A Florida sheriff’s deputy was fired after an internal investigation revealed the Lee County officer chose to finish his lunch at restaurant before responding to a 911 call placed by a woman who later died.
WZVN News reports 47-year-old Gwendolyn Minnis died in the Fort Myers home of a friend on March 13. Friends told WZVN they suspect she had a heart attack, but that has not been confirmed.
What is known is that Minnis placed a 911 call at 1:11 p.m. on the day she died and Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Yvan Fernandez was dispatched to the Fort Myers home where she was later found.
According to a copy of the report, which was released on April 22 and obtained by WZVN, Fernandez was having lunch with three other deputies at Raider's Pizza and Wings restaurant but was not on an official lunch break, which would have allowed him to hand off responsibility for the call to someone else.
The report indicates Fernandez acknowledged the first dispatch that went out. The county 911 service said there was no voice on the other end of the emergency call.
At 1:19 p.m., the 911 operator updated Fernandez, telling him the call was still open. According to the report he responded, “copy.”
But, according to WFTX News, Fernandez did nothing else until 1:40 p.m. when he asked another deputy to respond to the call. According to the report, that officer didn’t arrive on the scene until 2:04 p.m., a full 53 minutes after the original 911 call was placed.
Fernandez reportedly finished his lunch, stopped at a second location to use the restroom and eventually went to the home. He arrived there at 2:21 p.m.
Minnis was found dead at the front door of the home.
Minnis’ friend, Cykecia Russ, said the response time is unacceptable and should make people wonder about the effectiveness of the 911 system.
“It's just kind of sad and upsetting when you call for help and the person who says they're going to come help, and they actually don't,” Russ told WZVN.
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said the officer was certainly negligent and had to be let go.
"He made a decision at that moment of time that his lunch and what he had on his personal plate, pun intended I suppose, was more important than that 911 call," Scott told WFTX.
Fernandez was quoted in the report as having told investigators he called the 911 caller himself but there was no answer, so he went ahead and ate his lunch. He told investigators he "believed this type of response and response time was satisfactory,” according to the internal report.
Scott apparently disagreed, but stopped short of placing the blame for Minnis’ death on the officer.
“Could we have saved this lady? I'll never be able to answer that question,” he said. “Would getting there quicker have hurt anything? Of course not.”
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