Buffalo supermarket shooting: 911 operator suspended after hanging up on caller

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A 911 operator in Buffalo has been suspended after allegations that she hung up on a caller who had phoned to report the shooting at Tops Supermarket on Saturday.

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Latisha Rogers said she called 911 to report the shooting. She whispered into the phone with the dispatcher as Payton Gendron, 18, was still inside the store, The New York Times reported.

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Rogers said she called 911 while hiding from Gendron. She was whispering into the phone so he didn’t hear her.

But Rogers said the dispatcher, who has not been identified, told her she didn’t have to be quiet.

“She was yelling at me, saying, ‘Why are you whispering? You don’t have to whisper,’” Rogers told The Buffalo News. “And I was telling her, ‘Ma’am, he’s still in the store. He’s shooting. I’m scared for my life. I don’t want him to hear me. Can you please send help?’ She got mad at me, hung up in my face.”

Rogers said she then called her boyfriend and told him to call 911.

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She relayed a similar description of events to the Times.

Rogers also spoke with WGRZ, telling the news station:

“I called 911, I go through the whole operator and everything, the dispatcher comes on and I’m whispering to her and I said Miss, please send help to 1275 Jefferson there is a shooter in the store. She proceeded in a very nasty tone and says, ‘I can’t hear you, why are you whispering, you don’t have to whisper, they can’t hear you,’ so I continued to whisper and I said ‘Ma’am, he’s still in the store, he’s still shooting! I’m scared for my life, please send help.’ Out of nervousness, my phone fell out of my hand, she said something I couldn’t make out, and then the phone hung up.”

When asked about the allegations, Peter Anderson, the spokesperson for Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz, said it was not clear who hung up on whom and that the call did not affect the dispatch of first responders, the Times reported.

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Anderson, however, did say that the dispatcher was placed on administrative leave and faces a disciplinary hearing on May 30, at which “termination will be sought,” the Times reported.

The dispatcher worked for the county for eight years, NBC News reported.

The Buffalo News and The New York Times have both reached out to the union that represents dispatchers but were told that the union does not comment on disciplinary matters or investigations involving its members.

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However, the contract states that employees working under the agreement “shall not be disciplined or discharged except for incompetency or misconduct while performing his/her duties,” the News reported. Employees can also have the decision reviewed.

Thirteen people were shot in the rampage, which left 10 people dead and three people injured. A majority of the victims were Black. Gendron has been charged with first-degree murder.