NEW TAMPA, FL - The Tampa Police Department has launched an investigation into the actions of a dispatcher it says failed to follow protocol when he did not immediately send police and firefighters to help rescue a 10-month-old baby trapped inside a car Saturday afternoon.
"I was just sitting there, watching him get hotter and turn redder, and he was soaked with sweat," said Shana Dees, the boy's mother.
Dees took her son, Jack, to run errands about noon Saturday.
When she came out of the CVS in New Tampa, she said, she noticed her car was parked on uneven ground and the shopping cart kept sliding away into the parking lot. Her son was in the cart, so she unstrapped baby Jack, put him in his car seat and closed the door.
Then, she turned her attention to securing the cart.
"Those three seconds, when I was moving the cart, he hit the lock button," Dees said.
Jack, who is easily amused playing with his mother's keys, unknowingly locked the car. At the time, it was not running and temperatures were rising.
Also locked in the car was Dees' purse and cellphone.
Dees ran up to a stranger and begged to use his cellphone. He handed it over and she called 911 for help. Only she didn't get it, at least at first.
"My infant son is locked in the car in the parking lot," Dees can be heard telling the dispatcher. "It is so hot outside. I'm really concerned, like I don't think I have time to call AAA before he would suffer heat exhaustion. Can somebody come out and open the door? I don't even know if that is something you guys do."
Dees did not get the response she wanted.
"They won't be able to try to gain access [to the] car unless the child is in some kind of distress and, well, by that point they may just smash your windows," the dispatcher said.
Then, the dispatcher ends the call.
"The dispatcher absolutely made a mistake. This is not the way we do business," said Laura McElroy, TPD spokeswoman.
Scripps station ABC Action News brought the 911 tape to the attention of police Monday morning. They've now opened an investigation and told us the dispatcher will likely face disciplinary action.
"The dispatcher should've kept the mother on the line, should've found out where she was and then immediately dispatched both a police officer and fire rescue," McElroy explained.
Eight minutes after the initial call to 911, an off-duty officer walking out of CVS noticed the ruckus and called 911. This time, a different dispatcher answered the call and took action.
"Where are they at?" the dispatcher immediately asked. "We will be out there for her."
Before help could arrive, another shopper at CVS rushed inside the store, grabbed a wrench and broke the passenger side window.
According to Dees, he climbed inside the car, grabbed Jack and reunited him with his mother.
"I would like to say thank you to them, to the man who let me use his phone to the officer that was able to get the police out there. Those were the first responders," Dees said.