911 dispatcher is fired for ‘yelling’ and hanging up on grocery store employee during Buffalo mass shooting

Latisha Rogers, an assistant manager at the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York, said the dispatcher shouted at her for whispering and then hung up on her as she hid from gunman

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A 911 dispatcher has been fired for allegedly yelling at and hanging up on a grocery store employee during the Buffalo mass shooting where 10 Black people were shot dead.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Erie County Executive confirmed to The Independent on Friday that the individual was terminated from their role following a disciplinary hearing on Thursday.

The individual, who has not been named but who had worked for the county for the past eight years, was previously placed on paid administrative leave after allegations about their conduct on the call surfaced last month.

Latisha Rogers, an assistant manager at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, claimed that the dispatcher shouted at her for whispering and then hung up on her as she begged them to send help to the scene of the mass shooting.

The store worker, who is Black, dialled 911 as self-proclaimed white supremacist and racist Payton Gendron allegedly stalked the supermarket aisles shooting victims in his path.

“I called 911, I go through the whole operator and everything, the dispatcher comes on and I’m whispering to her and I said ‘Miss, please send help to 1275 Jefferson there is a shooter in the store’,” Ms Rogers told WGRZ.

“She proceeded in a very nasty tone and says ‘I can’t hear you, why are you whispering? You don’t have to whisper, they can’t hear you.’”

“So I continued to whisper and I said ‘Ma’am he’s still in the store, he’s still shooting! I’m scared for my life, please send help’.”

Ms Rogers said that the dispatcher then “said something I couldn’t make out, and then the phone hung up”.

The terrified store worker then called her boyfriend and told him to call 911 to send police to the store.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz previously said that the county’s intention was to fire the dispatcher who he slammed for acting “totally inappropriately” and for “not following protocol”.

Officials also announced an investigation into the entire department after another botched 911 call was made during a birthday party for a survivor of the massacre.

Last week, a woman went into cardiac arrest at a party for a surviving victim of the 14 May attack.

When partygoers called 911, the call was also cut off by a dispatcher, officials said.

Community members pray at a memorial site for the victims of the Buffalo mass shooting

Legislator April Baskin of Erie County told WIVB4 that she has called for an investigation “not just into that particular call taker and the ongoings of that call, but the entire department and identifying how many disconnections are happening”.

The probe comes as New York lawmakers passed a bill this week to raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 in the state.

The suspected gunman Mr Gendron, 18, used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot his 13 victims, 10 of them fatally.

He was arraigned on Thursday on 25 counts including 10 counts of first-degree murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree.

The terrorism charge came into law in the state in November 2020 and Mr Gendron is the first person to ever be charged with it.

The horror attack unfolded while innocent residents were shopping at the grocery store on a sunny afternoon on Saturday 14 May.

Mr Gendron, dressed in tactical gear and armed with an assault rifle, opened fire outside the store first before moving through the supermarket aisles shooting more victims.

All 10 people killed were Black.

The 18-year-old suspect is believed to have handpicked the Buffalo community, driving three hours from his home in Conklin to the area, because it is a predominantly Black community.

In an online manifesto which appears to have been posted by the gunman, Mr Gendron called himself a racist, white supremacist and antisemite and detailed how he had been inspired by other white supremacist mass shooters to carry out the attack.

Payton Gendron appears in court on 19 May as he is indicted by a grand jury over the mass shooting

He also cited the debunked “great replacement theory” which has repeatedly been echoed by right-wing personalities such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson – an extremist conspiracy theory that falsely claims there is a plot to diminish the influence of white people.

Following Mr Gendron’s arrest, he made “disturbing statements” about his motive, making clear that he was “filled with hate toward the Black community” and was targeting Black people, according to officials.

His firearm had the n-word written on it and the number 14 – an apparent reference to a conspiracy theory.

Officials have since said that the gunman planned to continue the mass shooting at at least one other location in the community but was stopped by law enforcement who took him into custody at the scene.

The mass shooting in Buffalo came just 10 days before 21 people – 19 students aged nine to 11 years old and two teachers – were shot and killed at a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on 24 May.

Gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, also used a semi-automatic rifle in that attack.

Just over one week later on 1 June, four people were then shot and killed at a medical centre in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The shooter Michael Louis, 45, bought the gun used in that attack just hours earlier before travelling to the centre to target a doctor who had treated him.

With the number of mass shooting victims soaring across the country, Democrats and President Joe Biden are calling for tightened gun regulations to prevent more families from being torn apart by gun violence.

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