Posted June 8, 2006 – The two 911 operators who assumed a 5-year-old Detroit boy's call was a joke and ended up costing his mother's life, were charged Thursday with neglect.
Robert Turner, now 6-years-old, said he called 911 twice on Feb. 20 to report that his 46-year-old mother, Sherill Turner, had collapsed.
Neither of the two operators that Robert spoke to treated his call as an emergency but scolded him for playing on the phone.
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Dispatcher: "Where's the grownups at?"
Dispatcher: "Huh? Let me speak to her before I send the police over there."
Robert said he told the dispatcher on the phone that his mother wouldn’t talk.
"I kept telling them - she wouldn't talk," he said.
"You shouldn't be playing on the phone,” one operator yelled in anger. “Now put her on the phone before I send the police out there to knock on the door and you’re going to be in trouble."
Confused, traumatized and scared the operator was going to get him in trouble, Robert hung-up the phone and started playing around the house, thinking about his mom and hoping she'd wake up, The Associated Press reported.
It wasn’t until three hours later, that officers were sent to the house to discipline Robert and inform his parent that he was dialing 911, AP reported.
“I understand they get a quite a few crank calls, but you have to take it seriously when someone calls 911,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday in announcing charges against 911 operators Sharon Nichols, 43, and Terri Sutton, 47.
A city union official for the National Emergency Number Association, a professional organization for 911 personnel, said the two Detroit women would be suspended Thursday, The Detroit Free Press reported. They face up to a year in jail if convicted.
Kimberly Harris, president of the dispatchers union, called the charges "absolutely ludicrous" and said the operators could not hear the boy's call well because they use antiquated headsets.
"These operators are being put out to hang like scapegoats," Harris said. "I can't believe that they have been charged."
She said the 911 tapes released to the media were enhanced and did not contain background noise.
Delaina Patterson, Robert’s sister, is seeking $1 million in damages.
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