DENVER — A dispatcher who handled a 12-minute 911 call in which a woman was killed while on the phone, has been fired, according to the Denver Department of Public Safety.
Richard Kirk, now 48, is accused of shooting his wife Kristine Kirk, 44, in the head April 15 after he bought a marijuana edible and a pre-rolled marijuana cigarette less than three hours before. Before she was killed, Kris Kirk told the dispatcher that her husband had taken some prescription medicine for back pain along with the pot and was hallucinating.
"The response of the patrol officers was found to be reasonable and appropriate, given the limited information that was aired by dispatch," according to a report from the police department. "There was information relayed by the caller to the call taker that would have prompted an emergency response. The information which was constantly being updated was not provided over the air to the patrol officers."
Later in the call, Kris Kirk mentioned that the couple had a gun that was in a gun safe. When she realized her husband had taken the gun from its safe, she panicked and was shot within a few seconds. Richard Kirk was charged with first-degree murder and remains in jail.
The dispatcher was suspended with pay the day after the incident pending the results of the investigation. On Friday, the dispatcher, who was not publicly identified, was fired.
It's not clear how long the dispatcher had been on the job.
While the dispatcher entered information into the computer and was forwarding notes to the officers' laptops as Kris Kirk told what was going on in her home, the call taker did not update police verbally for 13 minutes, police said in a May press conference.
"At the time, it was prioritized appropriately as a Class 1 priority, but no information was provided, verbally to the officers, to update that situation," said Commander Matt Murray of the Denver Police Department. "Officers were not given, verbally, information as they were responding to the scene. It's not possible or safe for officers to be driving to a crime and reading a screen."
The department recently made changes in how police respond to specific incidents and who makes a determination of an urgent response. Officials said the changes are not related to any specific incident.
Among the changes: Dispatchers will no longer suggest the urgency with which officers should respond to a call. Instead, officers' supervisor will decide.
Use of lights and sirens now will include calls reporting excited delirium, suicidal behavior, assault or disturbance with a weapon or caller's life being in imminent danger, city officials said.
"We are seeing more instances where excited delirium and or mental health issues result in quickly escalating situations and outcomes," said Daelene Mix, the department's strategic adviser and communications director.
The new policy requires 911 operators to remain on the line until emergency personnel arrive in cases where a caller faces a fearful situation or when a patrol supervisor tells officers to use lights and sirens.
The Kirks had three young sons who were not injured in the incident. Richard Kirk will appear Aug. 22 in Denver District Court.