911 Call Delays Resulted from Emotional Caller’s Actions

A police affidavit in the case said that Jaimie Ortiz, also the mother of Malachi Ortiz, who’s facing second-degree murder charges in his father’s death, told police that she tried to call 911 several times but kept getting voicemail.

by Anthony A. Mestas, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo. / October 17, 2019

(TNS) — When Pueblo residents call 911 and hang up the phone, the call is transferred into an abandoned call status, which operators have to follow up on.

The Pueblo Police Department said Wednesday that five phone calls came in to report that Cecilio "Roman" Ortiz, 52, had been shot allegedly by his son Malachi Ortiz, 23, in the early morning hours of Oct. 6.

Each time the caller — the victim's wife, Jaimie Ortiz — hung up the phone before information was taken.

"When people call 911, they are very frantic. They are emotional. It's a highly charged situation. We are not saying it is her fault or she has any kind of blame in this. We are just explaining what happened," Police Sgt. Franklyn Ortega said Wednesday.

"She tried calling. We tried calling her back. Basically, we were doing some high-energy, high-situation phone tag to try to get ahold of her to find out what situation she was dealing with."

A police affidavit in the case said that Jaimie Ortiz, also the mother of Malachi Ortiz, who is facing second-degree murder charges in the death of his father, told police that she attempted to call 911 several times but kept getting voicemail.

Ortega said that dispatch does not have a voicemail system.

"Basically, it's an announcement telling people they have reached the police department, 911. Don't hang up," Ortega explained.

"A voicemail tells caller that they will call them back. This is nothing like that. It's an announcement."

People who call 911 are greeted with a voice that says, "You've reached Pueblo 911. Please do not hang up. Dispatchers are currently handling other 911 calls, but will be with you as soon as possible."

Following that announcement, the same one is repeated in Spanish.

"When you call 911 and you hang up, you put yourself at the back of the line. The dispatcher is then going to try to call you back from the hang up that you just did," Ortega said.

"So, basically, the situation is complicated when you hang up. If you stay on the line, we will answer it and we will be able to get your information and find out what is the situation we are dealing with."

Ortega said dispatch could not get ahold of those calling to report Roman Ortiz's shooting until after the fifth call. He said dispatchers could only get voicemail while returning the first five calls.

"She was calling while we were trying to talk to the voicemail," Ortega said.

The first call came in at 3:41 a.m. on Oct. 5. Ortega said police arrived at the home at 3:46 a.m.

"We deal with the high intensity all of the time. The phone tag, very rarely. This is just a bad set of circumstances," Ortega said.

"Regardless of all those problems of phone tagging that we were having, the police got there pretty quick and they tried to do what they could."

Pueblo's police dispatch took in 70,324 emergency 911 calls so far this year.

The amount of staff in dispatch varies from shift to shift with no less than three people on each shift, Ortega said.

"We try to strive for four people," Ortega said.

Ortega said the police department is always looking for good people that are willing to take this job.

"Obviously, if we had more people, it would be better."

Ortega said there is always the proper amount of staff for each shift. If not, they call others in for overtime or people work a longer shift.

Ortega said the police department is hiring more people in the next couple of months.

Laura Wittrup, dispatch manager, said there are a few authorized funded positions that are not filled.

"It takes us anywhere from six months to a year to train somebody because of the skill-set that they need," Wittrup said.

Wittrup said there is a shortage of 911 dispatchers across the country.

"We are the only civilians that work 24-7, 365 days a year in the city," Wittrup said.

"They deal with high stress too, but they don't have the benefit of seeing the end of it end," Ortega added.

Obviously there's some people that have been here for a very long time ... There's also people that have just started," Ortega said.

amestas@chieftain.com

Twitter: @mestas3517

———

©2019 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

Visit The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.) at www.chieftain.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs