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St. Louis police dispatcher's mistake cost two people their lives, lawsuit claims

St. Louis police dispatcher's mistake cost two people their lives, lawsuit claims

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ST. LOUIS • Relatives of two people fatally shot at a St. Louis apartment building in July filed suit Wednesday claiming their deaths could have been prevented if a 911 dispatcher hadn’t sent officers to the wrong address.

Jessica Thompson, 25, who lived at a West End neighborhood apartment complex, and Tony Jordan, 32, a groundskeeper who lived and worked there, were allegedly fatally shot by Thompson’s boyfriend during a domestic dispute about 1:30 a.m. on July 9.

Thompson had called 911 about a half hour earlier, but police didn’t come to the correct address until after the shooting.

The lawsuit was filed by several of Jordan’s and Thompson’s relatives and seeks unspecified damages. It names the city police department, each of the former St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, including Mayor Francis Slay, and the dispatcher, identified only as Jane Doe, as defendants. The suit claims the dispatcher’s negligence led to the shootings, saying without the dispatcher’s mistake “officers would have been at the scene of the murders well prior to the fatal shootings and with sufficient time to prevent” them.

A police spokeswoman said the department was unaware of the lawsuit Wednesday but did not comment on pending lawsuits. Police Chief Sam Dotson has said he believes it is “presumptuous” to say that officers could have prevented the killings.

St. Louis police identified the dispatcher as Patricia Sticken and said she “separated from the department” on Monday. The department had earlier said that the dispatcher was suspended with pay after she “misheard” the address when Thompson first called 911 for help about 1 a.m. The department has not provided any records of the incident in response to an Aug. 7 Sunshine Law request by the Post-Dispatch.

Police have said Thompson was inside her apartment in the 5800 block of Cabanne Avenue with a male friend when her boyfriend, Adrian Houston, showed up, banged on the doors and windows, entered and choked her.

Jordan went to Thompson’s apartment after hearing screams, intervened and told Houston to leave. Thompson called 911.

The dispatcher sent officers from the wrong district to an incorrect and “nonexistent” address about a block away, showing a level of “care commensurate with a request to retrieve a cat from a tree,” the lawsuit says.

Albert Watkins, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who said he had heard the 911 audio, questioned whether a call from a different neighborhood that wasn’t predominantly African-American would have been treated more carefully.

“(The dispatcher) was really, really in a disinterested fashion, cavalier,” Watkins said. “It was almost like she couldn’t be bothered.”

Houston returned to Thompson’s apartment about a half hour later with a handgun, police said. Houston confronted Jordan, who was standing by the front entrance of the apartment complex, and fatally shot him, police said. Houston then went inside Thompson’s apartment and killed her.

Police arrived about two minutes later, a witness said.

Houston, 37, of University City, was charged in August with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, first-degree burglary and second-degree assault.

Jordan had six children. Thompson had one son.

Thompson’s grandmother, Edith J. Foster, said Wednesday her granddaughter had moved into the apartment four days before she was killed. She worked nights at a nursing home as a housekeeper.

She said her 1-year-old son, Maurice, was just learning how to say “Mama” when she was killed, and wakes up at night looking for her.

“He sits up in the night and calls her until he falls back to sleep,” Foster said.

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