DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH:    Day 4-DEANNA’s STORY

  

 “The last time Deanna’s family heard her VOICE was listening to 9-1-1 tapes, hearing her cries out for help from the police…”

                http://deannasvoice.org 

Deanna Cook was a 32 year-old aspiring part-time fashion designer and up-and-coming writer. Her mom, two daughters, three sisters and extended family members meant the world to her. Deanna loved animals and had a great sense of humor. She took great pride in helping her mother and aunts cook during family events. Deanna was beautiful, driven and vivacious.

Sadly, Deanna had been involved in, and had seemingly escaped, domestically violent relationships. On August 17, 2012, Deanna cried out to the police department’s 9-1-1 call center for assistance and to save her life. The 9-1-1 call was taken by a 9-1-1 operator who could clearly hear Deanna screaming at the top of her lungs in fear, crying out for help.

Nearly three minutes into the call, Deanna is heard begging her attacker to stop and asking the attacker why he kicked her door in to gain entry. The attacker asks Deanna if she called the police. Five (5) minutes into the 9-1-1 call Deanna asks her attacker why he is attacking her and says “please, please stop it.” Approximately seven (7) minutes into the call, she tells her attacker “please, please, please…..why are you doing this to me.” Deanna repeatedly screams “help.” Despite knowing of Deanna’s location, using XY coordinates, the police were not immediately dispatched; there was no 9-1-1 supervisor on duty; and the 9-1-1 call center was understaffed, with 9-1-1 operators working overtime.

From the tone of Deanna’s voice and screams that her life was in jeopardy, it was obvious that there was a physical disturbance in her home and that her life was being threatened. Despite that it was apparent that Deanna was being threatened, attacked and was in fear for her life, it took nearly ten (10) minutes to finally “initiate” a dispatch request for officers to go to Deanna’s home in one of the city’s socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods. Deanna’s frantic 9-1-1 call lasts approximately eleven (11) minutes.

Later, once officers in the field finally “volunteered” to investigate her domestic violence complaint, the officers first stopped to investigate a false burglary alarm call and later stopped at a 7-11 convenience store to buy personal items. The police officers did not use lights, sirens, or increased speed to drive to Deanna’s home. When the police arrived at Deanna’s home fifty (50) minutes after her initial 9-1-1 call, the officers did not go to the rear of her residence, did not peek through all of her windows (where they would have seen signs in her bedroom of a violent physical altercation), and never attempted to forcibly gain entry into Deanna’s home. The officers simply knocked on her door then called her cell phone. Receiving no response the officers just left.

Two (2) days later, on August 19, 2012, after Deanna did not show up for church, her two daughters, mother, and one of her sisters went to her home to check on her. After getting no response to repeated knocks on her door, the family contacted the 9-1-1 call center for assistance. Again, the 9-1-1 operators refused to send anyone to the neighborhood. After once again being denied any assistance from the police department, Deanna’s family began to take matters into their own hands to locate Deanna. They went to the rear of her residence, where the four females kicked the patio door down, and noticed water flowing all throughout the house. Inside the bathroom, Deanna was found dead. When EMT finally arrived Deanna was transported to the morgue.

Prior to her death, Deanna was a domestic violence victim who had contacted police multiple times to report that the suspect had repeatedly physically abused and was stalking her. During several calls made to the police department, Deanna told the police that she was afraid that calling the police would get her killed, but she called again and again to feel safe. In fact, Deanna called 9-1-1 repeatedly in the weeks and months leading up to her death with the same concerns, that she was being stalked and physically attacked. In one such call to 9-1-1 Deanna said that the suspect was watching her house, and stated “[h]e’s already tried to kill me three times. I’m really just fed up with this. I can’t keep moving and changing my life because of this….”

During other calls with 9-1-1 operators and visits by police, the police department affirmatively indicated to Deanna that all she had to do was call 9-1-1 whenever she saw her attacker at her house and the City would “send the police there immediately.” Deanna was also told that the police department would increase the patrols in her area to help her feel safe, considering her stalking and domestic violence complaints. Despite giving Deanna these reassurances, the police never increased patrols in Deanna’s disadvantaged neighborhood; the police rarely investigated the complaints; and they did not respond timely to her 9-1-1 calls. Deanna’s voice was not heeded or taken seriously.