Imagine you’re a 911 dispatcher and you get an emergency call, but the caller is whispering so you get frustrated and hang up on them. And then BOOM, that call turned out to be the worst white supremacist mass shooting in America since Dylann Roof. Would you even be able to look at yourself in the mirror after that?
An emergency services dispatcher in Buffalo, New York, has been accused of just that.
Now that dispatcher facing the possibility of being fired after an assistant office manager at the Tops supermarket—where 18-year-old Payton Gendron is accused of gunning down 10 Black people—told the New York Times and the Buffalo News what she experienced when she called 911.
According to the Times, Tops employee Latisha Rogers said she was ducking down behind the store’s customer service counter when she called 911 and that she was whispering to the dispatcher because, you know, she was trying not to get shot.
“She was yelling at me, saying, ‘Why are you whispering? You don’t have to whisper,’” Rogers said. “And I was telling her, ‘Ma’am, he’s still in the store. He’s shooting. I’m scared for my life. I don’t want him to hear me. Can you please send help?’ She got mad at me, hung up in my face.” Rogers said after she was hung up on, she called her boyfriend and had him call 911.
Now, Peter Anderson, a spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, told Fox 5 New York that the dispatcher’s “action had no bearing on the dispatching of the call,” and Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia said 911 dispatchers received the first call about the shooting at 2:30 p.m. and that the first responders got to the store one minute later. But even if that’s true, it wouldn’t excuse any dispatcher hanging up on a caller because they were whispering in fear. I mean, how do you tell someone who’s hiding from a mass shooter, “You don’t need to whisper?” How the hell would a dispatcher who isn’t on the scene know what a civilian who is there know what said civilian does or doesn’t need to do to survive?
Anyway, the dispatcher was placed on administrative leave on Monday after an internal investigation was conducted, and she’s facing a disciplinary hearing set to take place on May 30. Anderson told the Times the dispatcher’s “termination will be sought” at that hearing.