Lawsuit says San Diego 911 dispatchers blew off calls about woman who was kidnapped and shot
A woman who was shot three times and left a quadriplegic last spring is suing San Diego for gross negligence, contending that police dispatchers failed to take seriously multiple 911 calls from her mother.
Mya Hendrix, who was wounded during a kidnapping by gang members in April, says in the lawsuit that city dispatchers are partly responsible for her injuries because they deemed the situation a “nonemergency” and a scam, despite multiple calls from the then-19-year-old’s mother.
Three suspected gang members — Cesar Alvarado, Michael Pedraza and Britney Canal — have been charged in the case, which was part of a crime spree that also left a Chula Vista businessman dead, authorities said.
The lawsuit comes three years after public outcry over slow responses to emergency calls in San Diego, including an April 2016 case when two 911 calls went unanswered as a dog fatally attacked an infant in Mira Mesa.
Since then, the city has given 25% pay raises to police and fire dispatchers, which, officials say, has boosted employee morale, reduced dispatcher absences and shortened emergency response times.
Hendrix’s lawsuit says the first dispatcher that her mother, Misti Hendrix, reached on April 11 was skeptical when told of Mya’s phone call to her mother that morning saying kidnappers had her and wanted $2,500 ransom.
The dispatcher concluded it was a “scam” concocted by Mya Hendrix and fellow drug users, the suit says.
Despite Misti Hendrix insisting that her daughter would never do such a thing, the dispatcher told her that such kidnapping scams were common in San Diego and that she should take no further action.
Because of this advice, the lawsuit says, the mother did not go to a police station and did not try to come up with the $2,500 ransom, actions that could have helped her daughter avoid getting shot.
The lawsuit says the dispatcher’s actions constitute gross negligence and bad faith, noting that the dispatcher failed to follow several protocols in place for missing persons under 21.
Those include prioritizing such calls over property crimes, immediately assessing the appropriate next steps, posting a “be on the lookout” bulletin for other law enforcement agencies, and alerting the state Department of Justice.
When Hendrix called her mother a second time early that afternoon, she was crying and her mother heard her being attacked with something that sounded like a taser, the suit says.
In addition, a man and a woman said to Misti Hendrix that they would kill her daughter if they didn’t get the $2,500, and the man finished the call by saying, “you don’t know how serious this is,” the suits says.
Misti Hendrix immediately made a second 911 call, during which a second dispatcher looked up the incident number from that morning and told her the case had been deemed a scam, according to the suit.
“I have to keep calls open for emergencies,” the dispatcher allegedly told Misti Hendrix before directing her to call the police nonemergency line.
Misti Hendrix then called the nonemergency line, where a third dispatcher offered to trace her daughter’s cellphone and get back to her, the suit says. But he never called Misti Hendrix back, and there is no evidence he called the cellphone provider, according to the suit.
On April 12, Hendrix was found by a passerby in the ocean off Sunset Cliffs with three gunshot wounds.
The suit, which was filed last month, calls the actions by the dispatchers an “extreme departure from ordinary conduct.”
The suit did not name any of the dispatchers involved.
Mya Hendrix is seeking compensation for medical care and lost earnings.
Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel has not scheduled a trial date.
A spokeswoman for City Atty. Mara Elliott said by email that Elliot would seek direction from city officials and respond through the courts.
A gofundme.com page created for Mya Hendrix has raised $3,100 since the incident.
David Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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