Patrol reprimands dispatcher in Rooney case

As Published October 21, 2013
Written by Jona Ison

CHILLICOTHE — An Ohio Highway Patrol dispatcher was issued a written reprimand for not dispatching a trooper after a report of a reckless driver traveling west on U.S. 50 July 4.

Shortly after the dispatcher, Catherine A. Davis, received the call, Shira Seymour drove left of center while traveling west on U.S. 50 about a mile past Slate Mills. Her SUV crashed head on into another SUV driven by local attorney Annie Rooney, who died from her injuries the next day.

Seymour has been indicted on three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide for allegedly being drunk at the time of the crash.

Although the investigation determined Davis, who works out of the Portsmouth dispatch center, did not dispatch a trooper, it also found it unlikely the crash could have been prevented if a trooper had been dispatched.

The suspected impaired driver, allegedly Seymour, had been spotted speeding along Western Avenue without headlights on and running at least three red lights.

Off-duty Chillicothe police Sgt. Jon Robinson had called in the report after spotting the reckless vehicle along Plyleys Lane as he was driving his personal vehicle with his children inside to the city’s fireworks display, according to the patrol’s internal investigation report.

Robinson told investigators the driver stopped at a green light at Western Avenue and turned left after the light changed to red. He attempted to radio dispatch, but could not immediately get through as he followed the SUV in an attempt to block the driver in somewhere.

He ended his pursuit because he had accelerated to 70 miles per hour and was concerned about the safety of his children inside his vehicle.

After reaching the Chillicothe dispatcher, Robinson said he monitored radio traffic and heard the crash call go out about four minutes after he ended the call.

He told investigators he didn’t believe the dispatcher had enough time between receiving his report and the crash to have sent a trooper.

The investigation into how Davis handled the call began as early as July 29 at the request of Lt. Jeffrey Carman, the assistant commander at the Jackson district headquarters.

According to the report, released Monday, Davis told investigators she began to initiate dispatch of a trooper for the reckless driver but did not remember completing it before the crash was reported.

Investigators reported they were unable to determine an accurate timeline of the calls because of time differences between systems at the patrol, the police department and the Ross County Sheriff’s Office, which reported the crash to the patrol.

Ultimately, the investigation was unable to substantiate allegations that Davis did not create and log the service call into the system but did determine she did not dispatch a trooper.

“The investigation also shows that a unit responding to the service call would likely not have been able to prevent the crash based on the statement of Police Sergeant Robinson,” the report reads.

However, the report also indicated that a patrol sergeant was on U.S. 50 within 3 to 8 miles of the crash when it happened about 4 miles west of Chillicothe.

Davis, who got choked up at least once during the interview and needed to take a break, told investigators she had believed he was on U.S. 23 and not U.S. 50. and subsequently too far away to have responded to the reckless vehicle call.

Davis was issued a written reprimand for neglect of duty Oct. 2 and attended additional training Oct. 10, of which the report noted she was receptive to. During her seven years with the patrol, three of which have been at the Portsmouth dispatch center, Davis has had no recorded discipline, according to patrol spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston.

Davis told investigators her typical routine for handling a reckless driver call is to input the information into the computer-aided dispatch program to find the nearest trooper. If none is nearby, she will call the sheriff’s office, and if that also fails, she calls the post to let them know about the call.

Davis told investigators she believes she turned her attention to the injury call where there was a report of an explosion and dropped the reckless operation report.

She also told investigators she did not remember hearing that the report came from an off-duty officer or that the SUV’s headlights were off.

A fellow dispatcher that night said he and Davis heard about the reckless driver report made by a police officer two days after the crash, but neither of them remembered taking the call.

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