Deputy Hangs Up on Frantic 911 Caller Reporting a Gang Killing
A frantic 911 caller reporting a gang shooting in Newhall and pleading, “I’m going to get killed,” was told to “have a nice day” by a veteran Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who hung up on him, authorities said Friday.
“There’s blood everywhere. . . . Get a deputy. . . . Come on. Come on,” the caller said before being cut off.
Sheriff Sherman Block said that Deputy Jim Greene made an error in judgment and that the incident is under investigation.
“He didn’t accept the call as being a valid call,” Block said. “He didn’t do anything.”
Block, speaking at a news conference Friday, would not speculate on whether Greene, a 25-year veteran who twice last year received commendations for his handling of 911 calls, will be disciplined after the investigation.
The man who made the call, Jim Finnila, was not injured after Greene hung up on him. He was reporting the shooting of Miguel Jiminez, 15, of San Fernando who was shot by a rival gang member Jan. 20, deputies said.
Jiminez died at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia after the shooting. Early the next morning, deputies arrested Alphonso Tapia, 18, of San Fernando on suspicion of murder.
Block said Finnila’s call at 10:36 p.m. was the second report of the shooting received on 911 lines at the sheriff’s Santa Clarita Valley station. The other caller reported that shots had been fired and several armed gang members were running around in the area of commercial businesses. Block said a sheriff’s patrol was dispatched to the scene at that point.
Thirty seconds later, Finnila called 911 from a pay phone near the shooting scene in the 24300 block of San Fernando Road. Though he started out reporting the shooting calmly, his voice soon grew frantic as he apparently believed the gang members responsible for the shooting were going to turn on him.
“There’s someone laying here on San Fernando. There’s a gunshot on 8th and San Fernando,” Finnila said
“Did you say a gunshot victim?” Greene asked.
‘Guy Is Jerking Around’
“Yeah,” Finnila said. “He’s, ah, this guy is jerking around on the ground.”
Finnila twice yelled, “Get the cops here quick,” while Greene attempted to get information about the shooting.
Block said Greene did not know about the earlier call reporting the shooting, which was handled by another 911 operator. The 911 system provides the operator with the address a call comes from, the sheriff said, and Greene apparently believed Finnila was calling from a bar near where the shooting occurred.
“Based on the conversation he had with the individual, he made a judgment call--the wrong judgment, bad judgment, I might add--and decided that he would not dispatch a car,” Block said. “He did not grasp the urgency of the situation.”
Halfway through the 55-second call, Greene again asked Finnila if there was a shooting victim and this time the caller said he did not know.
“Come on and get some squad cars over here,” Finnila said.
In a seemingly matter-of-fact manner, Greene replied, “No, I ain’t getting nobody nowhere unless you talk to me. You want to talk to me?”
‘Going to Get Killed’
“I’m going to get killed,” Finnila said. “Oh yeah. Yeah. There’s blood everywhere. There’s blood from his head. Oh damn. Get a deputy. Oh goddamn.”
“Hey, have a nice day. OK,” Greene interjected.
Finnila, his voice in a rising panic, yelled, “Oh. Come on. Come on,” as Greene disconnected the call.
“It would appear to me that this was not a willful, malicious disregarding of a call for assistance,” Block said.
“I think he obviously made the decision that this caller was not expressing a situation that was in fact occurring. I’m not excusing that, but it was a judgment call. I think he responded in a way that he thought appropriate for the kind of call he thought he was dealing with.”
Block said the dispatched patrol car arrived less than five minutes after the first call to 911. But before it arrived, an off-duty Los Angeles police officer happened by the scene, got out of his car and drew his gun.
Block said the gang members involved in the shooting then scattered and ran while friends that were with Jiminez put him in a car and took him to a hospital. Block would not speculate on whether the off-duty officer’s arrival saved Finnila from being attacked by the gang members.
Block stressed that even if Greene had handled the call from Finnila properly, deputies would not have arrived at the scene any faster because a patrol car had already been dispatched.
‘They Screwed Up’
Neither Finnila or Greene could be reached for comment. Greene was not at work Friday and “feels not only very, very bad but has become somewhat ill over this,” Block said. “This becomes a little difficult for a person to accept that, very simply, they screwed up.”
Authorities released no details on Finnila.
When Greene returns to work, it is likely he will continue handling 911 calls, the sheriff said.
“There is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to take 911 calls,” he said. “People in law enforcement, be they answering telephone calls or out on the street, have to make judgment calls. And sometimes they make the wrong judgment call.”
A FRANTIC CALL Here’s a transcript of the 911 phone call from Jim Finnila to Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Greene: Greene: 911 emergency.
Finnila: There’s someone laying here on San Fernando. There’s a gunshot on 8th and San Fernando, ah . . . (pause)
Greene: Did you say a gunshot victim?
Finnila: Yeah. He’s, ah, this guy is jerking around on the ground.
(The sound of tires screeching is heard in the background.)
Finnila: Get the cops here quick.
Greene: Hello. Hello.
Finnila: Get the cops here quick.
Finnila: Quick, quick.
Greene: Anybody there? Hello.
Finnila: Hurry up. I’m going to get my ass kicked. Hurry up.
Greene: Are you gonna talk to me?
Finnila: Yeah. And I’m scared to death.
Greene: All right. Has anybody been shot? Yes or no?
Finnila: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Greene: What have you got there? What the hell are you yelling about?
Finnila: Come on and get some squad cars over here.
Greene: No, I ain’t getting nobody nowhere unless you talk to me. You want to talk to me?
Finnila: I’m going to get killed. Oh, yeah. Yeah. There’s blood everywhere. There’s blood from his head. Oh damn. Get a deputy. Oh goddamn.
Greene: Hey. Have a nice day. OK.
Finnila: Oh. Come on. Come on.