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911 Dispatchers: Send Police to the Right Waffle House, Please

Close up of man using 3d generated mobile smart phone with emergency call on the screen. Screen graphics are made up.
By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

The mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House last year was a tragedy, made all the more tragic by 911 operators sending to the local police to the wrong Waffle House the morning of the attack. A new lawsuit claims that one of the victims, Akilah DaSilva, may have survived had he received medical attention sooner -- he died from massive blood loss at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

And now, the Director of Nashville's Emergency Communications Center, Michele Donegan, is leaving her position, although the city contends it has nothing to do with the Waffle House mix-up.

Which Waffle House?

So, what the heck happened? According to Nashville's WKRN, 911 operators ignored the GPS coordinates available for those calling inside the restaurant. Not only that, dispatchers still sent first responders to the wrong location despite at least one 911 caller providing the exact address of the correct Waffle House.

News reports also indicate that the Waffle House that was the scene of the shooting was new, and had not shown up in dispatcher's electronic phone book, so police were sent to another Waffle House on the same street, but ten miles away. Months later, it turns out that Metro Dispatch still hadn't updated their phone book to include the new Waffle House, and Metro's 911 operators had not received any additional training since the incident. In fact, the agency never indicated there was a problem with their procedures from the night of the shooting following an internal review.

"Michelle Donegan has spent more than 30 years protecting Nashvillians, both in the Police Department and as director of Nashville's Emergency Communications Center," a spokesperson for Mayor David Briley said. "Her decision to retire was made months ago, and she informed Mayor Briley in early April of her wish to do so. Any allegations that Mrs. Donegan was let go, forced out, or that her retirement is tied to any litigation is false."

Which Shooting?

To be fair to the 911 dispatchers, Waffle House shootings are distressingly common. There have been two shootings in the past month at Waffle Houses in Florida, with one man being shot to death after handing out $20-dollar bills to fellow customers and picking up their tabs. And just this week, one person was shot at a Hendersonville, Tennessee Waffle House about 40 minutes from the scene of last year's mass shooting.

With all the bullets flying at Waffle House's nationwide, 911 dispatchers need to be at their best when sending in help.

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