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Handling of 911 Call Probed After Shooting Victim Dies

Police: Man's sister finally flies to Bay Area and flags down a patrol car. In confusion, call was never relayed to officials there.

March 28, 2001|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Authorities are investigating why a 911 call from a woman to a West Covina dispatcher, reporting that her brother had been shot in a Northern California city, was never referred to local police as the victim lay dying for more than three hours.

During the incident earlier this month, Pittsburg police finally went to the victim after Yvette Segala flew from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area and flagged down a patrol car. She told officers that one of her brothers had called her to say her older brother had been shot, police said.

Officers discovered the mortally wounded Daniel Jimenez, 40, lying on a couch. He was rushed to a hospital in Walnut Creek, where he died several hours after the call to West Covina dispatch, police said. "We don't know why West Covina did not contact us. It seems a little bit strange," Pittsburg Police Lt. William Zbacnik said Tuesday. "We handle calls like this often for San Francisco. You keep them on the line and call the other jurisdiction."

Zbacnik said that even in cases in which the caller discontinues talking in the middle of the call, departments contact the other jurisdiction. He said that shortly after police discovered Jimenez, his younger brother, Rogelio "Roy" Jimenez, arrived at the home and allegedly confessed to the shooting.

West Covina officials said they are investigating the March 16 incident and evaluating the handling of calls involving emergencies in other jurisdictions. Segala, 35, has told authorities that Rogelio Jimenez called her about 9 p.m. to say their brother had been shot.

At 9:33 p.m., the dispatch center, which is run by West Covina, received a 911 call from Segala. City Manager Daniel Hobbs said the dispatcher assumed--after hearing Segala try to describe the incident--that Rogelio Jimenez had already called 911. The dispatcher did not realize that Segala was the one trying to summon help. "Of course, if that had been known, it would been a totally different issue," Hobbs said.

During the call, Segala also asked how to contact the police in Pittsburg. According to a statement released by West Covina officials, Segala left the impression that her mother was going to contact the Pittsburg Police Department.

Jack Keating, head of the dispatch center, said it is standard procedure to transfer the caller to another jurisdiction when a dispatcher believes an emergency exists. "But there is some question here about what we believed here," he said.

Keating declined to provide further details about the 911 conversation or a transcript or tape. "There is the potential for litigation," he said. "I cannot get into any more."

After arriving in Pittsburg several hours after the shooting, Segala flagged down a patrol car while she was en route to Daniel Jimenez's house.

Police arrived shortly after 1 a.m. and found Daniel Jimenez with a gunshot wound to the neck and face. He was taken to John Muir Medical Center, where he died at 2:45 a.m.

Police said Rogelio Jimenez admitted that he argued with his brother and shot him with a "deer gun." Jimenez has been charged with murder and has entered a not guilty plea.

Meanwhile in West Covina, Mayor Ben Wong defended the 911 center's operations. "Every day our dispatchers answer well over 100 911 calls and make split-second decisions on how to get help to people based on what they hear," he said, "And our personnel have a proven track record over the years of doing that well."

The case has another unusual twist. Segala later told Pittsburg police that on the way to the airport to catch her flight north, she called 911 again and spoke with a California Highway Patrol dispatcher. Segala said the dispatcher told her to call Pittsburg police directly, Zbacnik said. The CHP could not confirm such a call Tuesday.

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