A woman who suffered three gunshot wounds last spring that left her a quadriplegic is suing San Diego for gross negligence, contending that police dispatchers failed to take seriously multiple 9-1-1 calls from her mother.
Mya Hendrix, who was shot during a kidnapping by gang members in April, says in the lawsuit that city dispatchers are partly responsible for her injuries because they deemed the situation a “non-emergency” and a scam, despite multiple calls from the then 19-year-old’s mother.
Three suspected gang members – Cesar Alvarado, Michael Pedraza and Britney Canal – have since been charged in the case, which was part of an alleged crime spree that also left a Chula Vista businessman dead.
Gang members charged in 2-week crime spree that included Chula Vista killing, San Diego shooting
The lawsuit comes three years after public outcry over slow responses to emergency calls in San Diego, including an April 2016 case when two 9-1-1 calls went unanswered as a dog fatally attacked an infant in Mira Mesa.
Since then, the city has given 25 percent pay raises to police and fire dispatchers which, officials say, has boosted employee morale, reduced dispatcher absences and shortened emergency response times.
Hendrix’s lawsuit says the first dispatcher her mother reached on April 11 was skeptical when told of Mya’s prior phone call to her mom that morning saying kidnappers had her and wanted $2,500 ransom.
The dispatcher concluded it was a “scam” concocted by Mya and fellow drug users, the suit says.
Despite the mom, Misti Hendrix, insisting her daughter would never do such a thing, the dispatcher told Misti Hendrix that such kidnapping scams were common in San Diego and that she should take no further action.
Because of this advice, the lawsuit says, the mother did not go to a police station and did not try to come up with the $2,500 ransom, actions which could have helped her daughter avoid getting shot.
The lawsuit says the dispatcher’s actions constitute gross negligence and bad faith, noting that the dispatcher failed to follow several protocols in place for missing persons under 21.
Those include prioritizing such calls over property crimes, immediately assessing the appropriate next steps, posting a “be on the lookout” bulletin for other law enforcement agencies, and alerting the state Department of Justice.
When Mya called her mom a second time, early that afternoon, Mya was crying and the mother heard Mya being attacked with something that sounded like a taser, the suit says.
In addition, a man and a woman said to Misti that they would kill Mya if they didn’t get the $2,500, and the man finished the call by saying “you don’t know how serious this is,” the suits says.
Misti immediately made a second 9-1-1 call, during which a second dispatcher looked up the incident number from that morning and told her the case had been deemed a scam, according to the suit.
“I have to keep calls open for emergencies,” the dispatcher allegedly told Misti before directing her to call the police non-emergency line.
Misti then called the non-emergency line, where a third dispatcher offered to trace Mya’s cell phone and get back to the mom, the suit says. But he never called the mom back, and there is no evidence he called the cell phone provider, according to the suit.
The next day, April 12, Mya was found by a passerby in the ocean off Sunset Cliffs with three gunshot wounds.
The suit, which was filed last month, calls the actions by the dispatchers an “extreme departure from ordinary conduct.”
The suit did not name any of the dispatchers involved.
Hendrix is seeking compensation for medical care and lost earnings since the incident and in the future.
Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel has not yet scheduled a trial date.
A spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott would not comment. She said by email Thursday that she would seek direction from city officials and respond through the courts.
A gofundme.com page created for Mya has raised $3,100 since the incident.