A recording shows she sat on hold so long, a recording came on seven times.
Halloween afternoon, a woman called 911 to report gunshots fired at a man driving on St. Clair near Chardon Road.
“I thought someone was shooting at me. They were shooting through this guy’s car,” she told 911. “He’s shot all over.”
After four minutes of talking to a police dispatcher, the woman got transferred to EMS.
She heard a recording, saying, “all operators are currently handling other emergencies,” “you have reached 911 for Cleveland Fire and EMS” and “stay on the line for the next available operator.”
That witness listened to the recording in English and Spanish, hearing it for two and a half more precious minutes.
The caller works as a nurse and had been on her way to visit a dying patient.
While on hold, she could even be heard saying, “I have to go see another patient, so I need someone to do something quickly here.”
The I-Team asked the city to explain the delay.
Interim Deputy Commissioner of EMS Chris Chapin wrote in an email, “At the time of the incident, there were seven personnel on-duty in the RED Center. During the time of the incident, there were eight emergency calls that were received within a 5-minute period.”
“There were multiple callers from the scene at 19391 St. Clair. This may have led to this caller receiving the delay message, but there was no delay in response to this incident,” he added.
The city’s response also says another caller at the scene got through to EMS. But, records show that second call was actually made two minutes after the witness had called.
At one point, the witness can also be heard saying, “Everyone keeps saying he’s breathing, but I haven’t seen him breathe. I can’t get in there to take a pulse.”
Ultimately, the shooting victim died. EMS says an advanced life support ambulance arrived on the scene within 12 minutes from when a call first made it through to EMS.
After the incident, the boss of the nurse left on hold fired off an email to Mayor Justin Bibb and other city leaders, calling it a “miracle” the witness didn’t get shot and demanding a plan to make the city safer right now.
Cleveland homicide detectives have been investigating, trying to solve the case. This week, they issued an arrest warrant for one suspect.
But here, the story behind a witness struggling to get through trying to save a life.