Colorado Theater Shooting: Dispatchers Recount Night of Horror

Dispatcher Kathie Stauffer was unruffled on the outside; inside she was roiling as responders pleaded for more ambulances and care


 
 

Chuck Murphy, Denver Post | | Tuesday, July 24, 2012


AURORA, Colo. -- Listening to the recordings from Friday morning's massacre, you would think dispatcher Kathie Stauffer felt no emotion as she calmly directed resources to the Aurora movie theater where scores were injured and a dozen killed.

Her voice betrayed nothing. Her demeanor was calm. She was unruffled.

On the outside.

Inside, she was roiling as officers pleaded for additional resources -- gas masks, more help, ambulances and care for dying 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan.

More coverage on JEMS.com:


"Every call with a kid, I'm thinking of my own," Stauffer, mother of a 9-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy, said Sunday night in an interview with The Denver Post. "That's really what I'm struggling with now -- to not think about my own daughter every time."

Thursday night had been even less than routine. Stauffer, working channel 2 of three Aurora dispatch channels, had seen little emergency traffic in the part of the city for which she was responsible.

"My screen was very empty," she said.

All at once, around 12:40 a.m. Friday, it blew up. From across the room, Stauffer could hear call takers responding to wave upon wave of 911 calls for help from the Century Aurora 16 multiplex.

"They're saying somebody is shooting in the auditorium," Stauffer calmly relayed over the radio to officers 315 and 314.

Five feet away, fellow dispatcher Cheri Brungardt had a feeling.

"Something in me said I should start some of mine (officers) that way," said Brungardt, 32. "So I did."

Only a couple minutes passed before the call was out for every officer in Aurora to head to the theater near Aurora Town Center mall. For the next five hours, Stauffer would be responsible for getting assets where they were needed, and Brungardt would be her constant voice of reassurance and support -- and backup in dealing with the fire and rescue dispatchers across an aisle from them in the communications center at Tallyn's Reach.

But getting officers what they wanted was not as easy as it normally is for Stauffer and Brungardt. The scene was so vast, and so devastated, that Aurora did not have enough gear to answer all the calls and other agencies just couldn't get there fast enough.

"Our job is to send help, and the guys we sent to help were calling for help and we couldn't help them," Stauffer, 39, said. "Normally, they get on the radio and the magic dispatcher gets them what they need. This time, they kept calling. They needed help and they couldn't get it."

Stauffer, Brungardt and others in the center are now struggling with a form of survivor's guilt. They wonder if they did all they could. The city brought counselors in Friday night for a debriefing. Both dispatchers now say they feel better, but know it will take time to get over the awful night. Stauffer hasn't yet been back on dispatch duty for the police department, drawing fire duty instead, but she knows the time will come. Soon.

"It's just like anything you're scared of," she said. "You just have to face it and get through it."



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, Colorado Theater Shooting

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

The Evolution of Civilian High Threat Medical Guidelines

How mass killing events have proven a need for new guidelines.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Kentucky Firefighters, Medics Drill for Ebola

Lexington firefighters and medics prepare for possible patients.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Mid-South EMTs Prepare for Ebola

Mid-South EMTs are certified for service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Ebola Changes How North Carolina EMS Responds to Calls

Concern about virus spread leads to new protocols.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Oklahoma Hospitals Prepare for Ebola Cases

Training and preparation are keys for metro hospitals.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Life Link III Trauma Tactics Conference in Minnesota

Conference was designed to enhance the skills of providers of all levels, covering rescue and prehospital situations, to transport and in-hospital treatment.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

EMS Tailgating

Rigs converted for football.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

CDC Ebola Training for Clinicians

Students learn the complexities of working in bulky suits.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >