The family of a murdered Dallas woman is demanding answers and justice after learning that their 25-year-old daughter who was deaf, called for help only to have the police show up over an hour later.
When police did show up, they discovered Zarea Dixon dead in her Oak Cliff apartment.
“She loved to dance. She loved to do hair,” said Kimberly Green of her daughter.
Dixon was born deaf and loved teaching friends and family sign language.
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“Whoever she met, she tried to connect with them with sign language, communicate with them,” remembers her aunt Shanequa Fountain.
Even in her final moments of life on Feb. 24, 2022, Dixon tried communicating that she needed help.
Help that would not come for an hour and 16 minutes.
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Dixon’s ex-boyfriend, Tahj Pinson, is currently in jail accused of her murder.
According to an arrest affidavit, Dixon messaged the family and then called 911 to report Pinson had broken into her apartment along South Polk Street and attacked her.
Green said she was not able to drive to her daughter’s home when she was first alerted to the incident due to how far she lives away, so she instructed her daughter to call 911.
Dallas County’s 911 call center uses Sorenson Translation Services’ to aid deaf individuals, according to the documents.
An interpreter relayed Dixon’s message that her "ex-boyfriend broke into her house, beat her up and tried to stab her with a knife."
Dixon provided the suspect’s name, description and date of birth to the translator and reportedly said he had left her home.
Dixon "declined an ambulance but stated she 'needed the police,'" according to the affidavit.
Dixon’s call to 911 was at 2:58 p.m.
“She texted me back minutes later saying, ‘Momma, the police said they are on their way,’” said Green.
Officers, however, did not arrive until 4:14 p.m., according to Dallas Police.
The department previously stated that officers arrived on the scene at 3:48 p.m., though it is unclear where that time came from.
Once on scene, officers noticed a broken window in the victim’s residence. They tried calling out to the victim but did not receive a response.
Officers entered the apartment and found Dixon unresponsive on a couch.
She had been strangled and suffered blunt force injuries, according to police.
Surveillance video from the apartment complex and nearby business captured both Dixon and a man fitting the suspect’s description.
Police believe Pinson had been ‘casing’ the apartment between 2:07 p.m. and 2:11 p.m.
The suspect was seen walking near the apartments at 2:34 p.m. Surveillance video also captured Dixon "in distress and struggling to breathe" at 2:53 p.m. She called 911 at 2:58 p.m.
Her mother said she tried calling her back at about that time but did not hear from her daughter again.
“I find out the police took too long to make it to my baby,” said Green. “Maybe if they would have made it in time, she would still be alive.”
Dixon’s aunt demands answers.
“We’re not understanding! What took so long to get to my niece,” she said.
NBC 5 asked the Dallas Police Department for details about how the 911 call was handled and why officers were so late arriving on the scene.
A spokesperson for the department said Dixon’s call was labeled a ‘Priority 2 call,’ like other family violence calls, and that it's their goal to respond to those calls within 12 minutes.
‘However, on the date and time of the incident, all available patrol officers were responding to or at the scene of other calls,’ said Dallas Police spokeswoman Kristin Lowman.
When asked how many officers were working at the time of Dixon’s call, Lowman replied: "For safety and security reasons we do not disclose the number of officers of any given watch, but we can confirm that all officers were on the scene of existing calls, or responding to calls at the time this call came into our 911 center."
“It hurts to know she did call for help and it never made it to her,” said Fountain.
Dixon’s mother questioned why her daughter’s disability did not warrant a higher designation.
NBC 5 reached out to Sorenson Translation Service and asked the City of Dallas Office of Community Police Oversight for comment, but neither responded.
NBC 5 reached out to Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association to comment on the case.
“I can only think of how devastated her family is and they’ve got every right to be upset, especially at the loss of their child and the department does have some responsibility for this,” said Mata in a phone interview. “We are charged with protecting the public and answering 911 calls the best that we can. The problem is when you’re at 600 to 700 officers short and the call loads have increased from the years back, unfortunately, we can only answer so many calls and get there as fast as we can.”
Mata did not immediately have specific data on the number of officers the SW precinct currently has but said the department continues to run thin.
“On certain nights, if you have an accident on the freeway, much less a couple of them, you’re looking at eight to 10 elements you have to work those accidents when on that night you might just have 15 to 18 elements even working,” he said.
Not only are 911 calls increasing, as they tend to do in the warmer months, but many also are not warranted, he said.
“You’ll have one child who’s refusing to give the cell phone to another child and the family calls 911 to try and end that dispute. That’s not a police call,” said Mata. “But if it comes out that they’re fighting, then it’s going to be registered as a ‘violence in action’ and it’s going to go to a higher priority and put a call like this where this poor woman died, put it lower than that call. And we get there and it’s nothing, so that’s where the public has to help us out. They have got to self-manage some of those family issues.”
Dixon’s loved ones demand that action be taken immediately.
“Hire more officers, do whatever you need to do. When you have a priority call like that, domestic violence, please get to the scene. I don’t want another family to experience what we’re experiencing,” said Fountain. “She died knowing that she called for help. No one showed.”