APD says human error led to long response time when Grady EMS crew was confronted by mob with gun

ATLANTA — A Channel 2 investigation has found that a Grady EMS crew trapped by a hostile crowd, including a man with a gun, repeatedly called Atlanta police for help, but APD took a critical 14 minutes to arrive.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher says APD admits the calls were mishandled because of what it calls human error by a trainee 911 operator.

It was Friday afternoon, Dec. 11, when a Grady EMS unit was dispatched to an unconscious person on McDonough Boulevard in southeast Atlanta.

The Grady unit was cancelled and then re-dispatched because Grady said the initial call gave an address a mile away from the victim’s actual location.

By the time the EMS unit arrived, a Grady timeline says the crowd was irate due to the delay. It only got worse from there. That’s when 911 was called.

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Belcher listened through the recordings, which include a moment when a Grady dispatcher tells 911 that the Grady crew needs police there like yesterday.

“Our crew is on scene with a hostile crowd,” the dispatcher tells 911 in the first call.

Not long after that, she makes a second call.

“They’re trying to respond to an unconscious person, and they need PD there like yesterday. It’s a hostile crowd, and they can’t get control,” the dispatcher says.

When 911 asked the size of the crowd, the dispatcher responded, “They just said it’s a large crowd, and they need PD there like ASAP.”

But when Grady called for help a third time, 911 still hadn’t dispatched police.

“No update at this time. I show the call is still in pending, but I will notify my supervisor,” the 911 operator says.

“Do you have an ETA when it’s pending?” the dispatcher asked.

“Uh, no, ma’am,” the operator replied.

According to APD, it took nine minutes to dispatch help and another five minutes for the unit to arrive.

While police drove to McDonough Boulevard, 911 called Grady wanting to know about the original call, not the hostile crowd.

“I got a unit en route. The supervisor wants to know what kind of call you all out on?” the operator says. “Can y’all talk with the crew who’s out there on the scene for me because these supervisors, the field supervisors asking me questions I can’t answer.”

Increasingly anxious, Grady dispatch asked for help from anyone who was around, including Georgia State University Police, Capitol Police or the state patrol. Troopers got there first.

The state patrol report states that they observed a black male trying to get through the rear doors of the ambulance.

The report says they arrested 39-year-old Renaldo Jones, who was carrying packages of marijuana and a .45-caliber Glock handgun with a 30-round magazine.

“The concern to us is the fact that this was held for nine minutes,” APD spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said.

He says the department investigated after Channel 2 brought the incident to the department’s attention.

“We have learned that a trainee took call. They incorrectly labeled it as a lower priority than what it should’ve been, which led to it being held for that nine minutes,” he said. “This call should have been immediately dispatched … It was a case of human error.”

Chafee says the police department wants to be responsive when Grady crews are in distress, and APD knows that Grady is there fast when a police officer needs medical attention.