Kristine Kirk murder and 911: Sixty dispatcher complaints in two years and another death
Following Richard Kirk's alleged murder of wife Kristine Kirk (see our previous coverage below), most of the attention has focused on the question of whether a marijuana edible had caused the hallucinations and erratic behavior that resulted in her tragic death. But partly lost in this debate has been a delay in sending police officers to the Kirks' residence. Kristine was on the phone with a 911 operator when she was slain, and the conversation lasted ten-minutes plus.
Kristine Kirk. See more photos and videos below.
Is there a systemic problem with 911 in Denver? A new report reveals more than sixty complaints against dispatchers in the past two years, with the most egregious case leading to another death.
In our earlier coverage, we noted that Kristine called 911 to say Richard was behaving strangely after possibly eating a marijuana edible. He was allegedly hallucinating, talking about the end of the world and declaring his intention to shoot her -- which he did, while she was still on the line with the dispatcher.
Previous reports have estimated the length of the call at twelve minutes, but a new Fox31 investigation puts it at thirteen minutes. Moreover, a police station is only a short distance away from the Kirks' home on St. Paul Street, near the DU campus; the station notes that officers were less than a mile away at the time of the fatal shooting. If they'd been dispatched immediately, some observers believe a tragedy might have been averted.
Booking photos of Richard Kirk linked to a previous DUI arrest.
This is hardly the first 911 call to generate concern. A public-records request made by Fox31 reveals that more than sixty complaints against dispatchers were collected over the course of the past two years. The majority of the time, the station reveals, no written reprimands were issued after such incidents. Rather, the operators received coaching and counseling.
That's what happened in the case of Juan Jesus Rodriguez, a dispatcher who's the focus of a lawsuit filed by the family of Jimma Reat, who died just over two years ago following a botched 911 call. Rodriguez was fired as a result of the Reat matter, but he received little more than a wrist slap months earlier in a separate case that involved a delay in sending responders -- the same thing that occurred with Kristine Kirk.
Early on April 1, 2012, as we've reported, Reat and two of his brothers, Changkuoth Pal and Ran Pal, as well as Joseph Kolong, were in a vehicle near the intersection of 10th and Sheridan when a Jeep Cherokee pulled up alongside their car. The Jeep's male occupants began "harassing and attempting to injure" the four young men, according to the original lawsuit.
The men in the Jeep are said to have called Reat and friends "niggers" while throwing beer bottles and what's described as "bottle rockets" at them. The back window of Reat's car was shattered in the altercation, showering the occupants with broken glass. In addition, one of the Jeep's occupants brandished a handgun.
At that point, the suit's narrative continues, Ran Pal phoned 911 to report the crime and get emergency police and medical assistance. The call was answered by Rodriguez. During the conversation, the victims were able to elude the men in the Jeep and find relative safety at an apartment building's parking lot in Wheat Ridge, approximately seven and a half blocks west of Denver's city limits -- and Ran Pal is said to have told the operator that he was too unsettled by the occurrence to feel comfortable driving.
Nonetheless, Rodriguez told them they needed to drive back to Denver in order to rendezvous with DPD officers, and though wary, they eventually acquiesced. But the complaint maintains that the operator didn't do anything to secure police dispatch until about one minute after the shooting, nor did he create an incident report. Moreover, the suit says, he told the victims that once they had moved their car to a suitable spot, they should make themselves prominent to officers by turning on their hazard lights and leaving them flashing.
Rodriguez was still on the phone with Ran Pal when the car came to a stop in the vicinity of West 29th and Sheridan -- at which point the Jeep Cherokee rematerialized and its occupants opened fire. Jimma Reat died at the scene in Ran Pal's arms, having been shot in the back.
Afterward, Rodriguez's actions were immediately put under scrutiny -- and as a result, a previously unreported problem with a different 911 call belatedly surfaced.
Continue for more about complaints against 911 operators and the investigation into Kristine Kirk's murder, including photos, videos and more.