A 911 dispatcher’s job is to receive calls for emergency assistance and send out help. But, what happens when the process doesn’t go that way? In one case, it led to a 911 dispatcher being charged with involuntary manslaughter.
What happened, and what consequences does the dispatcher face?
Who Called for the Ambulance and Why?
On July 1, 2020, Kelly Titchenell, got into her car to drive to her mother’s house. While on her way, Titchenell called 911 to report that her mother, Diania Kronk, was in need of medical assistance. Titchenell connected with Pennsylvania 911 operator Leon “Lee” Price.
As reported by The New York Times, Titchenell told the dispatcher that her mother needed to be taken to the hospital. She told Price that her mother was “really bad” and that she hadn’t been out of bed in three days, had been drinking heavily, and was “turning yellow.”
In the 911 recording, Titchenell can be heard saying her mother had lost “so much weight” and was “making noises.”
Titchenell believed that her mother needed immediate medical attention and requested for an ambulance to be sent to her mother’s house, but the 911 dispatcher was reluctant to send one.
Why Didn’t the Dispatcher Send the Ambulance?
During the four-minute 911 call, Price repeatedly asked Tichenell if her mother would be “willing to go” to the hospital when the ambulance arrived.
With the nearest hospital 30 minutes from Kronk’s home, Tichenell told Price that her mother needed to go with the ambulance. Tichenell said, “She will be, ’cause I’m on my way there, so she’s going, or she’s going to die.”
When Tichenell was about ten minutes from her mother’s home, the dispatcher asked if she would call back once she got to her mother’s house and could confirm that Kronk would go in the ambulance. Tichenell agreed and hung up.
When Tichenell arrived at her mother’s home, she found her mother nude on the front porch and talking incoherently, as reported by Fox 13. Tichenell said she didn’t call 911 again because she couldn’t find her mother’s landline and there was no cell service. Tichenell left and did not call 911 on her way home as she said she believed her uncle was going to check on her mom.
The next day, Tichenell’s brother went to check on Kronk and found that she had died. When she was found, she was jaundiced and bleeding from a hole in her esophagus. An autopsy concluded that Kronk’s cause of death was internal bleeding.
Now, the 911 dispatcher faces civil and criminal consequences for failing to send the ambulance.
Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect
What Criminal Charges Does the Dispatcher Face?
More than two years after the incident, Price was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, official oppression, and obstructing the administration of law or other government function.
According to John Kelly, general counsel to the National Emergency Number Association, criminal charges against dispatchers for failing to send help are very rare but have happened.
Of the charges, the involuntary manslaughter charge is the most serious. In Pennsylvania, the maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In an involuntary manslaughter charge, the defendant had no intention to kill another person but their actions resulted in the death of another person. To prove that Price is guilty, the prosecutors will need to prove:
- Kronk died as a result of Price’s actions.
- Price had a reckless disregard for Kronk’s life.
- Price was aware that his actions could potentially result in Kronk’s death.
In early July 2022, Price was arraigned and released on bail. No details of his defense or court dates have been released at this time.
Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps
What Civil Charges Does the Dispatcher Face?
The criminal charges against Price came shortly after Kronk’s family filed a civil lawsuit in the matter.
Less than a month ago, Titchenell filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of her mother’s estate. She is suing Price, Greene County in Pittsburgh, and two 911 supervisors. The lawsuit accuses Price of “callous refusal of public emergency medical services.”
In a civil wrongful death case, the defendants face no jail time, but they may be liable for paying financial damages to Kronk’s surviving family. At this time, no details of the requested damages have been released.
Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases Worth Fighting For
Work with an Experienced Attorney You Can Trust
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If you have a case you need to discuss, contact TJ Grimaldi today. Call 813-226-1023 or request your consultation to schedule a time to share the details of your case and start making a plan today.