The widow of a man shot by Madison police in August said she called 911 that day for an ambulance for her husband, not for the officers who would later shoot him.
Jeff Scott Olson, the attorney for Charles Carll's family, said the dispatcher who sent numerous squad cars to his Hammersley Road house on Aug. 17 did so erroneously. Police said Carll refused to put down the knife he was holding and moved toward them. Police first shot him with a Taser, but after that did not work, he was shot and killed.
"Mr. Carll had been suffering from depression, which was becoming increasingly severe in the several months before his death," Olson said. "He was having a particularly acute episode on the day of his death. His wife called 911 because he had cut himself and she wanted to secure medical care for him. She was not summoning the police. She had never been in danger nor felt in danger herself. She was simply asking for help for a very compromised husband."
Calls to the Dane County 911 Communications Center are answered by a "call-taker" who takes notes and puts them into a comments field. Dispatchers then send squad cars, ambulances or firefighters depending on what they see in that comments field. Paul Logan, the center's operations director, said both the call-taker and the dispatcher on duty that day have been employed there for more than five years.
"The call-taker entered in the comments and the police dispatcher interpreted the comments to be 'male cut wife's stomach,'" Logan said. "That's not what it turned out to be."
Carll's wife is of Asian descent and has an accent, but Logan said that did not play a factor in what happened.
"She had a fairly thick accent on the call, but there's no indication that it caused a problem," Logan said.
The call remains part of the ongoing investigation into the matter. When the investigation is concluded and the 911 call is made public, Olson said that will be the time to determine the family's next step.
"We've been retained," he said. "Our modus operandi will be what it is in all of our cases, which is to gather every scrap of information we can, to conduct a thorough investigation, interviewing any available witnesses, and then to advise the family as to their legal options."
Last week, Olson filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the city and the police department on behalf of Paul Heenan's family. Heenan was shot to death by an officer last November. An internal investigation cleared that officer of any wrongdoing.