Two veteran Anne Arundel County 911 dispatchers were suspended with pay yesterday for failing to report the carjacking of a Glen Burnie pharmacist to police officers who might have been able to intervene before the 26-year- old woman was killed, authorities said.
The information from an anonymous caller about several men assaulting Yvette A. Beakes could have been critical, because police believe Beakes' abductors drove her around for several hours before they took her to a wooded area in Southwest Baltimore and shot her in the head last Thursday.
"There are a lot of regrets at our 911 center and here" at police headquarters, said Anne Arundel County Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan. "I don't know what we could have prevented. I may never know. I just wish an effort was made."
At 11:58 p.m., the female caller dialed 911 from a pay phone near Beakes' home and hung up, police said. Seconds later, she called back to report seeing an accident involving a white woman and four black men and described their cars. She also described an assault on the woman, officials said.
However, police were dispatched only to the pay phone to check the 911 hang-up and were never told about the second call detailing the carjacking, officials said. If the officers had known about the assault, they could have checked the area further and could have broadcast descriptions of the vehicles involved in the accident so that other officers could look out for them, authorities said.
Four suspects - two teen-agers and two adults from Baltimore - were charged with first-degree murder on Sunday night after Baltimore homicide investigators found Beakes' body.
Yesterday, the civilian 911 operators were interviewed by the communications center commanders and then were suspended pending an in-depth investigation into why the critical information wasn't relayed to officers.
`It was human error'
"We offer no excuses," Shanahan said. "It was human error."
There was full staffing in the 911 center in Millersville that night - with at least 13 dispatchers on duty, police said. It was a busy night. But, Shanahan said, "It's always busy."
Police would not divulge the identities of the suspended dispatchers but said one had 24 years of experience and the other was an eight-year veteran of the 911 center.
`Cannot tolerate mistakes'
"We cannot tolerate mistakes in life-and-death situations," Shanahan said. But, the county police chief said, "I need to hear their side of it."
County police officials said yesterday that the 911 operator taking the call did not create a new entry in the computer for the second 911 call from the pay phone. Instead, she added the information onto notes about the initial 911 hang-up, which police officials said was a violation of procedures.
The dispatcher reviewing the entries did not relay the new information to officers. Investigators are trying to determine whether the dispatcher read the additional information and did not relay it for some reason or whether she failed to read it, police officials said.
Beakes' death has affected people who never met the young pharmacist. Yesterday, the county's 911 dispatchers received a phoned death threat.
`Out with complacency'
Meanwhile, about 10 people gathered outside the city Circuit Courthouse on Calvert Street in Baltimore and held signs declaring: "City judges get tough!" and "Out with complacency" - a rally organized by Catherine Booth, 35, of Canton.
Booth said she began crying at work Tuesday when she read about what happened to Beakes, even though they had never met. Booth called Pickles Pub, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and a talk radio show, urging people to show up for the rally in memory of the dead woman.
Targeted on highway
Beakes had gone to Pickles Pub in downtown Baltimore just across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards to meet friends Aug. 8. They said she left the popular bar about 11 p.m. alone.
Her attackers noticed her on the highway, either on the Baltimore Beltway or the Route 10 exit ramp on the way to her home on Fable Court in Glen Burnie, according to law enforcement officials.
Beakes' 2001 Acura was rammed near the entrance of her townhouse complex by a 1990 Plymouth van carrying the men, police said.
When Beakes got out of the car, one of the suspects pointed a gun at the back of her neck and forced her into the van, police said.
Three of the attackers drove away with Beakes, police said. Another took her car. But the 15-year-old boy got separated from the van and called another suspect's home at 11:37 p.m. using Beakes' cell phone, police said.
ATM limit exceeded
During the next few hours, three kidnappers in the van drove around the Baltimore area, stopping at automated teller machines. They withdrew $500 from one machine but nothing from the others, law enforcement officials said. At Provident Bank, where Beakes had an account, officials said $500 is the maximum withdrawal allowed from an ATM in one day.