Clinton, MO – Clinton Police Officer Christopher Morton was mistakenly dispatched to the wrong address just prior to his murder, the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MHP) said on Wednesday.
Two other officers were also shot and wounded in the incident.
The 911 call was mistakenly traced to the wrong address, which police did not realize when they arrived at the scene, KCTV reported.
They initially made contact with a woman named Tammy Widger at the home, and she told them everything was fine.
Officers reconfirmed the address with dispatch, and told Widger that they needed to come in to check the welfare of other people in the home.
After they entered, they encountered 37-year-old James Waters.
Waters, who was out on bail for weapons and methamphetamine charges and under investigation for connection to a rape, opened fire, hitting Officer Christopher Morton, 30, and two additional officers.
Officers Nathan Bettencourt and Nicholas Kasper were able to retreat from the residence, but Officer Morton was stuck inside, ABC News reported.
He told the dispatcher that he had been hit “multiple times,” in the arm, legs, head, and vest, and that he didn’t think he would be able to get out through a window.
“Stay with us,” the dispatcher begged, according to ABC News.
Officer Morton said he was located in a back room of the home, but failed to respond to further communications from the dispatcher, the Missourinet reported.
Waters then barricaded himself inside the residence, and police pleaded with him to allow them to help Officer Morton, to no avail.
The prosecutor said that tactical officers were able to enter 15-20 minutes later and extract Officer Morton. He was transported to the hospital where he died.
An MHP SWAT team made entry at approximately 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday, and found Waters dead.
It wasn’t yet known if the gunman’s fatal gunshot wound was self-inflicted, investigators said.
Officer Bettencourt underwent surgery, and was recovering in a Kansas City area hospital, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Officer Kasper was treated for his gunshot wounds at a local hospital, and was released.
In addition to being out on bail, investigators had been looking for Waters in relation to a rape investigation, Henry County prosecutor Richard Shields told the Springfield News-Leader.
“He had not been charged [with rape]," Shields said. "I am not sure what his involvement was."
Following the incident, Shields said that 37-year-old Tammy Widger, who lived at the Clinton residence, was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, and maintaining a public nuisance.
Shields noted that evidence suggested Widger had been selling drugs out of the home.
Investigators later learned that the 911 call had not originated from the Clinton address, and that it had actually been placed from a location in Windsor, a town approximately 15 miles away from Clinton, by someone with no connection to Waters or Widger, KCTV reported.
An investigation into the mistake at the dispatch center was ongoing, MSP Sergeant Bill Lowe said during a Wednesday press conference, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
"It is a coincidence they were called to that specific address," Sgt. Lowe told KCTV. "It is tragic that happened. But the fact is, they were in the act of committing crimes within that house.”
A similar situation involving an officer being dispatched to the wrong location occurred in Florida in 2016, when a dispatcher sent officers to a domestic disturbance.
It that case, the dispatcher misspelled the street name and was unable to pinpoint the caller’s exact location, so she triangulated the call and took her best guess.
The dispatcher failed to forewarn the responding officers that the location was not definite, and police ended up knocking on the door of an armed man, who refused to put down his weapon.
Fearing for their lives, officers fired six rounds at the man as they backed away from the front door of the home.
Although no one was injured during the altercation, and the male at the residence refused repeated commands to put down his weapon, Ocoee Police Department (OPD) Officer Carlos Anglero was indicted for shooting into an occupied dwelling.
He was convicted by a jury on Jan. 4, and his sentencing is scheduled for Mar. 27.
The dispatcher was later issued a written letter of counseling for her failure to follow standard operating procedure, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Officer Anglero faces a potential 15 year prison sentence.