PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - A Punta Gorda family is upset with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office. They said deputies just drove by after their 911 call for help. It's a story WINK News has been investigating for days. Friday, we got some answers.
Sheriff Bill Cameron said when they get a 911 call, deputies are immediately directed to the address associated with the phone number. He says, deputies responded correctly. But it's what the 911 operator failed to tell them that caused the whole mix-up.
Around 5:30 Tuesday morning, Santino Peralta called 911.
PERALTA: My dog's been going crazy because they seen someone outside my house and I see them run though my yard and try to go in my car.
Operator Jodi Thompson said deputies were on the way. 15 minutes later, Santino's mother Bobbie Jean Peralta says they came...and went.
"They didn't get out of their car, they didn't knock, they didn't stop by, all we saw was a spotlight, and them cruise on by," Bobbie Jean Peralta.
So, they called again.
CCSO OPERATOR: I don't know why the deputies did not go to the house. We are going to go ahead and get somebody back out there
Punta Gorda Police were also dispatched, arriving minutes later. A shock to the Peraltas, officers discovered the church next door had been burglarized.
"To come and experience that, and there is actually a break in, there was something happening and the Sheriff's Department refused to investigate it like they should have," Bobbie Jean Peralta said.
So I went to Sheriff Bill Cameron to find out what happened. "He and another backup officer spent 30 minutes on the scene trying to find, with the information they had, the person that had been seen running through the neighborhood," Cameron explained.
Problem is, a glitch in the computer system sent deputies to the wrong address. The Peraltas gave Thompson the correct address, but she never passed it along. "We have some failures on the part of the person that actually took the call on our part and not sending all the information to the dispatchers that sent it to the officers," Cameron said.
Sheriff Cameron says he's taking steps to ensure this type of communication breakdown doesn't repeat itself.
The issue of improperly dispatched calls is especially sensitive to Nathan Lee. He is the widower of Denise Amber Lee. In 2008, 21 year old Denise was kidnapped from her North Port home and murdered.
Lee says several calls from eyewitnesses, and even a frantic call from Denise herself, were not dispatched properly by the Sheriff's Office.
"I'm not an expert. I'm not the Sheriff. I'm glad I'm not the Sheriff, but as a citizen of this county, we deserve better. Denise deserved better, and she should still be here," Lee said. "If they would have done what they were supposed to do and that dispatcher and that call taker would have done their job the right way, Denise would still be here."
Nathan Lee is currently suing the Sheriff's Office for Wrongful Death and Negligence.