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Family Files Lawsuit Against City, Dallas Police

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Andrea Lucia
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The family of a woman murdered, after calling 911, has sued the city of Dallas and the police department.

The lawsuit claims, responding officers made two stops on their way to Deanna Cook’s home – to check out a burglar alarm and make a purchase at a 7-Eleven.

It alleges officers arrived nearly 50 minutes after Cooke first dialed 911, screaming for help.
The officers knocked on her door, but eventually left when they could not find Cook.

The lawsuit faults the officers saying, they “did not go around to the rear of Ms. Cook’s residence, did not peak through all of Ms. Cook’s windows.. and never attempted to forcibly gain entrance into her home.”

Two days later, Cook’s mother, sister, and her two daughters became concerned, when she didn’t show up for church. After calling 911 to report her missing, they were reportedly asked if they “had contacted the jails and local hospitals.”

The family eventually kicked down a patio door to Cook’s home, where they discovered her body floating in a bathtub, where police believe she was murdered by her ex-husband.

“To live with the vision, the memory of everything. It’s hard for her right now,” said Cook’s sister, Karletha Cook-Gundy.

The case brought scrutiny to city of Dallas’ 911 system, for failing to prioritize the call. The family’s lawsuit claims Deanna’s call initially went to a holding queue. When it was answered, a 911 operator working overtime took 10 minutes to file a dispatch request.

Dallas police have previously said the operators were trying to establish Cooke’s location, which was unclear.

The lawsuit alleges eleven minutes into the call, the operator disconnected the call and tried to call back.

“Not surprisingly, after doing so, she received Ms. Cook’s voice mail,” reads the suit.
It faults the operator for never following up to ensure police had been immediately dispatched to Cook’s address.

The lawsuit goes further, though, blaming the city for an understaffed 911 call center. At the time of Cook’s death, it claims only 64 of 90 positions were filled.

Since Cook’s death, police have doubled the number of 911 lines, advertised for more 911 operators, and created a new code to prioritize calls where there’s a threat of imminent injury or death.

Family members, however, say they want to see even more changes and more discipline handed out.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit also alleges discrimination, claiming police have shown a pattern of giving lower priority to domestic violence calls and calls from low-income, minority neighborhoods.

“Your race does play a role, your gender does play a role. Would they have stopped at 7-11 if it had been someone in Highland Park?,” said Cook’s sister.

“Ms. Cook, in other words, was a victim of her race, the nature of her call, the demographic of her south Dallas neighborhood,” said Pittman.

Police and city officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Dallas Police Association president Ron Pinkston, however, claimed several assertions in the lawsuit were false, including the notion that police stopped at 7-Eleven on their way to Cook’s home. According to him, the officers were already at the convenience store when they were dispatched.

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