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911 Dispatch Under Investigation; Dallas Man Lay 2 Blocks from Station for 17 Minutes

DENTON, Texas -- Denton (Texas) Police Chief Roy Minter has initiated an internal investigation after learning that a man lay unconscious for 17 minutes in the street two blocks from the Police Department waiting for help before it arrived April 20.

And local civil rights activist Willie Hudspeth, who made two 911 calls trying to get help for the man, says he believes the delay is typical of the emergency response to Southeast Denton.

"The response time for our area is different," Mr. Hudspeth said. "We're just sitting there on our side of town believing the response time is very slow. But I don't know that for a fact."

Chief Minter said human error is to blame.

"I'll be the first to admit that, based on the initial investigation, we did not handle this call correctly," Chief Minter said. "I don't think this has anything to do with location."

Mr. Hudspeth said he was walking for exercise about 5:45 a.m. that Sunday when he noticed a man who appeared to be unconscious and not breathing. He called 911.

The call-taker said she would have an officer come by.

Mr. Hudspeth waited. No one came. He called 911 again.

"He was unconscious, and his breathing slowed to nothing. I called back the second time and asked, "'Why haven't you sent someone?' She said, 'OK, I'll get right on it.' I asked what happened, and she didn't answer me," Mr. Hudspeth said.

An officer and paramedics arrived and determined the man was heavily intoxicated, according to an arrest warrant for the man.

"It could have been something else," Chief Minter said. "Someone could have died. The fact that we allowed someone to lie in the street for 17 minutes before we initiated a response is disappointing and totally unacceptable."

His initial investigation shows that the call-taker at first misjudged the situation, he said.

The call-taker coded the call a "priority 2," which means an officer should check on the situation when there is time. The call should have been coded a "priority 1" call, which requires immediate response.

Even with the priority 2 code, the dispatcher did not send an officer.

Chief Minter expects the investigation to be finished by Tuesday. If the investigation finds that it is needed, disciplinary action could include days off without pay or even termination. He did not release the name of the call-taker.

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