DALLAS (AP) — The family of a Dallas woman found dead two days after she tried to call 911 during a deadly attack filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and local police Wednesday.
Deanna Cook called 911 on Aug. 17 to report that her ex-husband was assaulting her. Police have acknowledged the call was not logged correctly so the responding officers did not know it was an emergency. The two officers who went to Cook's south Dallas home received no response at the door and left without entering, police said.
Cook was found dead in her bathtub on Aug. 19 after Cook's relatives forced their way into the home. The ex-husband, Delvecchio Patrick, is charged with murder.
Police fired one call taker who told worried family members searching for Cook on Aug. 19 to call the jail and local hospitals first. The call taker who received Cook's original call was suspended for 10 days. Police say they have also made changes to how calls are logged and announced they are hiring more call takers.
The federal lawsuit alleges police were late responding to the call and relied on officers who didn't properly investigate. It accuses the city of violating Cook's due process and equal protection rights by failing to implement necessary policies.
Cook's family said Wednesday that police have refused to let them hear the tape of Cook's call. Police have also declined to release a transcript.
However, the lawsuit says Cook was screaming and begging for help during the call, and Chief David Brown has said the attack on Cook can be heard in the background.
It was 50 minutes before officers arrived at Cook's home, according to the lawsuit.
Attorney Nick Pittman said the officers stopped twice on the way — for a burglary call and a personal trip to 7-Eleven. He said the officers acknowledged the 7-Eleven stop in internal interview reports he reviewed.
Pittman described authorities' response last month as a "comedy of errors."
"They have long had a policy of not taking the 911 call center seriously," Pittman said.
Dallas police declined to comment Wednesday. A spokesman for the city did not return a message.
Family members also said they felt police shortchanged Cook because she was black and lived in south Dallas.
"I would like for it to be understood how Dallas Police Department responds to certain victims, no matter what the crime is," said Valecia Battle, one of Cook's sisters. "I think it needs to be understood that it does play a role what your class is. Your gender does play a role. Your race does play a role."
Battle, another sister, Karletha Cook-Gundy, and their mother, Vickie Cook, said they wanted to see domestic violence taken more seriously.
Patrick had been arrested multiple times for allegedly attacking Cook. Cook filed for divorce last year, and the divorce was finalized in January. He remains jailed in Dallas County, with bond set at $500,000. His attorney, Roger Lenox, did not immediately return a phone message.
Family members said Patrick continued to harass Cook in recent months.
"I just wish and I pray that it becomes urgent and that nobody should find any individual behind domestic violence dead," Vickie Cook said in an interview.
The family's lawsuit calls for unspecified damages. No court date has been scheduled yet.
Brown, in an earlier interview with Dallas television station KDFW, said Patrick's assault on Cook that "obviously led to her death" is clearly audible on the tape. He met with family members after the incident.
The call "should have been escalated to the highest priority — lights and sirens — and that did not happen, and so we're trying to find out what breakdown in communication happened along the way between the 911 clerk, dispatcher and the officers that didn't allow that to happen," Brown told the television station.