Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
(NEW YORK) — A 911 dispatcher accused of hanging up on a caller during a mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket last month has been fired.
Erie County officials held a disciplinary hearing on Thursday, during which the county decided to terminate the dispatcher, according to a spokesperson for the county executive.
The name of the dispatcher was not released.
In the days after the May 14 shooting at the Tops supermarket, an employee at the store said the dispatcher hung up on her during the attack that killed 10 people.
Latisha Rogers, an assistant store manager, told The Buffalo News that she called 911 from beneath the customer service desk and the dispatcher “was yelling at me” for whispering before the line cut out.
“You don’t have to whisper,” Rogers said the dispatcher told her as she tried to stay quiet so the gunman wouldn’t find her. “And I was telling her ‘Ma’am he’s still in the store. He’s shooting,'” according to the paper’s account.
Rogers told the New York Times she was behind the customer service counter when the shooting began. She ducked behind the counter to call 911 and told the paper she whispered “there’s someone shooting in the store,” the paper reported.
According to the Times, Rogers said the dispatcher asked why she was whispering and told her she couldn’t hear her, then the line cut out.
The dispatcher was placed on leave pending the hearing.
A spokesman for the Erie County Executive’s office told ABC News last month that the county would seek the dispatcher’s termination following a review of the 911 call.
“It was completely unacceptable,” Erie County Executive Mike Poloncarz told reporters at the time.
Dispatching officers to the scene overall was unaffected, the county spokesperson said. Police have said officers arrived a minute after the shooting began.
The president of Civil Service Employees Association Local 815, which represents the employee, told The Buffalo News that the union plans to file a grievance over the termination, as it would for any employee fired by the county.
On Thursday, the alleged gunman was arraigned on 25 counts, including 10 counts of first-degree murder.
The highest charge is domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree, prosecutors said. The suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, is the first person in New York state history to be charged with the crime since it was enacted in November 2020, prosecutors said.
All 10 victims killed were Black, and one of the three victims wounded by gunfire is Black, according to prosecutors.
Gendron’s lawyers entered a plea of not guilty to all of the charges on his behalf.
The FBI is also conducting a parallel investigation of the shooting, which the Department of Justice said could lead to federal hate crime and terrorism charges.
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