Denver Police respond to domestic violence call in 16 minutes to find mother shot to death

Police, Communications Center probe 911 response

DENVER - 7NEWS has determined that it took Denver police at least 16 minutes to respond to a domestic violence 911 call that ended with a Denver mother being shot to death while she was on the phone with a 911 operator.

Denver Police initially estimated that it took officers 12 to 13 minutes to respond Monday night to the home at 2112 S. St. Paul Street, near the University of Denver.

7NEWS Reporter Lindsey Sablan found the average response time for priority 1 and 2 calls was just under 7 minutes in 2012. Under the 911 Communication Center's 0-to-6 priority scale, the lower the number, the higher the priority of call.

The Monday night call took 16 minutes for police to arrive.

Denver Police declined 7NEWS' request for a recording of the 911 call between the woman and the operator, citing the need to protect the ongoing homicide investigation and an internal affairs investigation into how police and the Communications Center handled the incident. City officials also would not tell 7NEWS the priority level of a domestic violence call.

A 911 caller's information is taken by an operator who relays electronic notes to the dispatcher, who radios information to officers. 7NEWS reviewed a recording of the radio communication that night between 911 dispatchers and officers in the field. The recording was provided by Broadcastify.com.

Police say they are investigating whether marijuana use played a role in the killing of 44-year-old Kristine Kirk, whose three young children were present in the home.

At 9:31 p.m., a dispatcher radios to a patrol officer: "2112 South St. Paul Street on a report of a domestic violence in progress. RP [reporting party] versus her husband. [He] has been smoking marijuana."

The dispatcher adds an important note: "Advise they do keep a handgun in the house but it's not in anybody's possession."

A police report says Kristine Kirk tells the 911 operator there is a gun in the house, but it is in a safe.

The wife tells the operator that her "husband was hallucinating" and "talking about the end of the world and he wanted her to shoot him," a detective who listened to the 911 call writes in a police report.

The wife says her husband's rant is "scaring their three small children," the police report says.

Finally, the woman tells the 911 operator that her husband has retrieved the gun from the safe and she begins to scream, then a gunshot is heard on the 911 recording, the detective's report states.

At 9:45 p.m., a responding officer, who is probably reading the 911 operator's notes on his patrol car computer, radios to dispatch: "According to the notes he grabbed the gun, and she screamed and the line disconnected…Can we step up cover?" He's asking the dispatcher to expedite other police "cover" cars to back him up.

The officer still has not said he's arrived at the house. But the sense of urgency intensifies.

Several officers radio they are responding to the home.

At 9:47 p.m., the first officer radios that he's arrived at the home.

By then it's too late.

Police enter the home to find Kristine Kirk lying on the floor with a gunshot wound to her head. Her husband, 47-year-old Richard Kirk, is still inside the home.

An officer radios: "Need an ambulance code 10 for a party down. Possible GS to the head. We're gonna need Homicide [detectives]."

According to an arrest affidavit, as a handcuffed Richard Kirk was placed in a police car, he volunteered "that he killed his wife." He is being held without bond on investigation of first-degree murder at the Downtown Detention Center.

Sablan asked Denver Police and Communication Center officials Wednesday if 16 minutes is considered an average response time for a domestic violence call.

She also asked, "How many officers were on shift in that police district at that time and if officers were dealing with other calls?"

Both agencies replied, "To protect the integrity of the homicide investigation and the internal investigation, we are unable to answer these questions."

"Any time a person dies while communicating with Denver's emergency services we examine the circumstances to ensure that the incident was handled properly and we look for areas to improve upon," Denver Police said in a Tuesday statement.

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