Note: we are republishing this story in light of recent reports that suggest more and more people around the country are falling victim to negligent 911 dispatchers.
A former 911 operator in Houston has admitted hanging up on emergency calls "because she did not want to talk to anyone at that time."
Supervisors at the Houston Emergency Center discovered that operator Crenshanda Williams, 43, had been involved with thousands of calls lasting 20 seconds or less.
Williams has been charged with a misdemeanor for interference with an emergency phone call. If convicted, she could face a year in jail and a $4,000 fine for each count.
A few cases serve to illustrate the charges.
Buster Pendley called 911 when his wife collapsed and was unresponsive. He recounts the call as follows: “The 911 operator answered the phone, and she said, 'This is Crenshanda, may I help you?’ [I said] ‘Wife’s passed out I need an ambulance.’ She said 'OK,' and she hangs up on me.”
In another case, Williams is accused of hanging up on an emergency call from a convenience store where a robbery was in progress. A customer at the store, Hua Li, called 911 to report to report the robbery. He was purchasing lottery tickets when a gunman entered the store and shot the clerk.
Li fled the store and called 911. “They just said, ‘This is 911. How can I help you?’ I was trying to finish my sentence and we got disconnected,” Li told KPRC.
Police later discovered the operator who answered Li’s call was Williams, and that she ended the call after only a few seconds. Li called back and got a different operator, but the 51-year-old clerk, Zia Arfeen Seddiqui, was dead when police arrived.
The day after the fatal convenience store shooting, Williams received a 911 call from a security guard called to report reckless driving on Interstate 45. On that occasion, Williams hung up the phone before the guard could give his full name, according to police.
When police questioned Williams about these incidents, she told them she “often hangs up on calls that have not been connected because she did not want to talk to anyone at that time.”
Williams’ court date is scheduled for the week of Oct. 17.