Update: A 911 dispatcher accused of hanging up on a worker at a Tops in Buffalo as a gunman shot his way through the grocery store has been fired, reports NBC News. The dispatcher, who allegedly also yelled at the Tops worker for whispering on the phone, had worked for Erie County for eight years. Last month, County Executive Mark Poloncarz called the dispatcher's behavior "unacceptable," adding, "We teach our 911 call takers that if somebody's whispering, it probably means they are in trouble." A local legislator tells WIVB the dispatcher's entire record was taken into account in making the decision. Our original story from May 19 follows:
A terrified employee at Tops, the Buffalo grocery store where an alleged white supremacist is accused of fatally shooting 10 people Saturday, hid on the floor behind the customer service counter as the massacre unfolded and called 911. Whispering so the gunman wouldn't detect her, the assistant office manager, who did not want her last name revealed, tried to tell the dispatcher what was happening. Instead, she tells the Buffalo News, the dispatcher "was yelling at me, saying, 'Why are you whispering? You don't have to whisper.' ... She got mad at me, hung up in my face." The worker called her boyfriend instead, and had him call 911.
A spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz says "immediate action was taken," with an internal investigation opening Sunday and the dispatcher placed on administrative leave Monday. A disciplinary hearing is scheduled for May 30, at which the employee could be terminated or otherwise punished. "I felt that lady left me to die," the manager says. Other Tops employees are speaking out about their experiences on that unimaginable day. "I was laying on the floor in aisle 12. I thought it was going to be the end there. I'm not sure how I got myself up off the floor or what got me up. But I know I'm running again," a customer service lead whose daughter also survived the shooting tells NBC News. "I hit the grocery doors. I remember hitting the doors and feeling a little relief." (Read more Buffalo shooting stories.)