Family of Deanna Cook, Woman Murdered During Botched 911 Response, Sues City [Updated]

Categories: City Hall, Crime

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Deanna Cook
[Update, 10:30 a.m. follows] On Aug. 19, worried family members arrived at Deanna Cook's home. It was a Sunday, and she hadn't showed up for church, which wasn't like her. When they arrived, they found Cook's two dogs running loose, barking frantically, and noticed water leaking form the garage. Their knocks went unanswered and, when they called 911 from a cell phone, the call taker was dismissive, telling them to check the jail or local hospital.

Instead, they went to the back of the house and kicked in the patio door. The house was filled with an overwhelmingly foul stench, and the family could tell that the door to Cook's bedroom had been kicked in. They found her body in the bathroom, her partially clad body half in, half out of the overflowing bathtub.

It emerged over the next few days just how poorly Dallas police handled the situation. Cook had called 911 and was begging and gasping for help for 11 minutes as her former husband, 35-year-old Delveccio Patrick, allegedly choked her to death. The police that eventually arrived at her home nearly an hour later knocked on doors and checked windows but, after getting no answer, left.

One 911 call taker was fired, another disciplined, and the police department implemented a new, more urgent call classification to alert officers when there is ongoing danger during a domestic violence dispute. That was, of course, cold comfort to Cook's family who, as Wilonsky was the first to note this morning, filed a lawsuit.

The suit paints a picture of a systemic failure of Dallas' emergency response. Tonyita Hopkins, the call taker who spoke to Cook, was working overtime that day. She knew immediately what block Cook was calling from, if not the exact address, and could have immediately sent officers on their way, but she didn't. Her immediate supervisor, Kimberly Cole, was out of the room in violation of the 911 call center's policy, so Hopkins had to turn to Johnnye Wakefield for assistance. Wakefield told Hopkins to hang up on Cook and call her back. That call that went straight to voicemail.

When the call made its way to dispatcher Yaminah Shani Mitchell, the lawsuit says she did not prioritize the call, despite the fact that it was labeled as urgent. As such, the officers who took the call, Julie Menchaca and Amy Wilburn, didn't exactly rush to Cook's home. First, they stopped to check out a residential burglary alarm that turned out to be false. Then, they stopped by a 7-Eleven. They finally made it to Cook's home after completing some paperwork from a previous call, knocked on the door, checked a few windows, and unsuccessfully called Cook's cell phone. Then, they left.

The lawsuit names each of the officers and call takers who handled Cook's call, but the family alleges the problem is systemic. By the city's own admission, the 911 call center had only 64 of 90 positions filled. Largely as a result, the city had "inadequate operations, inadequate technology, insufficient staffing, inadequate training, improper disciplinary procedures, and unsatisfactory procedures to provide proper handling of 911 calls," the suit states.

The family claims that DPD handled Cook's call in a shoddy fashion at least partly because it was a domestic violence call and came from a less affluent neighborhood and as such was a violation of her constitutional right to equal protection. They also blame the city for gross negligence, violation of due process, and wrongful death. They are seeking attorney's fees, burial costs, and other damages.

Update, 10:30 a.m.:

At a press conference announcing the lawsuit this morning, the family's lawyer, Aubrey "Nick" Pittman was joined by Cook's mother, three of her sisters, her two daughters, a domestic violence counselor and the family's pastor, Apostle Billy Grate of Body of Christ Family Church.

Pittman said the lawsuit is being filed in federal court, rather than in Dallas County District Court, because it alleges that Cook's equal protections under federal law were violated. Cook, Pittman said, was "a victim of her race, the nature of her call, and the demographics of her South Dallas neighborhood... The Dallas Police Department would not have had a delay of 50 minutes in an affluent Dallas neighborhood." He said the family and the city never discussed settling the suit out of court, and that damages would be determined by a jury.

"We haven't experienced any loss like this," said Valecia Battle, one of Cook's sisters, tearing up as she spoke. She said the way her sister's call was treated was a remind of the "second class citizenship" of some Dallas citizens.

Pittman said he was "shocked" that the police officers chose to stop at 7-Eleven to make "personal purchases," and that they failed to use lights or sirens in responding to the call. He also called their brief investigation of the perimeter of the house "very shoddy."

"These ladies were able to kick that door open very easily," the lawyer added, gesturing at the weeping family members around him. "The police could and should have done that." - Anna Merlan

Deanna Cook lawsuit press conference .jpg
Domestic violence counselor Debra Bowles speaks while, from right, Deanna Cook's mother Vickie Cook and sisters Karletha Cook-Gundy and Valecia Battle look on.

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20 comments
hatetoregister
hatetoregister

First of all, Deanna called from a cell phone. The operator did NOT immediately have her address because the system does not give addresses for cell phones UNLESS the person has called into 911 before and left their address on a prior call.

Second, the operator looked for Deanna's address in the system and found it on a prior domestic violence call.

Third, the operator in question actually appropriately routed an emergency request to dispatch.

Fourth, dispatch did NOT appropriately route the information to officers!

Fifth, the 911 operator was black.

Sixth, if the officers had arrived within at least 9 minutes, Deanna would have lived.

hatetoregister
hatetoregister

First of all, Deanna called from a cell phone. The operator did NOT immediately have her address because the system does not give addresses for cell phones UNLESS the person has called into 911 before and left their address on a prior call.

Second, the operator looked for Deanna's address in the system and found it on a prior domestic violence call.

Third, the operator in question actually appropriately routed an emergency request to dispatch.

Fourth, dispatch did NOT appropriately route the information to officers!

Fifth, the 911 operator was black.

Sixth, if the officers had arrived within at least 9 minutes, Deanna would have lived.

alfredo
alfredo

If they can prove Dallas has a policy of responding slower to calls from poor black neighborhoods they might have a case, but I doubt they are going to be able to prove it.  Now the real reason they are dressing a wrongful death lawsuit up as a civil rights case is to avoid the damage caps of the Texas Tort Claims Act

ceepee
ceepee

Wow, I am astonished at the majority of these comments. I don't care who you are, where you live, or what color your skin is, if your son/daughter/mother/father/granny/sister/brother/cousin/nephew/niece/or friend-across-the-street calls 911 while being choked, and FOR 11 WHOLE MINUTES gasped for life as it was being choked out of her while on with 911, you'd sue whatever municipality didn't send police immediately over, sirens screaming, breaking down the door, you know, like we all watch on "Law and Order".

 

To: "ObjectiveAthiest", "ObserverHatesFacts", "imshocked" and "jasonw30", if this woman and her family and her murdering husband were white, we'd be hearing calls of "FRY HIM!" and "I hope they sue, Dallas sucks!" from the likes of you idiots.  

ObjectiveAtheist
ObjectiveAtheist

"Pittman said the lawsuit is being filed in federal court, rather than in Dallas County District Court, because it alleges that Cook's equal protections under federal law were violated. Cook, Pittman said, was "a victim of her race, the nature of her call, and the demographics of her South Dallas neighborhood.."Let's see... black attacker, black victim, black 911 dispatch operator... BLAME WHITEY

jasonw30
jasonw30

OF COURSE they filed a lawsuit against the city, of course.  Who wanna get paid?  Who wanna get paid?

 

There are so many holes in that lawsuit - the presumption that more timely police response would have prevented death; the expectation that the city protect her from her attacker; the conclusion that the response was "race-based."

 

Put me on the jury.  I'll send them packing.

CheifBrownsSon
CheifBrownsSon

Maybe Mayor Mike can fix it so the family gets the proceeds from a room or two at the City Owned Convention Center Hotel or a percentage of the future tool roads monies as compensation.  

lorlee
lorlee

I think the line 64 of 90 positions filled says it all.  I am constantly amazed at the City Budget priorities -- decimate the libraries -- we currently have 3 people covering an entire library when we need 7 or 8, let alone the holes in the collection because the materials budge has been so low for so many years.  And there there is animal contol where they fired everyone and told them they could come back as temps.

 

So you have animal control, libraries, 911 service -- all of which directly impact the quality of life for the majority of citizens and yet they are given short shrift.  Not to mention inspecting only a third of the restaurants and diverting the rest of the money

ceepee
ceepee

 @ObjectiveAtheist Please explain this riveting conclusion of yours. If her "equal protections under federal law were violated", then they were. The law nothing about the race of the person violating said equal protections, and this is the problem with thinkers such as yourself, you really don't "get" it. 

imshocked
imshocked

 @ObjectiveAtheist "and the demographics of her South Dallas neighborhood" ... so black neighborhoods are dangerous because of the behavior of the residents there?  I'm shocked!  Who knew?  Maybe if some idealistic naive white liberal hipster gentrifier Dallas Observer "journalists" move to that neighborhood, the blacks there will start to behave.  What?  People like Eric NIcholson don't want to move to those neighborhoods and raise their kids there?  Why not?  What could possibly go wrong?  They must be RAAAAAACIST

monstruss
monstruss

 @jasonw30 sorry dude, they normally weed out dickheads when picking out jurors. 

ObserverHatesFacts
ObserverHatesFacts

 @lorlee Libraries impact quality of life for a majority of citizens? Perhaps you are right given that they are nothing but homeless camps.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @lorlee Hey, what are you complaining about ... we have the new deck park, a world class (whatever that is) arts district, a string thingy bridge ...

ObserverHatesFacts
ObserverHatesFacts

 @ceepee  @ObjectiveAtheist She was equally protected under the law. The police don't do a thing for anybody regardless of if they are black or any other race. And courts have upheld that many times over.

ceepee
ceepee

 @ObserverHatesFacts  @lorlee That's right, "ObserverHatesFacts", people like you don't need lie-berries since every piece of information you get some straight from the internets.

 

lorlee
lorlee

 @ObserverHatesFacts  @ceepee  @lorlee

Just curious if you have actually set foot in a library lately.  I am there every week -- and I don't encounter what you describe.  Please tell me the last time you were in one.

ObserverHatesFacts
ObserverHatesFacts

 @ceepee  @lorlee With all public space in this country being ceded to homeless vagrants and drug dealing scumbags-- why would anyone but a self hating drug addicted liberal want to go to a library? Amazon.com smells a lot better.

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