Dispatcher who handled 911 call during Denver mother's killing is on administrative leave

Husband charged in killing of Kristine Kirk

DENVER - The dispatcher who handled a 911 call that ended with a Denver mother being shot to death was placed on administrative leave the next day, Denver Department of Safety spokeswoman Daelene Mix said Thursday.

Kristine Kirk called 911 at 9:30 p.m. on April 14 to report her husband had been using marijuana, was hallucinating and asking her to shoot him. The couples' three young children were in the home.

According to a police radio recording, it took Denver police 16 minutes to respond to the Kirk's call. When officers arrived at the home in the 2100 block of South St. Paul Street, the woman was already dead. 

Her husband, Richard Kirk, has been charged with first-degree murder, and police records say he consumed a marijuana-infused candy the evening of the killing.

Denver Police Cmdr. Matt Murray told 7NEWS that case is one of the reasons the department has changed its policy regarding emergency call responses. Denver police refer to an emergency response as a Code 10, which is when officers are allowed to use emergency lights and sirens.

Prior to the policy change, a Code 10 was allowed for specific urgent incidents, including responding to an officer calling for help, shootings, robberies in progress, explosions, ambulance investigations and when a dispatcher requests emergency response.

The department has increased that list to include assault/disturbances with weapons; suicidal party; when the reporting person believes that his/her life is in imminent danger or "excited delirium."

"Excited delirium is typically caused by a drug overdose," Murray said. "What happens is people begin to act in a really bizarre manner. They don't seem to attack other people or have any specific mission but just do really odd things...Speed is a critical factor when you're dealing with a case like that."

The department is also telling officers that, if they're given approval by a supervisor, they are allowed to call a Code 10 before dispatch does.

"This is about asking people [officers] to keep these things in mind. When you see these things to start having that conversation. It drives the conversation to ensure communication is occurring and that we're getting more information," Murray said.

Our partners at the Denver Post broke down the 911 call between Kristine Kirk and the 911 operator. The operator takes the caller's information and relays electronic notes to the dispatcher, who then radios patrol officers.

In the first three minutes of the call, Kristine Kirk told the 911 operator her husband may be on marijuana, there was a gun in the home, he was "totally hallucinating," ranting about the end of the world and he was telling her to shoot him.

In police radio traffic 7NEWS reviewed, the dispatcher only told police to respond to a "report of a domestic violence in progress. RP [reporting party] versus her husband. [He] has been smoking marijuana...Advise they do keep a handgun in the house but it's not in anybody's possession."

The details that were not relayed by dispatch may have been information that would help an officer determine to call a Code 10.

7NEWS Reporter Lindsey Sablan asked Cmdr. Murray, "Could this have made the difference in that call?"

"It's so difficult to say. I know people are quick to wonder that. We'll never know," Murray replied. "There's a lot of speculation that goes into that. What we do know is based on that call, that is one of the things we looked at. Could we do different? Should we do different?...That case did come into play in this policy but, again, we were working on this with several issues as far back as at least February."

Murray said this would only affect the response time for emergency calls.

The police department and the city's 911 Communication Center are conducting an internal investigation into how the 911 operator, the dispatcher and officers responded to Kristine Kirk's call.

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