Dispatcher Who Allegedly Hung Up on Buffalo Shooting 911 Call Put on Leave

A 911 dispatcher in New York who allegedly hung up on a woman calling for help from inside the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo while a mass shooting unfolded has been suspended and is awaiting a disciplinary hearing.

The allegation was first made when a woman identified as a Tops assistant manager was interviewed over the phone by local TV news channel WGRZ and said the dispatcher had slammed the phone down in annoyance—because she was whispering.

The supermarket employee said she had kept her voice down as she hid from the shooter who was roaming the store looking for victims during the incident that left 10 dead and three others injured on May 14.

"I tried to call 911, and I was whispering because I could hear him close by," said the employee, who was identified only by her first name, Latisha. "And when I whispered on the phone to 911, the dispatcher started yelling at me saying 'Why are you whispering? You don't have to whisper.' And I'm trying to tell her, like, 'Ma'am, he's in the store. He's shooting. It's an active shooter. I'm scared for my life.' And she said something crazy to me and then she hung up in my face. And I had to call my boyfriend to call 911."

Buffalo shooting at Tops supermarket
A 911 dispatcher in Erie County, New York is being investigated amid claims the dispatcher hung up on a woman who called for help from inside the Tops Supermarket during a mass shooting on May 14. Picture, police at the scene of the shooting in Buffalo, New York. Getty Images

In New York State, 911 calls are generally not released to the public, so the conversation has not been made available to the media.

Describing what she'd seen, she told the station: "I didn't really see much at all. I just heard the gunshots and dropped down to the ground and just waited for him to stop. And he just wouldn't stop."

Erie County, which runs the 911 communications center, told Newsweek that the incident is being investigated. Spokesperson for the Office of the Erie County Executive Peter Anderson said: "Immediate action was taken in this case and the individual who took that call is now on administrative leave pending a disciplinary hearing, which should happen within a couple of weeks. The internal investigation began on Sunday, May 15, 2022 and the employee was placed on administrative leave on May 16, 2022. The disciplinary hearing will be the week of May 30, 2022 and termination will be sought."

He added: "The employee's action had no bearing on the dispatching [due to other 911 calls being made]…The first call was dispatched for an immediate police response in approximately 30 seconds."

The name of the dispatcher has not been released, but Newsweek has learned the call taker had worked for the county for eight years.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown praised police for their swift arrival, saying officers were at the scene of the shooting within two minutes.

The attacker, who was dressed in a combat uniform, live-streamed the mass shooting online. Some 13 victims were shot in total, 11 of whom were Black. Ten people died from their injuries.

The alleged gunman, Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, has been charged with first-degree murder and police said they believed "racially motivated violent extremism" was a motive for the attack.

Update 5/23/22, 11:53 a.m. EDT: This article has been updated to include comments from Peter Anderson, spokesperson for the Office of the Erie County Executive.