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Kristine Kirk murder and 911: Sixty dispatcher complaints in two years and another death

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Following Richard Kirk's alleged murder of wife Kristine Kirk (see our previous coverage below), most of the attention has focused on the question of whether a marijuana edible had caused the hallucinations and erratic behavior that resulted in her tragic death. But partly lost in this debate has been a delay in sending police officers to the Kirks' residence. Kristine was on the phone with a 911 operator when she was slain, and the conversation lasted ten-minutes plus.

Is there a systemic problem with 911 in Denver? A new report reveals more than sixty complaints against dispatchers in the past two years, with the most egregious case leading to another death.

In our earlier coverage, we noted that Kristine called 911 to say Richard was behaving strangely after possibly eating a marijuana edible. He was allegedly hallucinating, talking about the end of the world and declaring his intention to shoot her -- which he did, while she was still on the line with the dispatcher.

Previous reports have estimated the length of the call at twelve minutes, but a new Fox31 investigation puts it at thirteen minutes. Moreover, a police station is only a short distance away from the Kirks' home on St. Paul Street, near the DU campus; the station notes that officers were less than a mile away at the time of the fatal shooting. If they'd been dispatched immediately, some observers believe a tragedy might have been averted.

This is hardly the first 911 call to generate concern. A public-records request made by Fox31 reveals that more than sixty complaints against dispatchers were collected over the course of the past two years. The majority of the time, the station reveals, no written reprimands were issued after such incidents. Rather, the operators received coaching and counseling.

That's what happened in the case of Juan Jesus Rodriguez, a dispatcher who's the focus of a lawsuit filed by the family of Jimma Reat, who died just over two years ago following a botched 911 call. Rodriguez was fired as a result of the Reat matter, but he received little more than a wrist slap months earlier in a separate case that involved a delay in sending responders -- the same thing that occurred with Kristine Kirk.

Early on April 1, 2012, as we've reported, Reat and two of his brothers, Changkuoth Pal and Ran Pal, as well as Joseph Kolong, were in a vehicle near the intersection of 10th and Sheridan when a Jeep Cherokee pulled up alongside their car. The Jeep's male occupants began "harassing and attempting to injure" the four young men, according to the original lawsuit.

The men in the Jeep are said to have called Reat and friends "niggers" while throwing beer bottles and what's described as "bottle rockets" at them. The back window of Reat's car was shattered in the altercation, showering the occupants with broken glass. In addition, one of the Jeep's occupants brandished a handgun.

At that point, the suit's narrative continues, Ran Pal phoned 911 to report the crime and get emergency police and medical assistance. The call was answered by Rodriguez. During the conversation, the victims were able to elude the men in the Jeep and find relative safety at an apartment building's parking lot in Wheat Ridge, approximately seven and a half blocks west of Denver's city limits -- and Ran Pal is said to have told the operator that he was too unsettled by the occurrence to feel comfortable driving.

Nonetheless, Rodriguez told them they needed to drive back to Denver in order to rendezvous with DPD officers, and though wary, they eventually acquiesced. But the complaint maintains that the operator didn't do anything to secure police dispatch until about one minute after the shooting, nor did he create an incident report. Moreover, the suit says, he told the victims that once they had moved their car to a suitable spot, they should make themselves prominent to officers by turning on their hazard lights and leaving them flashing.

Rodriguez was still on the phone with Ran Pal when the car came to a stop in the vicinity of West 29th and Sheridan -- at which point the Jeep Cherokee rematerialized and its occupants opened fire. Jimma Reat died at the scene in Ran Pal's arms, having been shot in the back.

Afterward, Rodriguez's actions were immediately put under scrutiny -- and as a result, a previously unreported problem with a different 911 call belatedly surfaced.

Continue for more about complaints against 911 operators and the investigation into Kristine Kirk's murder, including photos, videos and more. As outlined in the second amended complaint filed by Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC, the law firm representing the Reat family (the section starts on page 24 of the document included below), Rodriguez was told by a caller that he'd choked his mother's boyfriend to death after the man had allegedly been violent toward his mom. But rather than dispatching law enforcement to the scene immediately, Rodriguez is said to have spent five minutes processing the call. During that time, he allegedly had the caller go outside the check the exact street address of the house and even suggested that he attempt to revive the man he'd just choked to death.

Here's an excerpt from a highly critical city analysis of the incident featured in the suit:

You started to have the caller, who admittedly choked out the victim, perform CPR. When you asked the caller to check for anything in the victim's mouth, the caller told you, "No, I told you I choked him out! At no point during the conversation did you actively listen to what the caller had to say or appear to understand that a homicide had occurred and scene safety was paramount. You repeatedly harangued the caller with questions and appeared to have no appreciation for the caller's environment and his efforts to assist you with processing the call.

Despite the mishandling of the call, as determined by a city inquiry, "Mr. Rodriguez was not terminated, disciplined, re-trained, or supervised to ensure that he developed these critical abilities to do his job safely," the lawsuit states. Instead, he was merely given a verbal reprimand and allowed to stay on duty -- where, on the first day of April, he answered the call about a group of attack victims that included Jimma Reat. Only afterward did he lose his job.

The dispatcher who took Kristine Kirk's call is currently on suspension due to an ongoing investigation. But her death, and the arrest of Richard Kirk, has left the future of their three children at risk. Hence, the creation of a college fund for the boys, which is described on the Facebook page devoted to the cause like so:

In the wake of the tragic death of Kris Kirk on April 14th, a state-sponsored 529 college fund has been established in her memory to provide for the three young sons she left behind.

Contributions can be made directly to the CollegeInvest web links listed below, or through the Facebook page created for the memorial fund. The funds will be administered by the boys' maternal grandmother, Marti Kohnke, and can only be used for the boys' education. Contributions to this tax advantaged 529 college fund are state-tax deductible for donors, and will likely grow considerably by the time these three boys graduate high school.

To learn more about how you can help, click here.

Below, read the second amended complaint in the Jimma Reat case, followed by our previous coverage of the Kristine Kirk case.

Jimma Reat Case: Second Amended Complaint

Continue to read our previous coverage about the death of Kristine Kirk, including photos and videos. Update, 5:33 a.m. April 18: During our last update about the tragic murder of Kristine Kirk (see our previous coverage below), we shared a probable-cause statement that made no mention of marijuana use by Richard Kirk, Kristine's husband, who's accused of killing her, despite multiple reports from law-enforcement sources to that effect. Now, however, a search warrant has surfaced that cites a specific pot edible Richard is said to have consumed prior to pulling the trigger -- but also raises the possibility that he had also taken prescription pain medication. Continue for the latest.

As we've reported, Kristine Kirk, seen here in a photo from her Facebook page....

...was on the phone with a 911 operator for twelve minutes when she was fatally shot in the head, allegedly by Richard. She'd previously announced that he had been hallucinating.

A procedural inquiry is underway regarding the length of the call, and that's understandable. As many of our readers have pointed out, a police station is only minutes away from the Kirks' home on St. Paul Street, near the DU campus. If officers had been dispatched immediately, some observers believe a tragedy might have been averted.

In the meantime, a great deal of attention has been paid to claims that Richard had ingested a pot edible -- a product much in the news of late.

Earlier this month, the Denver coroner's office determined that a marijuana edible had been a contributing factor in the death of college student Levy Thamba, also known as Levi Thamba Pongi, who died after falling from a hotel balcony. The latest reports suggest that Thamba had never tried marijuana before eating part of a cookie from Sweet Grass Kitchen, and when it didn't have an immediate effect, he then consumed six times the recommended amount.

In the meantime, 9News and other local news agencies have obtained a search warrant in the Kirk case that quotes Kristine as telling the dispatcher that her husband had eaten some "marijuana candy." Later, a receipt was found for a purchase at Nutritional Elements, one of the marijuana shops most recently licensed by the City of Denver, for a piece of Karma Kandy Orange Ginger, as well as a pre-rolled joint of Pre-98 Bubba Kush.

But practically lost in the focus on pot edibles is an allusion to the likelihood that Richard was also on prescription medication for his back pain.

Test results showing what was in Richard's system following his arrest have not yet been released -- and even when they are, there's no guarantee they'll irrefutably establish what caused the events on that fateful night.

Here's the latest 9News report, followed by our previous coverage.

Continue to read our previous coverage about the murder of Kristine Kirk, including photos and videos. Update, 5:39 a.m. April 16: The murder late Monday night of 44-year-old Kristine Kirk, seen here, near the DU campus (see our previous coverage below) came as a profound shock to her friends, family and loved ones -- as did the arrest of her husband, Richard Kirk, for the killing. Meanwhile, plenty of questions remain unanswered in regard to the possible role of marijuana in the crime and the length of the 911 phone call Kristine was making at the time of her death: twelve minutes. Look below for photos, video and the complete report, which makes no mention of pot.

According to the probable cause statement, members of the Denver Police Department were dispatched to the Kirk home, 2112 South St. Paul Street, at 9:32 p.m. on April 14. Upon their arrival, they discovered Richard Kirk and a woman later identified as Kristine Kirk.

She was lying on the floor with a gunshot wound to the head. At one point, Richard is said to have volunteered to an officer "without questioning" that he had killed his wife.

Kristine Kirk's Facebook page remains online at this writing, listed under her married name plus her maiden moniker, Heman. Among the photos shared there are shots of three adorable children as well as images of Kristine herself. Here's one example....

The PC statement subsequently recounts the 911 call as described by a detective who listened to it. Kristine told the dispatcher that Richard "was talking about the end of the world and he wanted her to shoot him." She added that there was a gun in the residence, but it was kept in a safe. In the meantime, Richard was "hallucinating" and scaring the kids.

Then, the report goes on, Kristine revealed that Kirk had retrieved the gun from the safe. She began to scream, at which point a gun could be heard firing "and the victim was not heard on the call again."

Richard Kirk did have a police record, for a DUI offense. Here's a look at his earlier booking photos:

However, police say they had never been previously sent to the Kirk home on domestic-violence allegations.

So why did Richard react the way he did? A law-enforcement source tells 9News that he may have ingested a marijuana edible prior to the shooting.

The station package on view below omits this claim, but the possible dangers of pot edibles has been in the spotlight of late owing to the decision by the Denver coroner's office to list such a product as a contributing factor to the death of student Levy Thamba, who died after falling from a hotel balcony last month.

Also shared here is a 7News video that includes a snippet of the 911 call. In it, the operator says Richard had been "smoking" marijuana -- a reference absent from the probable cause statement. However, a DPD spokesman confirms that investigators are looking into the question of whether cannabis had anything to do with Richard's fatal actions.

In addition, the DPD is examining the 911 call to determine if proper procedures were followed -- and if anything could have been done to prevent Kristine Kirk's terrible death.

Below, see the aforementioned 9News and 7News pieces, followed by the arrest report and our previous coverage.

Richard Kirk arrest affidavit

Continue to read our previous coverage about the death of Kristine Kirk, including photos and more. Update here and below, 5 p.m. April 15: Earlier today, we told you about a late Monday evening shooting that left a woman dead near DU; see our previous coverage below.

The victim was originally described as a domestic violence incident. But new reports suggest a bizarre connection to a marijuana edible.

Arrested in the case was Richard Kirk, age 47.

He's being held on suspicion of first-degree murder. Continue for more about Kirk and the strange and tragic crime itself.

According to the Denver Police Department, officers responded to a home on the 2100 block of South St. Paul Street at approximately 9:31 p.m.

When officers arrived, the woman, who (update) has been identified as Kristine Kirk, 44, was dead.

The Denver coroner's office has determined that she died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Shortly thereafter, Kirk was busted. He was Kristine Kirk's husband.

There's not a great deal of personal information on Richard Kirk's Facebook page; much of the material is private.

However, several photos are accessible, including the one featured here. Also in view are links to assorted Facebook groups of which Kirk is a member, including The Patriot Conservative News Tea Party Network, American Patriots Against John Kerry and the Custom Van Appreciation Society.

One more intriguing note: In a press release issued earlier today, the Denver Police Department revealed that an inquiry has been launched into the department's actions in the Kirk case. The passage reads:

This morning, the Denver Police Department and the Combined Communications Center initiated an investigation into the emergency call and police response to the homicide at 2112 S. St. Paul Street. Any time a person dies while communicating with Denver's emergency services we examine the circumstances to ensure that the incident was handled properly and we look for areas to improve upon.

The wording of this paragraph suggests that such an investigation is business as usual -- but what's unusual is an announcement like this one. There's a good reason for it, though.

Reports suggest that Kristine Kirk called 911 to say that her husband was behaving strangely after possibly eating a marijuana edible. Richard was allegedly hallucinating, talking about the end of the world and declaring his intention to shoot her -- which he did, while she was still on the line with the dispatcher.

Here's a larger look at Kirk's booking photo, followed by our previous coverage.

Original post, 8:50 a.m.: Late last night, the Denver Police Department received a domestic-violence call from a neighborhood near the University of Denver campus.

That would have been bad enough -- but upon their arrival, officers had to switch modes owing to the discovery of an even more serious crime.

A woman is dead and a homicide investigation is underway.

Here's what we know thus far.

The first report of trouble from the 2100 block of South St. Paul Street came from the Denver Police Department's Twitter account. The initial message sent out by the DPD reads:

A Denver police spokesman subsequently told 7News that the report received by department personnel centered on a "domestic violence incident," and there may have been a weapon involved. Thus far, the victim has only been identified as female: no age or other description has been supplied.

Meanwhile, Fox31 reporter Chris Jose tweeted out this pre-dawn photo of the scene....

...followed by another this morning showing a large number of police vehicles still on the block.

A number of individuals from the home were reportedly detained, but no arrests have been announced at this writing.

Look below to see an interactive graphic of the area near the scene. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."

View Larger Map

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Mile High Murder archive circa April 9: "Eight Denver homicides in first quarter of 2014: See where they happened."

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