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Columbia police, dispatchers implement changes after Volunteer Drive shooting

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Columbia Police Department
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Columbia Police Department
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Columbia Police Department
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Columbia Police Department
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Columbia Police Department
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Columbia Police Department


Columbia police and Boone County Joint Communications are working to improve communication after it broke down during a shooting in northeast Columbia, preventing EMS crews from entering a scene to help victims.

Three people were injured and two were killed in a shooting on Volunteer Drive early on the morning of July 5 during an Independence Day celebration.

Around 12:15 a.m. that night police received reports of a shooting near the intersection of Volunteer Drive and North Grace Lane. When they arrived they found multiple people with gunshot wounds, including an 11-year-old girl named Ri’ajauhna, the last name was withheld per the family’s request, and 38-year-old Tara L. Knedler.

Columbia police detained a 16-year-old in July in connection with the double homicide.

According to a news release, police released the teenager to juvenile office authorities on charges of two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.

Police say, despite paramedics not entering the scene, it has been determined if they had they would not have been able to save the victim's lives.

Columbia police and joint communication wrote after-action reports following the incident outlining what happened and where there was room to improve.

Columbia police, Boone County Joint Communications, the Columbia Fire Department, Boone Hospital Center and University of Missouri Hospital Emergency Services met to discuss the incident.

"In this particular case it did involve multiple agencies so we sit down ... to talk about, 'Hey, how can we do better,'" CPD Assistant Chief John Gordon said.

Gordon wrote the report after the shooting. It outlines several areas where there is room for improvement.

One of the main issues that prevented EMS crews from going into the scene was unclear language on whether the scene was "stable," Gordon said.

"The biggest challenge that we had in this incident was the amount of radio traffic and input to our dispatchers," said Joe Piper, deputy director of Boone County Joint Communications.

"That term (stable) is important to us because ... traditionally that tells us it's safe for fire, EMS to respond in," Piper said. "In this instance we had difficulty in making that determination."

According to Boone County Joint Communications' after-action report, at one point during the incident when the main law dispatcher inquired about units responding, it was unclear if an officer said, "No, where are my medics?" or "Go, where are my medics?"

Piper said some communication fell through the cracks because dispatchers entered information into the computer-aided dispatch system, which communicates with the mobile devices units have in the field. For example, the laptops police officers have in their patrol cars.

"We have to emphasize this with our folks continually is that just because information is entered into that system, we don't want to assume, especially in an event of this scope that they're going to see that," Piper said. "They may not see it. It may be there, but they may not see that. We want to verbally relay that."

He said there were instances when patients' locations were not verbally communicated.

The report attributed most of the trouble to a single instance of miscommunication.

According to the report, "a misperception based on an inference made during face-to-face communications between the law dispatcher and fire/EMS dispatcher contributed to a statement that fire and EMS personnel were not willing to respond into the scene rather than communicating that fire/EMS were waiting for confirmation that the scene was stable."

Piper said the statement they were unwilling was inaccurate.

"It wasn't that they were unwilling, it was that we were unable to make a determination if the scene was stable," he said.

Piper said dipsatchers are trained to not send unarmed people into a scenario where they are defenseless.

Following discussions, agencies will now use each other's radio channels to communicate, something they did not do before.

"In the past ... you just didn't talk on another person's radio channel, right? That's like walking into someone's house without being invited," Gordon said.

He said the goal is, if something is unclear, an agency can get on another agency's channel and ask for clarification or help.

"We had at one point probably close to 30 officers on the scene and a lot of people trying to talk on one radio channel. So it's pretty congested," Gordon said.

Piper said major incidents require a more streamlined process, instead of relying on dispatchers for separate police and EMS operations to have to communicate instructions with each other and units in the field.

Gordon said the police department is working to ensure officers are trained in active assailant situations as a way to prevent a repeat of the July 5 incident.

"Part of that is it kind of goes against what you're trained to do, and what I mean by that is leave injured people behind," Gordon said.

The report from CPD said the first two arriving officers were out of service because they were providing trauma care to 11-year-old Ri’ajauhna.

"Our job there is to secure that scene, our job there is to make sure there's no more shooting going on, no more people hurt, and then honestly, then go into the rescue mode of medical care," Gordon said.

Columbia police use the acronym HIPS to describe the safety prioritization at a scene: hostages, innocent, police, and finally, suspect. This helps officers remember it is their job first to remove hostages from dangerous situations and help other innocent people at the scene, while ensuring there is no longer an active threat.

Gordon said every incident is different, but this provides guidelines for officers.

CPD's after-action report said there were around 100 people at the scene when officers arrived. Gordon said the first two responding officers got about 30 feet into the scene before finding the young victim and focusing on trauma care for her.

Police are also working to clearly identify a casualty collection point where officers take victims to get medical care. Collection points are safe places where EMS and fire crews can get their large trucks and equipment.

Gordon said police have been doing this, but did not call it a casualty collection point. They are now working to make sure officers recognize the terminology.

During the shooting, officers drove victims directly to the hospital in their patrol vehicles instead of taking them to an ambulance. Now he says officers are being taught to drive patients to the waiting ambulance.

Piper said departments have identified the need for a unified incident command, where a dispatcher would communicate with an incident commander in the field.

This would allow for direct contact with someone overseeing what is happening at the scene.

Gordon said CPD is still working to implement training from what they have learned from the incident.

"I'm confident if we were to have a scene like this we would do it better. We may not be perfect because there's always room for improvement but we'll do better and I think that's all we can ask right now," Gordon said.

Piper also said now that dispatchers are comfortable with the changes in communication they feel more prepared.

"I would like to think that if the same scenario happened today we'd be in a much better place than what we were with this incident," Piper said.

ABC 17 News Investigates / Boone / Columbia / Columbia Video / Crime / Shooting / Special Report / Top Stories / Top Stories / Video

Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.


1 Comment

  1. Making the police say the magic words that the scene is “stable” seems to dismiss the failures of the BCJC and EMS. The police would not call for EMS to enter a dangerous location.
    Who told the police to stop performing CPR on the little girl? This is not addressed in either report and reeks of a cover-up.
    I thought it was pretty clear the officer said “Go!” Here is a transcript I prepared listening to the radio traffic from both the cops and fire/ems:

    Time Unit Identification Audio (and notes)

    00:21 Sheriff Deputy Can I get a couple more units? (at Volunteer. Law enforcement was close by when the shots were fired)

    00:21 Boone County (Police Dispatcher): Any Columbia Units to assist …at Volunteer and Grace

    00:22 Male Officer We just had what we believe are shots fired on Volunteer here are several people running all around the neighborhood there

    00:22 Boone County (Police Dispatcher): We possibly have reports of a victim

    00:23 Boone County (Police Dispatcher): Main Law (radio channel) is restricted for Volunteer and Grace (this is done when a lot of Police units are responding to an event. Radio traffic for other parts of town has to use the secondary radio channel)

    00:24 Fire/EMS Computer Dispatch: (tones) Quint 5, Quint 4 (These are two fire truck unit numbers); medical emergency; unstable scene; Volunteer Drive and Grace Lane

    00:25 Male Officer: Still a lot of people moving around by victim

    00:26 Fire Dispatcher: Quint 5 you are responding with law enforcement, Medic 111 , Medic 251 (medic=ambulance), EMS 22, receiving multiple calls for shots fired, multiple patients
    00:26 Fire Dispatcher: EMS 22, We just received report, we have a possible third victim, would you like to send out another bus? (= ambulance)
    00:26 EMS 22 (EMS Supervisor): Yes, go ahead and attach a third unit.
    00:26 Fire/EMS Computer Dispatch: (tones) Medic 161, make the alarm, medical emergency, unstable scene, Volunteer Drive and Grace Lane (third ambulance dispatched)

    00:27 Quint 5 Can you give me the total number of patients as soon as you can?

    00:27 Fire Dispatcher Quint 5, possibly three patients at this time, three.
    00:27 Quint 5 How many ambulances do you have enroute?

    00:27 Fire Dispatcher Quint 5, We have three buses (ambulances), EMS supervisor and Chief 6 is also aware

    00:27 Female Officer Formally requesting County and State aid

    00:27 Male Officer: I need medics emergency! (Police urgently requesting ambulances to come to the scene. NOT requesting medics stage off site)

    00:28 Quint 5 to Fire Dispatch Received Thanks

    00:28 EMS22 EMS 22 to Quint 5
    00:28 Quint5 Quint 5 , go ahead

    00:28 EMS22 You guys pick us a spot to stage at and we’ll (3 ambulances) meet you all there just let us know where at

    Quint 5 Grace Lane and St. Charles

    EMS22 Copy Grace Lane and St Charles
    Quint5 Correct

    00:29 Male Officer: I need crowd control at 5406 (Volunteer)

    00:29 EMS22 Copy that, All units, medic units copy that Grace Lane and St. Charles for staging

    00:29 EMS22 Any EMS units it sounds like it is a pretty unstable scene right now still

    00:29 Fire Dispatcher Boone County, fire and EMS units responding Volunteer and Grace, Stage Level 2 at Grace and St Charles (@Steve Sapp – What does “Stage Level 2” mean?)

    00:30 EMS 22 Go ahead and alert the University (hospital) of the possible patient count
    00:30 Fire Dispatcher EMS22 00:30 after

    00:31 Male Officer: We are going to have them(medics?) Load and Go right at Grace and Volunteer right at the very entrance to it

    00:31 Medic ???? (Loud vehicle sirens in background) County where is that the one at with CPR in progress? Can they extricate out to the edge?

    00:31 Chief 6 ???? “CPR in progress is J-4 (J-4 = Dead On Arrival) leave that alone”

    00:32 time check (Unrelated radio traffic)

    00:32 Female Officer: We have a female victim; CPR in progress; she’s in the middle of the road she’s going first

    00:32 Boone County (Police Dispatcher): CPR in progress, female victim needed first for ambulance

    00:32 EMS 22 I can help them with that 12 year old if they need. We are close, I don’t sure where the medic units are on the map.

    Male Officer: Boone County, check with units, we have fire in the area can they respond in?

    Boone County (Police Dispatcher): (Female officer) Can units respond in?

    00:33 Female Officer: Go! Where are my medics!? (She would not have said this if she did not want the medics to come to her location immediately)

    00:33 Boone County (Police Dispatcher): “Medics are advising to abandon CPR. We are getting them.”

    00:33 Female Officer: “OK, they don’t get to decide that.”

    00:33 Boone County (Police Dispatcher): “They are not willing to come in. If you guys can transport the patient away from the scene. Per medics.”

    00:33 EMS22 We are trying to tell them the one in the street with CPR is J-4

    00:34 Female Officer: “Eehhh (voice cracking with emotion)..Copy, Get them as close as they can!”

    00:34 Boone County (Police Dispatcher): “Apologies, We have told them that. They are not responding in. We will try again” (to get the medics to respond in)

    00:34 Male Officer: We are taking the 12 year old victim to the ER on our own.

    00:34 Medic 111 (ambulance crew) Medic 111 is on scene. (at Volunteer and Grace Lane)

    00:35 Chief 6 I am on scene St Charles and Grace. (this is really staging and not the scene)

    00:38 Medic 211 No more patients on scene. CPD transported them. They couldn’t wait two seconds.

    00:39 12 year old arrived at University

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