Fired Dallas 911 Call-Taker's Appeal Denied

An appeals board has upheld the termination of a Dallas 911 call-taker who was fired for her handling of a call from a woman who asked for a welfare check on her daughter before breaking into her home and finding her dead.

The mother of Deanna Cook called 911 on Aug. 19 and asked that an officer go by her daughter's home because she had not been heard from in days.

The call-taker, Angelia Herod-Graham, told Vickie Cook to call hospitals and jails first.

"I was trained to ask that you have people contact jails and hospitals," she said.

The family forced their way into Deanna Cook's home and found her body. Police say Cook's former husband had killed her two days earlier -- a day she had called 911 for help.

The operator who took that call was suspended and later resigned.

On Thursday, a civil service board heard Herod-Graham's appeal of her termination.

The 911 call was played during the hearing.

Vickie Cook: We are not in the house. We are trying to get in the house to see if everything is OK.
Herod-Graham: What I have to do is, ma'am, police can't kick the door in, but ambulance can kick the door in, so are you ready for the fire department, since you want to do a welfare check, is that correct?
Cook: We, we got it in. We in.

Moments later, screams can be heard as Cook finds her daughter.

Herod-Graham insisted that she had followed her training.

"I was trained by the city of Dallas on how to do my job, and I did what I was trained to do," she said.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown testified at the hearing that he decided to fire Herod-Graham because a reasonable person would have sent officers.

During the hearing, Herod-Graham agreed that it took six minutes to finally dispatch police.

Brown said he worked and was assigned to a 911 call center in the early 1990s. He was not Herod-Graham's boss.

At the time of her firing, Dallas police said Herod-Graham had previously mishandled two other calls. The department said then that she was disciplined for failure to report a 911 call regarding a police officer being assaulted and for disconnecting a caller from 911 while she was attempting to report a man with a gun outside her home.

Herod-Graham said after the hearing that she was a scapegoat.

"But like I said, God has something better for me, and I bless everyone, even Chief Brown," she said. "I'm not mad at him, because my God has something bigger and better for me."

She told reporters that she is looking for another job.

Deanna Cook's death drew national attention after her family found her dead two days after she called 911 to report that her former husband was attacking her.

The police officers sent to her house left after looking in the windows when no one answered the door.

Tonyita Hopkins, the call-taker that answered the call, was suspended and later resigned. Police said she did not enter critical information into the call sheet.

Kimberly Cole, a manager at the call center, and Lt. Ronald Thomasson were also disciplined in the matter.

Cook's family filed a federal lawsuit against the city over the 911 call she made the day she died. An attorney for the family said the responding officers stopped at a burglary alarm and at a 7-Eleven before arriving at Cook's home. Once they arrived, they did not put much effort into entering the home, he said.

More than a month earlier, Dallas' 911 call center was criticized after callers reported that they were unable to reach a call-taker while a house fire raged on July 4.

Dallas police said in late August that they had created a new classification for call-takers and dispatchers to use when relaying reports to officers in the field. The class is for calls involving serious bodily injury or death and is listed as the highest priority.

NBC 5's Ray Villeda and Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.

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