PLANTATION, Fla. -- Despite a two-minute conversation in which a 911 caller told an operator she was racing to the police station with a gunman in pursuit, police weren't dispatched to help her until she lay dying in the station parking lot, according to records obtained Tuesday by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Olidia Kerr Day, 45, repeatedly screamed for help. But no one sent officers to try to rescue the mother of three, no one helped guide her to the police station, and no one waited for her in the parking lot, dispatch records show.
Plantation Police Chief Larry Massey said the 911 center, like other computerized dispatch centers, aims to alert officers within a minute of receiving an emergency call. Information is sent to all patrol officers and 911 center employees as soon as it's entered into the computer.
It took twice as long for the Plantation 911 center to enter the details of Day's call on April 25 into its computer system. Day already had spent another minute on the phone with Sunrise 911 operators before she was transferred to Plantation. Her total time on the phone with dispatchers was 3 minutes, 24 seconds.
Records show nothing was typed into the system until shots were fired.
"We all know that seconds save lives," Massey said. "Do I wish that the communications center personnel got it on the radio sooner? Yes."
When Day and gunman Carlos Cevallos, 48, drove into the parking lot, Officer Amy Wetzel, 28, was behind a front desk window, talking to a dispatcher and a community service aide. She ran out of the lobby with her gun drawn after she noticed the commotion outside, police said.
Cevallos chased Day across the parking lot and shot her from behind. Wetzel ordered him to drop his gun and fired two rounds but missed. Day had fallen face-first to the ground. Cevallos stood over her and shot her once more. He then turned to Wetzel, put his Bersa 9mm handgun to his temple and pulled the trigger, police said.
"I'm shocked that it's a possibility that a call could go on that long before anyone sends help," said Day's son, Edward Kerr, 24. "She does everything she can (to get help), but everything she tries fails."
Day's boyfriend, Jesus Sosa, 41, also had called 911 about the same time. He told a Plantation 911 operator that he was in his van, trying to follow Day and Cevallos, who were traveling south of Northwest 70th Avenue in separate cars. Sosa lost sight of the two cars and hung up on the 911 operator. He then flagged down an officer. As Sosa begged the officer for help in finding Day, the officer received an alert on his police radio about the shooting in the station parking lot, police said.
The 911 center at the same time also was juggling a report of a possible abduction from the Broward Mall, according to police reports.
Day's family and some emergency services consultants have criticized the Police Department's handling of the call.
Paul Linnee, a consultant based in Minneapolis, said calls from people who are not at a fixed location are challenging, but once an operator learns where the caller may be or is headed, the call should be dispatched to officers.
"Did the call taker take all two minutes of the caller's call to try and get information out of her before telling the cops about it? If the answer to that question is 'Yes', then the call taker may have done something wrong," Linnee said of Day's case.
The signal from Day's cell phone bounced off a cell phone tower that initially routed the call to Sunrise's 911 center, even though she was driving in Plantation at the time. A Sunrise 911 operator transferred the call to Plantation, where 911 Operator Rebecca Prieto, 28, tried for about two minutes - most of the call - to get Day to describe her location. Prieto also asked Day whether she spoke Spanish and if she knew the man who was chasing her. Day screamed back that she wanted to know where the Police Department was, but neither operator told her.
Day reached the station on her own at 7:28 p.m.
Though Massey said he doesn't fault his department's handling of the chaotic situation, on May 8 he issued a memo to department leaders, calling for a revamp of the current training program for 911 center personnel.
"In its totality, I think we did a good job," he said. "I think the actions of the dispatcher were certainly reasonable. I'm standing behind her. I know she took a beating in the press for it, and it's unfortunate. It's a tough job."