It took an ambulance a shocking 19 minutes to reach law professor Dan Markel as he lay dying in his car from a gunshot wound after a neighbor called 911.
Despite the frantic calls for help, emergency dispatchers mistakenly assigned the incident a low priority — meaning even police failed to arrive until 15 minutes after Markel was ambushed by a mystery assailant as he pulled into the driveway of his home on July 18, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported.
“You need to send an ambulance in a hurry,” the 911 caller said, according to an edited copy of a transcript released by authorities. “He’s still alive, he’s still moving.”
During the chilling 911 call, Markel’s neighbor stressed the urgency of the situation.
“The driver’s side window is all bashed in and he’s got blood all over his head,” the caller added. “He’s not responding to me. … I think you need to hurry.”
For unknown reasons, Tallahassee 911 dispatchers assigned the call a priority 3, instead of the most-urgent priority 1 that a shooting would normally command.
It’s unclear if the dramatic delay cost Markel his life or if it prevented police from catching his killer in the moments after the crime.
The 911 caller, who had already heard a gunshot, said he saw the garage door of Markel’s home open. He approached the car and found Markel bleeding in the car.
“His driver’s side window was shattered and he was spattered and can’t answer,” the man told the dispatcher, speaking calmly throughout the call. “I don’t know if somebody tried to shoot him or he shot himself, I don’t know.”
After waiting 12 minutes, the dispatcher finally told the caller that a police officer — not an ambulance — was near.
“OK, well, we need EMT,” the caller told the dispatcher.
The dispatcher replied: “The officer is going to be there first. (EMT) aren’t going to come until we figure to what’s going on, but they are on the way as well.”
“They’d better be if this guy’s got a shot (at) living,” the caller replied.
The average response time in Leon County, which includes Tallahassee, is 8.7 minutes, the paper reported.
Dr. Dean Watson, chief medical officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, said response times by emergency officials can mean the difference between life and death.
“Response times are crucial for any emergency, but especially crucial in circumstances where there may be a life-threatening injury or trauma,” Watson said in an email to the newspaper.
Police have pleaded for help in the puzzling case and have not discussed any suspect or possible motive.
They say Markel was the “Intended victim” in the murder, and have ruled out robbery or a random attack.