An investigation has been launched after a police dispatcher refused to send officers to help a Florida mother whose baby son was locked inside a sweltering car on a 95-degree day.
Shana Dees was running errands on Saturday with her 10-month-old son Jack.
At around noon, they left a CVS in New Tampa. Dees had moved Jack from the shopping cart and into his car seat when the shopping cart started rolling away.
The mother ran over to grab the cart, but, upon turning back to the car, saw that in “those three seconds, when I was moving the cart, he hit the lock button.”
She recalls “just sitting there, watching him get hotter and turn redder – and he was soaked with sweat.”
Dees borrowed a stranger’s cell phone to call 911. She told the dispatcher that her infant son was locked in the car in the parking lot.
“I’m really concerned, like I don’t think I have time to call AAA before he would suffer heat exhaustion. Can somebody come out and open the door?” Dees said.
The dispatcher, however, proved unhelpful, replying, “They won’t be able to try to gain access [to the] car unless the child is in some kind of distress and, well, by that point they may just smash your windows.”
The call went silent.
Less than ten minutes later, an off-duty officer saw the mother’s frantic desperation and called 911 himself. This time, another dispatcher asked for the car’s location and said, “We will be out there for her."
Before the officers could arrive, a CVS customer grabbed a wrench from the store and broke one of the car’s windows, at which point Jack and his mother were reunited.
The Tampa Police Department is now investigating the incident. Spokeswoman Laura McElroy said that the dispatcher, who “absolutely made a mistake,” will likely be disciplined.
“The dispatcher should’ve kept the mother on the line, should’ve found out where she was and then immediately dispatched both a police officer and fire rescue,” McElroy said.
Dees, for her part, is thankful to the people who helped her get her son out of the car.
“I would like to say thank you to them, to the man who let me use his phone, to the officer that was able to get the police out there,” Dees said.
“Those were the first responders,” the mother added.