Phone Company Gave Dispatch Correct Address Before Cop's Murder
Clinton, MO – CenturyLink said on Thursday that they provided the correct address to the 911 dispatch center which dispatched an officer to the wrong house, where he was murdered after arriving.
Clinton Police Officer Christopher Morton was gunned down when he arrived at the wrong house on March 6. Officers Nathan Bettencourt and Nicholas Kasper were wounded by the gunman.
The officers were sent to the Clinton address after a call was placed to the Henry County 911 Emergency Communications Center. The dispatcher could hear women yelling on the open line, but was unable to speak with anyone directly, WDAF reported.
The dispatcher used the agency’s database and technology to trace the call, and dispatched officers to the Clinton 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, KCTV reported.
The officers arrived at the location they were dispatched to, and 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.
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.
On March 9, the Henry County 911 Emergency Communications told The Kansas City Star that the mistake was due to an error in the Master Street Address Guide, which was provided by CenturyLink.
CenturyLink, the telephone company that provided service to the Henry County, disputed that allegation on Thursday, and insisted that the information its system provided in relation to the 911 call was accurate.
"CenturyLink takes all public safety issues seriously, particularly those involving first responders," CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen told The Kansas City Star on Thursday evening. "We conducted a thorough investigation which shows that when the 911 call was placed, CenturyLink provided the correct phone number and address."
The call was also placed using a landline, as opposed to a cell phone.
“Assuming they’re right, they delivered the right address,” Henry County 911 Emergency Communications chairman Ken Scott told The Kansas City Star, after he learned about the company’s statement. “I don’t have a reason to challenge that.”
The error may have been the result of a problem with the 911 center’s technology, he said.
"Our computer system could not interpret and map it," Scott said. "We're looking to see what do we need to do next to make sure the mapping system is correct.”
The actual cause of the fatal error was still being investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, WDAF reported.