Dispatchers couldn't verify call location
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Police dispatchers didn't alert patrol officers or commanders to a 911 call from the phone of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright because they couldn't confirm that it came from inside their suburban Memphis jurisdiction, documents show.
Wright's body was found in the woods on July 28 after he had been missing for 10 days. He was shot to death, and police are looking for the killer or killers of the beloved Memphis sports hero.
Germantown dispatcher Claudia Kenley Woods said the police department's mapping system couldn't plot the precise location of the call placed in the early-morning hours of July 19, but the latitude and longitude indicated it came from outside their town. Woods and her supervisor, Lt. Donald Taylor, said they couldn't tell the phone belonged to Wright.
When investigators finally learned of the call July 27, they used information from it to launch the search that found Wright's body. Friends and family filed a missing persons report on July 22 and have complained that police did not show enough urgency in looking for Wright.
Top police officials in the suburb of Germantown are investigating how the 911 call was handled and on Monday released some records, which they said they edited to protect the homicide investigation.
"I answered the phone and heard what appeared to be [REDACTED]," Woods told a police inspector and captain who interviewed her about the call. "There was no voice. No other noise."
Taylor said he tried to use his iPhone to plot the coordinates but it did not work. He said he did not report the call to any outside law enforcement agency because "the information I had was an unknown call from an unknown location."
Taylor said dispatchers have transferred calls to Memphis before, but only when the caller has given them a location.
Memphis police are leading the investigation but won't discuss if they have any suspects or motive. They have the 911 recording, which is not being made available.
Taylor said he didn't search the Internet for the coordinates because only one console has Internet access in the office, and that access was limited. Taylor said he has asked that more Internet access be made available to dispatchers.
Dispatchers get 50 to 100 hang-up 911 calls a month from outside Germantown during his shift alone, some from as far as Louisiana, Taylor said.
"Obviously there's some newer technology out there that will make it a much better job than we can, but we're somewhat limited, you know, because of the cost," said police Inspector Danny Payne, who was interviewing Taylor.
Wright's mother, Deborah Marion, told The Associated Press that Germantown's handling of the 911 call was "ridiculous" and they should offer her an apology.
"Even if they couldn't have saved him, they could have gotten to the murderers quicker," Marion said Tuesday.
The 6-foot-11 Wright played 13 seasons in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and most recently the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wright left the University of Memphis early for the NBA, and the Clippers made him a lottery pick with the No. 7 selection overall.
He averaged eight points and 6.4 rebounds in 778 career games.
Wright leaves behind six children, his mother Deborah Marion and father Herb Wright, who coached his son from a wheelchair after he was shot in the spine. Lorenzen Wright's 11-month-old daughter, Sierra, died in March 2003 of sudden infant death syndrome.
A memorial service is planned for Wednesday at the FedEx Forum, where the Grizzlies play their home games.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press