911 dispatcher faces manslaughter charge after failing to dispatch ambulance

A 911 dispatcher has been charged with manslaughter after failing to dispatch an ambulance to a bleeding and incoherent rural Pennsylvania woman who died a day later, authorities said.

The dispatcher, Leon Price, 50, of Waynesburg, had indicated during a 911 call with the woman’s daughter, Kelly D. Titchenell, that he would not send an ambulance to her mother, Diania L. Kronk, unless Ms. Kronk agrees to go to the hospital, according to a criminal complaint.

But a 911 dispatcher does not have the legal authority to refuse to dispatch medical services ‘subject to medical refusal’, and there was no evidence that Ms Kronk intended to refuse medical services. , says the complaint.

Mr. Price was charged on June 26 with four misdemeanors: manslaughter, reckless endangerment of another person, official oppression and obstructing the administration of law or other government functions, according to the county attorney. deGreene, David J. Russo.

“It is rare for 911 dispatchers to be criminally charged, but it has been done in the past and in this case the evidence suggests the Kronk family was denied emergency services which resulted in the death. from a family member,” Russo said. in an interview.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Price had an attorney, and he could not be reached at the phone numbers listed under his name. He has not yet entered a plea, Mr. Russo said.

Such accusations more often result in disciplinary action, said John H. Kelly, general counsel for the National Emergency Number Association, which represents the 911 industry.

“Criminal charges for what is effectively neglect of duty – and that’s what the argument is here – are very, very rare,” Mr Kelly said.

The maximum penalty for manslaughter in Pennsylvania is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Ms. Titchenell called 911 in Greene County on July 1, 2020, asking for help for Ms. Kronk, prosecutors said.

She told the dispatcher that her mother was “really bad”, that she hadn’t been up in three days, that she had been drinking a lot, that she was “going yellow”, that she had lost “so much weight” and that she was “making noise”, according to an audio recording of the 911 call released by Ms Titchenell’s attorney, Lawrence E. Bolind Jr.

The dispatcher asked Ms Titchenell if her mother was ready to go to the hospital. “She’s leaving, or she’s going to die,” Ms Titchenell said. The dispatcher said, “We can’t force her to go to an ambulance.”

Credit…Kelly Titchenell/Kelly Titchenell, via Associated Press

After he repeated that Ms Kronk could not be forced to go to hospital and had to be willing to go, Ms Titchenell said: “She has to go because otherwise she will die. She added, “I don’t think she’s even in her right frame of mind now.”

The dispatcher ended the call to Ms Titchenell, who was driving to the house where her mother was staying, asking her to call back once she arrived to ‘make sure she’s ready to go there go before sending resources there, in case she says no. He added that as long as Ms Kronk was willing to go, he would send an ambulance.

Mr Bolind said Ms Titchenell did not call 911 again once she got home.

“Getting 911 turned down mentally defeated her,” he said, adding, “You don’t have to call back. It should have been shipped immediately.

Ms Titchenell said in an interview that she had no cell service at home and found her mother outside and naked.

Ms Kronk, 54, who had jaundice and was bleeding from a hole in her esophagus, died at home the next day, July 2, 2020, without an ambulance ever being dispatched, Mr Bolind said .

“It’s like, what’s the problem?” said Mrs. Titchenell. “Isn’t she good enough to get the same treatment as everyone else?”

The county detectives’ investigation found that 911 services “violated protocol and their own procedures” by refusing to dispatch an ambulance to Ms Kronk, even though all three ambulances were available, Mr Russo said.

He said the investigation is continuing and will consider whether “this was the result of a possible unwritten policy of handling 911 in Greene County.”

In general, dispatchers adhere to the motto “When in doubt, send them,” which encourages them to send emergency medical workers, police or firefighters who can assess a situation in person, Kelly said.

“I don’t know whether or not the action or inaction of this particular dispatcher warrants” charges, Mr Kelly said. “It’s really something that a judge and a jury are going to have to figure out.”

In May, a Buffalo emergency services dispatcher accused of hanging up on a 911 call from a supermarket worker during a shooting was fired, an official said last month.

The shooting came after a white gunman killed 10 black people at Tops supermarket on May 14 in one of the worst racist mass shootings in the country’s recent history.

Latisha Rogers, the supermarket’s assistant office manager, told The Buffalo News she called 911 while hiding inside the store and whispering on the phone to avoid the shooter’s attention.

She said the dispatcher scolded her for speaking softly.

In 2018, a former 911 operator in Houston was sentenced to serve 18 months of probation after, prosecutors said, she “systematically hung up” on people calling to report emergencies ranging from robberies and homicides to speeding tickets.

Ms. Titchenell said she was frustrated that charges had not been brought against Mr. Price until she filed a federal complaint against him and the county last month.

“I hope everyone learns from this,” she said. “If anyone needs help, just send help. Let EMS decide if they should go to the hospital. The dispatcher should not make this decision.


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