CHAMBLEE, Ga. -- Friends of a murdered Chamblee cab driver are questioning how long it took police to respond to the scene of the crime and said they can’t help but wonder whether those minutes lost could have made a life-saving difference.
Mariana Matheu was killed over the weekend after the fare she picked up shot her, causing her car to crash into a chain link fence. Police quickly captured and arrested David Rey Garcia-Mendoza at the scene. He’s since been charged with multiple felonies, including robbery, kidnapping, motor vehicle hijacking and murder. The 36-year-old’s family says she will be laid to rest in her native Columbia.
Now, Matheu’s family wants to know why it took two attempts to call 911 until a call for help was finally answered, It's an issue 11Alive has reported on extensively: if a caller is on the edge of one jurisdiction, a cell phone call to 911 might be routed to a neighboring jurisdiction.
That appears to have happened in Matheu’s case, when emergency calls from the scene in Chamblee first went to Dekalb County emergency. Claudia Saldarriaga told 11 Alive news she dialed 911 after seeing Matheu in her cab with a man holding a gun to head. Twice she reached DeKalb 911 and got a recorded message saying all operators were busy.
Another recording obtained from Chamblee Police Monday indicates another witness also got DeKalb County which transferred him to Chamblee, all the while he's begging for an ambulance.
11Alive’s Valerie Hoff obtained the 911 recordings, which are raising those questions about the response time.
In one recording, a man is trying to report Matheu is sitting injured in her crashed vehicle as he is transferred to Chamblee 911 from DeKalb 911. The male caller is on the line with both dispatchers.
DeKalb Dispatcher: “Hey Chamblee this is DeKalb with a transfer. 2593 Wood Acres Road. The female complainant got on the phone and said someone was shot, then there was a male complainant that got on the phone and said it was an accident. I can't get a verification of what's really going on.”
Caller: “I just need an ambulance there's people here hurt!”
Chamblee Dispatcher: “How did they get hurt sir?”
Caller: “I need an ambulance! And the police!”
Chamblee Dispatcher: “Sir, how did they get hurt?”
Caller: “Yes, there's people hurt!”
Chamblee Dispatcher: “How?”
Caller: “Ma'am, get an ambulance here!”
The DeKalb dispatcher is still unclear on the nature of the emergency.
DeKalb Dispatcher: “I don't know what's going on, so I don't know if someone's shot or they're –”
Caller: “A lady could die because of your ignorance!”
Chamblee Dispatcher: “Sir, we need to know what's going on to get you some help.”
Caller: “She's just sitting here slumped over! Get an ambulance here!”
Witnesses on the scene said Matheu's fellow cab drivers were on the scene well before police, and 30 minutes before an ambulance arrived.
“That's not acceptable, and 911 needs to get corrected because this whole DeKalb and Chamblee and all of them being together but separate doesn't work out when people need them,” one driver at the scene told 11Alive News crews.
11Alive is still waiting for any 911 recordings that DeKalb received, because one caller reported she got a recording from DeKalb saying all operators were busy. Meanwhile, Chamblee said police were dispatched 30 seconds after receiving the call. 11Alive is still looking into those allegations the ambulance took too long to get there.