The assistant office manager at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York, has already survived another mass shooting.
Nearly 12 years ago, Latisha Rogers and her brother, Danyell Mackin, were at the City Grill restaurant in Buffalo when a man opened fire, killing Mackin and three others. Four people were injured, including one who died years later from his injuries.
Then, on Saturday, a gunman whose violence officials say was fueled by racist hatred entered Rogers’ store and began shooting.
“It was constant, just shooting. He wouldn’t stop. He kept going on constantly,” she told Don Lemon, from the CNN .
Hiding behind the front desk, Rogers called US police on 911. But the operator treated the call with disdain, which local officials now intend to fire her at a May 30 hearing, a senior official said. county.
This event compounded Rogers’ trauma.
“I’m back at another massacre and going through it again, trying to find a healing process,” Rogers said.
Ten people at the Tops store, including an armed security guard, were killed and three were injured; 11 of the 13 affected were black. The 18-year-old white man accused of the shooting has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder. He was held without bail until at least his next court appearance on June 9.
‘Why are you whispering?’
Rogers was at the grocery store front desk with two coworkers, on the phone with a customer, when she heard “big bangs” in quick succession, she told CNN.
“I looked out the window and I saw this customer, this lady with her shopping cart – she just stopped – and she had this really funny look on her face and then she turned to run,” Rogers said.
“Next thing you know, you just keep hearing boom, boom, boom,” she said. “All we could do was throw ourselves on the ground.”
Rogers hid behind the counter, “praying he wouldn’t see me,” she said of the shooter.
“I was trying to think fast,” he said. She reached into her back pocket, took out her own cell phone and dialed 911. “I started whispering, because I didn’t know how many people were in the store or anything, I didn’t want to be heard.”
Speaking quietly, Rogers pleaded, “‘Please send help, there’s a person in the store shooting.'”
“‘What? I can’t hear you,’” the 911 operator replied, she said. “’Why are you whispering? You don’t have to whisper, they can’t hear you’”.
Nervously, Rogers dropped the phone, she said. The operator kept talking, but Rogers couldn’t make out the words.
“She said something and hung up the phone,” said Rogers, who then put the phone on silent in case anyone called.
Next, Rogers called his boyfriend and, in the same tone he used with the clerk, asked him to call 911 to report that there was “a person in the store shooting.” Then a coworker called Rogers on a video call to ask where she was and, whispering in the same way, she relayed her location and asked her to call 911.
When the call ended, Rogers noticed that the store was in “deadly silence,” she said. Even the music somehow stopped.
“It’s complete, eerie silence in the store and you can hear him walking around,” she said. “It felt like he was walking on shards of glass, you could hear it being crushed under his feet.”
Rogers stayed hidden, waiting, until she heard the police and saw an officer escorting an employee. When she came out from behind the counter, all she saw were “bodies”, she said.
“It wasn’t a good sight,” she said, shaking and fighting back tears. “The first person I saw was security, Aaron Salter. And I knew it was him from the uniform.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone to experience seeing what I saw, ever.”
911 call under investigation
The 911 operator who spoke with Rogers was placed on administrative leave Monday, Erie County officials said.
It was unclear who ended the call, but “the 911 operator was inappropriate,” County Executive Mark Poloncarz told a news conference Wednesday.
“We teach our 911 agents that if someone is whispering, it likely means they are in trouble” and that the person calling may be “in an area of concern, not just with regards to active shooters, but potentially with regard to the domestic violence, that someone could be calling,” he said.
A hearing will be held on May 30 “at which our intention is to terminate the contract of the 911 operator who acted totally inappropriately, not following protocol,” he said, reiterating that the operator’s tone was a “completely inappropriate response.” in a “terrible situation”.
The attendant’s name was not released, due to the department’s standards regarding anyone under administrative suspension or furlough, Poloncarz said.
Police response time to the shooting was unaffected by the handling of Rogers’ call, Erie County spokesman Peter Anderson said Wednesday.
Central Police Services checked all calls associated with the shooting on Sunday, explained Poloncarz. “They identified this call, the problem associated with it, was completely unacceptable.”
Rogers “is not a cold-hearted person,” she told CNN but thinks the 911 operator should lose her job.
“Right is right and wrong is wrong,” she said. “It was like I was bothering her, and I feel like when she hung up on me, she never called back.”
“I feel like she left me to die here, and I really thought I was going to die that day.”
With input from Kristina Sgueglia, Curt Devine, Mark Morales and Caroll Alvarado of CNN.
Source: CNN Brasil