No Rehearing on 911 Operator’s Fatal Advice

     DENVER (CN) – The family of a refugee shot to death while following a 911 operator’s dangerous advice failed to secure an en banc 10th Circuit rehearing of their unsuccessful case.
     Jimma Pal Reat had moved to Colorado with his family after escaping from Sudan and spending time in an Ethiopian refugee camp.
     In the early morning hours of April 1, 2012, the 25-year-old was in a car with two of his brothers and another Sudenese friend when a group of Hispanic men allegedly pulled up along side, shouted racial slurs, and shattered their windshield with beer bottles and “bottle rockets.”
     Though the Sudanese group fled to suburban Denver as they called 911, emergency operator Juan Jesus Rodriguez gave instructions that put them back in harm’s way.
     Rodriguez said police could not help unless they drove back downtown and waited at the scene of the crime with their hazard lights on.
     Back at the scene, Reat’s brother was still on the line with the dispatcher when the Hispanic assailants returned and opened fire on the Sudanese group.
     Reat was killed at the scene. Rodriguez meanwhile waited until one minute after the shooting to dispatch officers to the scene. The operator had kept Reat’s brother on the phone for 14 minutes.
     Though a federal judge advanced a due-process claim by Reat’s family against Rodriguez, the 10th Circuit reversed on May 31.
     Reat’s family moved for a rehearing by either the three-judge panel or the full federal appeals court, but the 10th Circuit refused 8-4 Friday.
     A two-page order notes only that U.S. Circuit Judges Carlos Lucero, Harris Hartz, Gregory Phillips and Nancy Moritz voted to rehear the case en banc. None of those four were on the original May panel that ruled for Rodriguez.
     Friday’s filing includes an updated version of the May 31 panel decision, but it does not specify what changes were made.
     The crux of the decision — dismissing the claims against Rodriguez — has not changed.
     It says that Rodriguez’s instructions, “as foolish as they were,” removed Reat’s free will
     “Rodriguez merely informed the victims, however incompetently, that to get help from the police, they would have to return to Denver,” Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote. “Unlike children in school or under the care of social workers, Reat and his companions were not incapable of acting in their own interest at the time of the shooting.”
     Reat’s brother, Ran Pal, initially called 911 after unknown individuals in a Jeep pulled up next to Pal and his passengers on Sheridan Boulevard and threw bottles and bottle rockets towards their car, breaking their windshield. He asked Rodriguez to send help from their safer location in Wheat Ridge, where they had fled.
     “For reasons that remain unclear, Rodriguez told Pal that because the attack had occurred in Denver, he needed to return to the city in order to receive help from the police,” the opinion says. After refusing to return to the city, Rodriguez convinced Pal to pull over only nineteen blocks north of where the assault originally happened. The rest of the story, the opinion admits, is “tragic.”

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