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Police investigate delayed response to 911 call

Posted November 9, 2009

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— Fayetteville police are investigating why officers weren't dispatched for more than an hour last Monday after a 911 call was received from a home where a family of four was killed in a murder-suicide.

When the 911 operator answered the first call, at 6:38 p.m. Nov. 2, no one responded. The sounds of someone in distress and what could be a gunshot were audible in a recording of the call released last week.

The Maxwell family Murder-suicide discovered after second 911 call

The call was cut off, and the operator tried to redial the number but got a busy signal, according to the recording.

A second 911 call was made at at 8:01 p.m. Nov. 2, when a man tells a dispatcher that he went over to his daughter's home and could see bodies inside.

Police said William "Billy" Maxwell Jr., 47, killed his family at 314 West Park Drive. The victims included his wife, Kathryn Maxwell, 43, daughter Connor Maxwell, 17, and son Cameron Maxwell, 15.

Billy Maxwell was suffering from mental illness, the Rev. John Cook, pastor of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, told mourners at the family's funeral service on Friday.

Fayetteville Police Department spokeswoman Theresa Chance confirmed Monday that the first call came from a home phone inside the Maxwell house and not a cell phone. She said officers called back a second time and left a message on the home answering machine.

Police Chief Tom Bergamine said the response time to the first 911 call is under internal review.

The department has an enhanced 911 system that allows dispatchers to pinpoint the location of calls made from landline phones when there's no response.

"Hopefully, we'll be getting this done and taken care of very quickly," Bergamine said.

He declined to discuss details of the investigation.

The first call is what police describe as an abandoned 911 call. The police department's 911 call center has received about 46,000 such calls this year, Chance said.

“The protocol is, the first thing they do is check for a call history to see if there is some evidence of medical issues there or maybe domestic (violence calls). The second thing to do is a callback to the residence,” said Capt. Brad Chandler, commander of the 911 center. "(An abandoned call) is put into the system, and it's a Priority 4, which gives us 20 minutes to dispatch or notify somebody."


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  • FromClayton Nov 10, 2009

    so 911 could hear gunshots in the background and they thought it was ok to put it on a priority 4 (20 minute response time) Lord help us all if we need 911!

  • mep Nov 10, 2009

    Remember, just because you call 911, does not automatically make the police or fire department liable for your safety. All they are required to do is make a "reasonable attempt".

  • pebbles262004 Nov 10, 2009

    Someone may have still been alive if police would have gone to the house.One of them maybe could have got some help and still be here today

  • devilblue Nov 10, 2009

    Still the most tragic story and it seems it could have been prevented. Still gives me chills thinking about what his wife and kids were experiencing in their last moments as they are being gunned down by their husband/father.

  • lizard Nov 10, 2009

    Was it a cellphone? That makes a difference, you know. Can't hardly trace those quickly.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Nov 10, 2009

    In their defense about the "gunshot" sound, it's easy after the fact to hear a noise and say it could have been a gunshot.

    I am curious how many abandoned calls they have that don't answer the call back. Seems like they have a process that just wasn't followed.

  • thought Nov 10, 2009

    I remember a few years ago, my mom called my sister. Her phone was not dialing correctly. We thought nothing of it and as we walked out the door - a police officer was there. He said there was a hang up call and they were sent to check- I then realized when she hit the 919 area code te one hit twice. The officer was nice about it and we thanked him for checking on the family. Scared us silly to see the police( they never go thru our old neighborhood)
    Maybe things would not have changed if they showed up- but maybe someone was still alive= we will not know unless a corner can tell. If this was the neighborhood I just left- they still would not be there to answer the call, they would be on the side road talking to each other ignoring the speeders etc.

  • WHEEL Nov 10, 2009

    Just what does a 911 operator have to hear over the phone to prompt a responce? Obviously sounds of distress and gun shots aren't enough!

  • itsmyownopinion Nov 10, 2009

    "Well - for all they knew it could have been a crank call. . . and maybe their officers were tied up elsewhere."

    Where? Dunkin Donuts?

  • gandalla Nov 9, 2009

    Well - for all they knew it could have been a crank call.

    you would think with the 911 operator having heard a gun shot the police would have sided on the side caution and actually responded.