Unclear communication led to emergency response issues on double homicide scene

1 month 19 hours 49 minutes ago Monday, July 13 2020 Jul 13, 2020 Monday, July 13, 2020 4:17:00 PM CDT July 13, 2020 in News
By: Greta Serrin, KOMU 8 Digital Producer and Ian Russell, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia, University of Missouri Health Care and Boone Hospital Center released a joint statement on the July 5 incident at Volunteer Drive near Grace Lane.

On July 5, a shooting left two dead and three injured, according to previous KOMU 8 reporting.

Columbia Police, Columbia Fire, Boone Hospital Center, University of Missouri Health Care and Boone County Joint Communications, reviewed the response to the double homicide in a meeting on July 9.

In the meeting, agencies reviewed radio traffic and through the review found communication was unclear among emergency responders.

"City of Columbia and Boone County public safety personnel respond in unison dozens of times daily with cohesion, cooperation, and in most instances with flawless execution," said Columbia Fire Chief Andy Woody. However, this time was different.

The radio traffic from the event lasted around 30 minutes. Several things stood out to responding agencies, according to the release:

  • Police were on the scene providing trauma care to victims and indicated they needed medics;
  • Emergency medical responders were staged appropriately near the scene waiting for direct communication, including the words "scene stable" indicating that the scene was secure for them to enter; and
  • The request for medics by law enforcement was not relayed as expected. 

According to the statement, it is standard practice, agencies use different radio channels to communicate as they respond to active scenes. Responders at the scene do not hear all requests made by Boone County Joint Communications. This practice of channeling communications is intended to ensure that agencies do not interrupt critical, time-sensitive conversations happening on other channels in response to an active incident.

"As recordings of radio traffic are released publicly, it is important to note the time stamps are important markers. Voices heard on these recordings at the same time indicated simultaneous radio traffic," according to the statement. 

The agencies talked about how to improve next time. Responding agencies will begin monitoring cross-radio traffic to ensure accurate and direct communication.

On incidents involving violence, CPD will provide clear communication to first responders that the scene is stable. Ride-alongs will begin between agencies to improve understanding of the role of different agencies.

Additionally, more joint training scenarios will be developed and practiced.

"Events of violence and active crime scenes present challenging and often chaotic circumstances for responding agencies," Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said. "It is our shared commitment to continue improvement and clear communication. Our hearts go out to the families of those affected by this violence."

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