Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
Joe Cho questions police response after claims 911 operators didn't understand his call for help after a robbery because of his accent. City leaders are concerned too.
Dallas City Council members joined the manager of a West Dallas Grocery store Wednesday in questioning the explanation for the delayed response to a robbery and shooting.
Manager Joe Cho called 911 at about 11 p.m. Sunday to report that he had shot at four armed robbers who came into Pepe's Grocery in the 4800 block of Bernal Drive.
Dallas police said Tuesday that the call downgraded because the operator did not hear Cho, who had a heavy accent was speaking very quickly, say there had been a shooting.
"The call-taker had a very difficult time understanding the information and did not hear the caller say 'shot' or 'shoot,'" police said in a press release.
The Korean store manager said he has lived in the United States for 30 years speaking English and does not feel his accent should be an excuse.
"While on conversation with the operator or whatever, she could understand, you know," Cho said. "Maybe I was nervous, but she could understand."
Officers were busy with several nearby calls at the time, including a shooting that turned out to be the robbery suspect Cho had wounded in his store, police said.
The man was arrested officers identified him from store surveillance video.
Police said officers did not visit the store until 12:14 a.m., but found it closed. Cho said he had given up on any police response and had gone home.
Officers called him back to the store, and Cho finally spoke to them in person at about 1:20 a.m., he said.
"I don't care about the word shooting," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said. "I care about the word robbery."
Caraway, who heard a recording of Cho's call, said he found the word robbery and the caller's urgency to be very clear.
"You have an opportunity to catch the robber if you happen to get there within minutes and the suspect is still on property or just recently drove away," he said. "But after an hour, all of that goes away, so I do have concerns there."
Dallas police posted the audio of the 911 call on YouTube.
"They should have been here faster than that, because I'm not the only one living in this West Dallas," Cho said.
In March, a police official briefing to the City Council Public Safety Committee showed a big improvement in 911 response after a series of alarming delays last year.
A house down the street from a fire station burned down on July 4 as callers trying to report the fire received busy signals.
Police said Deanna Cook was killed in her home Aug. 17 by an abusive ex-husband after she called 911. Cook can be heard pleading for her life in the call, but the call-taker did not pass important details on to dispatchers, police said.
Councilwoman Sandy Greyson, who attended the March briefing, said the new incident is troubling.
"It shows we have more work to do," she said.
Mayor Mike Rawlings issued a statement:
"The improvements made in 911 in the last several months have resulted in better performance measures within the call center," Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement. "The department has shown a willingness to make significant changes and training to enhance performance. But, obviously, we have got a lot of work to do."
The other three robbers have not been arrested. Police said their investigation into the robbery is ongoing.