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New info confirms DC 911 didn’t share key details with police before man died in Washington Channel

Letter to DC Council shows DC 911's initial "findings" weren't accurate after investigating delayed police response

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Read new letter from OUC

DC’s Office of Unified Communications (OUC) told us about its “commitment to transparency” (above) when they shared its “findings” about the mishandling of a March 14 emergency where David Griffin died. In those “findings” (below) — sent March 29 to a council member responsible for the agency’s oversight — OUC absolved DC 911 of responsibility despite a more than half hour delay getting police to the scene.

OUC’s initial findings saying DC 911 was not responsible for the delay in sending help to David Griffin

But when DC 911 sent new information that contradicts those “findings”, suddenly transparency isn’t important. OUC still hasn’t released the new information sent to Council member Charles Allen three weeks ago. STATter911 received it today (Wednesday) after requests to Allen and the Committee on Public Safety and Justice.

More important than failing to release the new information to the news media and the public, OUC didn’t share it with Griffin’s daughter Aujah. Aujah Griffin received an email from OUC acting director Karima Holmes on April 7. That’s the same day of a DC Council hearing where they both appeared. Holmes expressed condolences but provided no information about the incident. Holmes did write, “I look forward to speaking with you after the after-action session we have planned for Monday is complete.”

That after action review was on April 11 and the letter Holmes sent to Allen was two days later on April 13. During the hearing, Holmes used the then pending review as a reason for vagueness in some of her answers. It’s now more than three weeks later and Aujah Griffin has heard nothing from Karima Holmes. STATter911 sent the new document to Griffin today.

New information

The new information shares details of encrypted radio transmissions to DC Police officers that aren’t available to the public. It further supports STATter911’s initial reports that OUC failed to react to the urgency of the situation and didn’t provide officers with crucial information.

Holmes wrote Allen that 20 minutes after receiving the initial 911 call a dispatcher told First District (1D) officers there was a man “possibly high on drugs.”

At 18:35:17, the 1D Dispatcher stated, “Evenings or Midnights 105 ready for service. 4th and N as in Nora southwest, in reference to a male possibly high on drugs. 

OUC knew a lot more about Griffin’s actions than he was “high on drugs”, yet in Holmes transcriptions of the dispatches OUC failed to share that with responding officers. More than fifteen minutes earlier, 911 received calls from the public saying Griffin was jumping on cars and bystanders were scared. Two minutes before dispatching the first officer they also received a radio transmission (below) from Ambulance 18 saying, “Need MPD”. The out of breath crew member then added, “The patient is belligerent. He’s running all over the place. He’s hurting himself. We can’t contain him. Possibly has PCP on board.”

In both her letter and testimony Holmes hasn’t given indication that any of this information was voiced to responding officers. That information was in the dispatch notes of the call, something an officer can’t easily access while responding. Two minutes later, when looking for more officers to respond, the dispatcher again failed to relay the crucial information about Griffin’s actions.

At 18:37:22, the 1D Dispatcher stated, “Any units available to assist 51 at 4th and N as in Nora Southwest for a male possibly high”

In her letter to Allen, Holmes doesn’t indicate that failing to relay this information is a problem OUC’s investigation uncovered.

Even before OUC’s initial “findings” were released a DC Police public information officer confirmed 911 did not reclassify the call to “Priority 1”. Information from the public and the ambulance crew clearly indicates this incident met the definition of a “Priority 1”. A “Priority 1” police response is “where an imminent threat to the safety of persons or the potential for significant property damage exists”. Police respond lights and sirens to “Priority 1” calls and can be pulled from lower priority incidents. The letter from Holmes to Allen still doesn’t address the call classification issue. In its initial “findings” Holmes contends the call was properly classified. It wasn’t.

Police also confirmed DC 911 knew Griffin’s location had changed from the initial location of 4th and N SW but failed to tell the responding officers.

In her letter to Allen, Holmes finally confirms the updated location wasn’t relayed to officers until almost two minutes after the first officer arrived at 4th and N SW.  That was also more than a minute after Ambulance 18 provided the new location more than two blocks away. For the first time, Holmes admits DC 911 made a mistake. She says the new address should have been marked as “a critical update” but wasn’t. By the time the first officer found the ambulance crew David Griffin was already in the Washington Channel.

Procedurally, CAD addresses are not changed for an event. The address was updated in the CAD event record but was not marked a critical update as it should have been. So, as various updates were being made to the CAD event record, the location change may not have been easily seen.

If nothing else, the way OUC has handled this incident should show those in charge why OUC should not be allowed to investigate itself — particular in cases where people died.

This same pattern of failing to provide key details in public hearings occurred  when Holmes first ran OUC. At a June 9, 2020, hearing (below), Holmes was asked about two botched CPR calls STATter911 first reported earlier that day (below). Holmes told Charles Allen she didn’t recall those incidents, even though one occurred four days earlier and the other three weeks before that. Holmes promised she would investigate them and send the information to Allen.

It took another five months, and a FOIA by the publication Communications Daily, before the truth of those incidents was learned. In both cases, DC Fire & EMS was sent to the wrong location because of an error by a 911 call-taker. In one, a newborn died in an apartment on Massachusetts Avenue NW. In the other, Sheila Shepperd died while her 13-year-old daughter Maria performed CPR on her mother. And now, two years later, the cover-ups and lack of transparency and accountability continue.

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