Cincinnati 911 dispatcher suspended after man dies from stroke

CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio emergency dispatcher accused of violating several procedures while taking a call about a man who later died from a stroke was suspended.

The dispatcher’s suspension was the result of an investigation by Cincinnati’s Emergency Communication Center of a Jan. 12 call, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Monday.

A resident of a Cincinnati apartment building called 911 to report that a neighbor appeared to have suffered a stroke. When the dispatcher told the resident to go to the victim so he could be asked questions, the resident said “the patient might not want to answer questions or want help.”

The investigation showed the resident continued to insist that the victim was“getting worse and worse” and that “he’s gonna die.” Despite that, the dispatcher told the caller: “If he doesn’t want help, they won’t do anything, he has to want to be helped.”

Eventually, the resident hung up, the dispatcher closed the call, and no help was sent to the residence. The man died the next day; the city has not released his name.

“What took place on the night of Jan. 12 is nothing short of a tragedy,” City Manager Patrick Duhaney said in an email to City Council members. “It’s unclear if the individual would have lived or died, but the actions of this call-taker undermined the possibility of a positive outcome in this situation.”

Duhaney also said that in days before Jan. 12 there were three 911 calls regarding the same man.

The dispatcher has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of a disciplinary process.

This is not the first time the city’s call center faces controversy. In April 2018, the center came under scrutiny after the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush.

The teenager had used the voice-activated feature on his cell phone to dial 911 when he got pinned in the fold-away third-row seat of his parked van. He described his vehicle to the dispatcher, but the two officers who drove around the parking area of his high school looking for him left after 11 minutes.

The furor prompted major changes at the 911 center, which had been plagued for years with staffing, workplace and operational problems that were in the spotlight after Plush’s death.