you'd rather they just kill themself rather than end up getting treatment and going on to live a normal life?
     
  21. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    I think the crux of the matter is kicking down doors. I have a hunch an awful lot of cops enjoy kicking down doors.
     
  22. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    Just announcing that they are police is not good enough. In my house, they are going to have to prove that they are actually the police or there will be a standoff. Now if I see a half-dozen cruisers outside, that would convince me. But two or three guys dressed in uniform saying they are the police is not enough for me to drop my gaurd and surrender. Too many impersonators, often times more than one coordinating. I have to be able to see resources that exceed the capability of a couple brazen criminals to buy it.

    Now in the event described in the article, there most definitely would have been a firefight in my home. Sneaking around in someone's house at 3 am is a real good way to get shot. I am of the opinion that an intruders intentions are irrelevant; if they have broken into my home while it is occupied, they are there to harm me or my wife and I will shoot first and ask questions later. Everyone knows the risks of B&E into an occupied dwelling, and if they are willing to assume those risks they deserve to be shot.
     
  23. Old Dog

    Old Dog Member

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    So, you'll shoot first and check credentials later? I'm with MikeIsaj on this one; I've no doubt in this situation there were at least two patrol cars, lights flashing in front of the house, and the officers made sufficient commotion to wake all but an 80-year-old woman who may not have been sleeping with her hearing aid in (like my mother in law does, nothing short of a thermonuclear blast will wake her). And some of you are speaking as though these mistaken entries are commonplace ... seems as though many believe they are, but they seem to be sufficiently rare enough that it makes the national news every time one happens. Having law enforcement enter my house in the middle of the night unannounced is, frankly, about the last thing in the world I worry about ...
     
  24. Flyboy

    Flyboy Member

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    I'm not Beerslurpy, but I'll answer.

    I've been in the situation you describe: a family member (my brother) tried to kill himself. Ruger Single Six; I still have the gun (one of my favorites, in fact). Dad happened to walk in on him in time to stop him.

    Am I glad dad stopped him? You're damned right I am. I love my brother, and I'd be heartbroken if anything happened to him. Just so we're clear.

    However, I don't believe the police have the right to break down the door to stop him. Yes, I'd rather he live, but that doesn't make it the state's business. I'd rather he not take drugs, drink, or smoke, but I don't think it's the state's business on any of those, either. Ditto with swearing, dishonesty, sleeping around, and failing to do his homework. I don't know which, of any, of those he does, but I don't think the state has any interest in any of them, so long as he doesn't infringe upon the rights of others.

    Does that make sense?
     
  25. Old Dog

    Old Dog Member

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    Flyboy, the underlying issue here is that the police believed someone called them for help -- from that house ... If an apparently suicidal person calls 911, crying out for one last person to demonstrate that someone cares before that person takes their life, does government simply ignore the call? It's not the state's job ...
     
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