Crenshanda Williams, 44, was sentenced to 10 days in jail and a year-and-a-half in jail after being found guilty of interfering with emergency telephone calls in her capacity as a 911 in Harris County, Texas. She was accused of “systematically” hanging up the phone "thousands" of times when people were seeking emergency assistance in the Houston area. She thus avoided paying $4000 in fines and a year in jail.

The former 911 operator was found to have had an unusual number of "short calls" that were less than 20 seconds in duration. County prosecutors claimed that Williams had hung up on "thousands" of calls during her approximately 18 months on the job. She was fired in August 2016 from Houston Emergency Center after being caught.

Jim Moten told local KTRK new that he called 911 in 2016 when he witnessed two vehicles speeding where people had been killed from speeding on a highway just weeks earlier. When Williams hung up, Moten thought his call had been dropped after just a few seconds. Court documents showed that Williams answered Moten. But before he could finish his explanation, she allegedly said, "Ain't nobody got time for this. For real." Williams also hung up on a person who had attempted to report a violent robbery in progress.

In a statement, Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reeder declared, "The citizens of Harris County rely on 911 operators to dispatch help in their time of need," and went on to say, "When a public servant betrays the community's trust and breaks the law, we have a responsibility to hold them criminally accountable."

Attorney Franklin Bynum, who represented Williams in court, argued that she "was going through a hard time in her life" when she hung up on her fellow citizens. He claimed that “punishing her doesn't do anything to fix the problems that still exist at the emergency center."

According to the complaint against Williams, one of the calls she dropped involved the murder of a store clerk. Williams received a call from a man named Hua Li was at a convenience store when a “gunman entered and tried to force his way through the door of a glassed-in security area behind the counter.” Running away, Li then heard gunshots and called for emergency services when he got to his vehicle. Williams abruptly terminated the call with seconds. The store manager was shot and killed during the holdup. According to the criminal complaint against Williams, on March 12, 2016, The criminal complaint says the March 12, 2016 call referenced a shooting/robbery homicide. “The first call came in… and was an immediate hang up by the defendant.” 

When Li placed a second call, Williams answered: “Houston 9-1-1 do you need medical, police or fire?” Li said, “This is a robbery.” The recording of the all determined, according to the complaint, that police heard Williams “sigh before the call is terminated by the defendant.” A third call from Li was taken by a different dispatcher. Li reported that a man fired multiple times “during a robbery and people may be hurt,” according to the complaint.  Zia Arfeen Seddiqui, 51, -- the store owner -- was shot to death and left behind four children. 
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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