Officers didn't follow training on 911 call, Zappala says
Two Pittsburgh police officers failed to “do what they were trained to do” when they left a Larimer home without speaking to a woman who called 911 but was found dead inside the next day, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Friday.
“There are some things we're going to do as a community, but we're also going to re-emphasize that this is your training, follow your training, and if you don't, there's ramifications to that,” he said.
Police said Anthony L. Brown, 51, fatally shot his girlfriend, Ka'Sandra Wade, 33, on Dec. 31 in her home on Lowell Street and committed suicide two days later during a standoff at his apartment in Point Breeze.
The department is conducting an internal investigation into the incident.
“Any error was an error of judgment and not an intentional or derelict action,” Deputy police Chief Paul Donaldson said in a statement. “All members of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police strive to provide the highest quality of service to our communities and are saddened that we were unable to prevent the death of the victim by a violent aggressor.”
Notes found in Brown's home indicated he killed Wade. He wrote that police “had a chance to save (Wade) and they didn't do it last night. They came and left. I did it right before midnight. May God have mercy on me, but I already know he won't.”
Wade called 911 from her cellphone at 10:38 p.m. Dec. 31. After she gave her address there was a commotion, and the line disconnected after 28 seconds.
Officers Louis Schweitzer and Lance Hoyson responded to the call by 10:51 p.m. and left 10 minutes later, telling dispatchers that a “male came to the window and said everything was fine and didn't answer any other questions.”
Zappala said the officers did not follow procedures because they did not try to determine the status of the caller and failed to call a supervisor for instructions.
The city has no specific policy for dealing with such “unknown trouble” calls. The head of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 did not return a call for comment.
Zappala said it's unclear whether Wade was alive when the officers went to the house. An upstairs neighbor told investigators she left her apartment about 6:15 p.m. and returned about 11:45 p.m. and did not hear a gunshot. The Medical Examiner's Office could not provide an exact time of death.
Members of Wade's family called police about 8 p.m. Jan. 1, concerned that she had not answered her phone or her door and that she did not pick up her 10-year-old son.
Later that evening, officers forced their way into Wade's apartment where they discovered her in a bedroom dead of gunshots in her head and neck.
Zappala said police found Wade naked from the waist down. He said there were no signs of a struggle or sexual assault.
“We believe that given their relationship, she might have believed that if she just cooperated, maybe everything's going to be OK,” Zappala said.
Friends of Wade said she told them Brown was abusive. She never filed for court protection.
Investigators went to Brown's apartment on North Homewood Avenue. He would not open the door and told officers he had a gun and was contemplating suicide.
Zappala said Brown shot himself with the same 9 mm handgun he used to kill Wade.
Inside, police found handwritten letters with Brown's signature.
“I killed Ka'Sandra Wade on Dec. 31,” one letter began. “I let this woman in my life and she destroyed me. No matter what I did she always had something messed up to say. She lied to me and cheated on me ... I could not take it any more.”
The letters also indicate Brown was angry because Wade was dating a Muslim man who Brown believed was going move their son to Africa and turn the boy “into a terrorist.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.