911 dispatcher mistakenly gave lower priority to deadly FSU shooting
MIAMI (CNN) — A mistake by a 911 dispatcher is the latest twist in a two-week-old mystery — the killing of a nationally renowned law professor found shot in the head in his own garage.
On Thursday, Tallahassee police released the 911 call made July 18 by a neighbor who told officers he heard a loud bang before seeing a vehicle drive away from the house of Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel.
On the call, the neighbor describes a horrific scene, with the driver’s side window of Markel’s car shattered and the professor barely moving. Within seconds, the caller says, “I don’t know if someone tried to shoot him or if he shot himself.”
Timothy Lee, director of the Consolidated Dispatch Agency, which runs the local 911 call center, tells CNN that would have normally received a high priority code for police. But, the dispatcher mistakenly coded the call as a “man down, still breathing,” which lowered the priority for police response.
According to Lee, it took seven minutes for the dispatcher to correct the mistake. But that actually caused another delay. The new code meant it was a high priority for police but a possible security risk for paramedics. As a result, Lee says the ambulance had to wait until police arrived to get the go-ahead.
In the end, Lee says it took 12 minutes for officers to arrive on the scene and 19 minutes for paramedics to get to Markel’s home. “That’s an anomaly,” said Lee.
The 911 dispatcher has been reassigned, pending an internal investigation by Consolidated Dispatch Agency.
On Monday, authorities asked anyone to come forward who might have seen Markel in specific areas, mostly on the north end of the city but also near the centrally located FSU law school where he taught.
A department spokesman didn’t comment on why authorities are looking into those particular areas.
A heavily redacted police report released on Friday, a week after the shooting, states there was no sign of forced entry, which Tallahassee police spokesman David Northway said could mean Markel knew the shooter. The report does not state whether the garage door was open.
Also in the report, the neighbor told police a white or silver vehicle left the home, describing it as a Toyota Prius or a Prius “type” of vehicle.
Police then released via social media a picture of a silver car they called a “vehicle of interest.” Police on Facebook cautioned it may have been a resident, passerby or delivery driver.
Northway told CNN that investigators used a nearby business’ surveillance camera to capture an image of what appears to be a Prius.
Police say there were no signs of a robbery and have yet to disclose a possible motive. They have been following up on more than 50 leads and offered a $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Police have been in contact with Markel’s former wife, Wendi Adelson, also an FSU law professor, said her attorney, Jimmy Judkins.
She is “scared to death” that the killer may be targeting her entire family, said Allen Grossman, a close family friend, who has known Markel and Adelson for several years. The couple had two sons together.
Last week, Judkins told CNN his client has no idea why this happened.
Markel began working at FSU in 2005 after receiving his bachelor’s degree at Harvard College, a master’s from the University of Cambridge and a law degree from Harvard. During his FSU tenure, the Toronto native taught several classes and wrote extensively about criminal law, including articles published in the Yale Law Review, among others.
Markel also founded PrawfsBlawg, a blog focused on law and life, and his writing appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Slate, The Jerusalem Post and The Atlantic Monthly. On PrawfsBlawg, 10 fellow law professors posted about the respect they had for Markel and the mutual love he shared with his friends and family.
“His boundless energy was at the center of this community; it made it run, it gave it life. We are stunned and bereaved by his loss, and our thoughts go to his two little boys, who were precious to him, and to his family.”