Officers responded to house day before woman found dead
January 6, 2013 10:00 AM
By Liz Navratil and Jonathan D. Silver Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Nearly 24 hours before Ka'Sandra Wade was found shot to death in her Larimer home on Jan. 1, Pittsburgh police officers responded to her house for a 911 call she made that was disconnected, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has learned.
During the call, a 911 call-taker heard some sort of commotion before the line went dead. When two officers arrived to check on the situation, they spoke to a man through a window who said things were fine. He would not let them in.
Police left after 10 minutes on the scene. But it wasn't until the homicide investigation into Ms. Wade's death got under way that detectives realized that the man with whom officers spoke was her boyfriend, Anthony L. Brown.
Mr. Brown, 51, fatally shot himself early Jan. 2 at his North Point Breeze home in the midst of a standoff with the SWAT team, during which he told them he had killed Ms. Wade.
Sources say Mr. Brown also tossed police a note which suggested that officers might have been able to save Ms. Wade. Police are exploring the possibility that might have been a reference to the earlier 911 call.
Following inquiries from the Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh police said Saturday evening that the matter of the 911 call was under internal investigation.
"The internal investigation is just to see if all policies were met, if the police officers did everything they were supposed to do," Assistant Chief George Trosky said. "We are concerned about this. We are very concerned about this. But it has to be investigated."
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss declined an interview request.
Assistant Chief Trosky described the internal inquiry as "routine."
Ms. Wade's mother, Sharon Jordan, expressed shock and anger upon being informed of the 911 call. She said that a homicide detective told her around 5 p.m. Saturday that her daughter had called 911 the day before her body was discovered and that officers had spoken to the man believed to be her killer.
"If you hear this commotion and you send the police to the house, why don't you pursue that?" Ms. Jordan said. "They could have saved my baby."
Ms. Jordan said she called police on New Year's Day because she had not been able to reach her daughter. That night, police found Ms. Wade's body inside her home at 528 Lowell St. She was pronounced dead at 8:32 p.m. An autopsy showed that she died from gunshot wounds to the head and neck.
Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams said Saturday evening that he could not pinpoint the time of Ms. Wade's death. "There's no way to know scientifically if she was alive when the police got there to answer the [New Year's Eve] call," Dr. Williams said.
Pittsburgh police officials would not share details about the 911 call.
But according to records reviewed by the Post-Gazette, Ms. Wade called 911 on Dec. 31 around 10:38 p.m. The line was disconnected after some sort of unidentified commotion.
Information kept in dispatch logs stated: "Female gave the above address. Started out calm, then there was commotion and the line cut out. Check for unknown trouble."
Two police officers from Zone 5 in Highland Park -- Louis R. Schweitzer and Lance P. Hoyson -- were dispatched to Lowell Street for a report of "unknown trouble."
"What's on hold?" one of the officers asked the 911 dispatcher after finishing with another call in the East End. The dispatcher relayed the information about the call from Ms. Wade.
When the officers arrived at the multiunit dwelling at 10:51 p.m., they talked to the man police later identified as Mr. Brown.
Speaking to the officers through a window, he told them that there was no problem. Mr. Brown did not let the officers in.
Records indicate that the dispatch center tried to call Ms. Wade back, but the call went straight to voice mail. After 10 minutes on scene, the officers left the residence at 11:01 p.m.
"Male came to the window and said everything was fine and didn't answer any questions," the records indicate.
Police said the entire matter -- from the 911 call to Ms. Wade's homicide to the death of Mr. Brown -- is under investigation.
"The Bureau of Police is conducting a homicide and internal investigation into this incident to determine if all bureau policies and procedures were followed," police spokeswoman Diane Richard said in a statement Saturday evening.
"We are in the early stages of an ongoing investigation, and as such, the bureau will not answer or provide a statement on the questions below or any media inquiries into this incident."
Ms. Richard did not respond to several inquiries for clarification about the nature and scope of the internal investigation.
When contacted Friday night at the Zone 5 station, Officer Hoyson, 28, referred questions to his supervisors.
He said he would like to know "who's throwing us under the bus."
Phone and email messages left for Officer Schweitzer, 36, were not returned.
Both officers started in 2007. One year ago Officer Schweitzer was one of 10 officers to receive the Medal of Valor, the department's highest honor, for "exceptional acts of bravery" in pulling more than a dozen stranded motorists to safety during an August 2011 flash flood on Washington Boulevard that killed four people.
Police union president Sgt. Michael LaPorte said his understanding was that the officers "did everything by the book."
"I'm sure whatever she said [in the 911 call] they weighed to see if it was credible information. We do due diligence on every call. If there was nothing to corroborate information they had there was nothing there to corroborate," Sgt. LaPorte said. "We do hundreds of these checks of the well-being calls. We can't break down everybody's door that calls 911. We'd be in the courtroom a lot more often."
"You have two professional officers out there responding to a call dozens of times in an eight-hour shift and every one's handled the same. You take it as far as you can take it," Sgt. LaPorte said.
The city did not respond to questions about its protocols regarding handling disconnected 911 calls or whether the officers consulted with a supervisor before leaving the scene.
Although Allegheny County runs the emergency operations center, which houses call-takers and dispatchers who handle 911 incidents throughout the county, tapes and transcripts of the calls are considered property of the municipality where they originate, the county said Saturday.
The county declined to respond to detailed questions about how its 911 workers handled Ms. Wade's call.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he did not have all the information available on Saturday night to respond thoroughly and that he preferred to withhold comment until he had all of the details.