Judge: Denver can be sued after 911 operator told victims to go to area where man was shot & killed

DENVER - The city of Denver can be sued in a case involving a mistake by a 911 dispatcher.

In April 2012, Jimma Reat was shot and killed when the car he was in was riddled with bullets. A short time earlier, Reat and his family and friends called 911 when their back window was shattered by bottles thrown by a passing vehicle at 10th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard.

They continued driving toward a home in Lakewood while Reat's brother, Ran Pal, called 911. The Denver dispatcher, Juan Jesus Rodriguez, told Pal that they needed to return to Denver to meet with officers.

Someone in the vehicle told the dispatcher that Pal was "kind of in shock," but they were still directed to go to Denver for help.

They stopped at 29th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard. While waiting for officers, the same vehicle that they were concerned about drove by. Shots were fired from that passing SUV.

Reat was shot and killed.

According to dispatch records, the first officer wasn't dispatched to the scene until almost one minute after the shooting. The first ambulance wasn't sent to the scene until four minutes after the shooting.

Reat's family sued the dispatcher and the city of Denver in September 2012. In June 2013, a judge dismissed the city from the lawsuit, saying that the family failed to show, "deliberately indifferent training and supervision" by the city of Denver.

After considering new evidence, another judge has ruled that the city can be sued.

The city fired Rodriguez on May 15, 2012. According to his dismissal letter, which is included in the court record, he was given a "verbal reprimand" for his actions 32 days before the slaying of Reat.

On Feb. 29, 2012, a man who called 911 told Rodriguez that he believed that he had killed his mother's boyfriend. Rodriguez had the caller go outside and check the exact address and then go back inside the home. According to the reprimand letter, Rodriguez also had the caller perform CPR on the victim he said he had killed.

The reprimand included the following: "In your handling of this incident, you failed to address scene safety and the integrity of a crime scene; instead, you focused, after much delay, on the medical aspect of the situation, discounting the fact that you were speaking with a possible crime suspect."

"Your handling of this call demonstrates an inability to discern, based on your caller's comments, what type of situation you were dealing with when processing the call. In this case, in your attempt to get an exact location, you failed to demonstrate any urgency in finding out what had happened, and in the process, dismissed the confession you were provided and failed to recognize the potential consequences of sending the caller back into the crime scene."

Based on the lawsuit, the family believes the city failed to properly train Rodriguez following that incident. The judge determined that with this new evidence, the city can be sued.