Cincinnati mayor on death of teen trapped in van: 'We failed'

Updated: May. 14, 2018 at 7:00 PM EDT
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Kyle Plush's father and aunt attend the Law and Public Safety Committee meeting (FOX19 NOW)
Kyle Plush's father and aunt attend the Law and Public Safety Committee meeting (FOX19 NOW)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - "We failed to get the outcome we wanted in this emergency response" said Mayor John Cranley.

Those sobering remarks came at the start of Monday's Law and Public Safety Committee meeting to discuss the results of the Kyle Plush death investigation.

16-year-old Plush died in his minivan in the Seven Hills School parking lot on April 10 after calling 911 for help twice.

Throughout the meeting, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac maintained that policies and procedures were followed by Cincinnati 911 call takers the night Kyle tragically died.

Chief Isaac admitted that Officers Brian Brazile and Edsel Osborne violated police department procedure by turning off their body cameras three minutes into responding to Seven Hills School.

The officers were on the scene for 14 minutes.

Though Isaac said procedure was violated, he said the officers reacted reasonably based on the information that had been relayed to them at the time.

The chief also addressed his officers not getting out of their vehicles during the search.

Officers told officials they stayed in their vehicle to "cover more ground, have a higher vantage point, and to be able to look from both sides of the vehicle" as they searched the parking lot.

At the time of the response, Isaac said police believed they were searching for a woman trapped in her vehicle.

Dispatchers reported that the sound quality of the phone call made by Kyle was muffled and Kyle seemed to be far away from his phone.

Kyle's phone was in his pants pocket and he was using Siri to call police. This caused a failure of communication between the 911 center and Kyle because neither could talk to the other, police said.

Call takers at the 911 center said they could hear Kyle say "seven hills" but they weren't sure what that meant. They also said they tried to ask him questions but there was no response because he couldn't hear them.

Kyle's phone disconnected during his first phone call to 911, police say.

After discussing the call, dispatchers say they entered a thrift store near Seven Hills into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system as "unknown trouble" at that location.

Dispatchers say they tried to call back, but his phone went to voicemail.

Officials say officers used their personal cell phones to try to contact Kyle, but each call went to voicemail.

Multiple people walked past the area where Kyle was trapped in his van, police said.

When Kyle called 911 a second time and spoke with dispatcher Amber Smith, officials say that she was unable to edit the CAD system information for the call because it was listed as closed, so she entered the information as a new call.

[You can hear the 911 calls here]

Officers say that they reached out to the school to ask if any students were missing but the school said that all students were accounted for.

Police say that during Plush's call, the 911 system did not fail and the CAD system did not fail "completely."

The CAD system showed technical errors and connectivity problems which police say likely caused some performance problems.

After Police Chief Eliot Isaac finished a breakdown of the investigation into Kyle's death, the Plush family was invited to speak, and councilmembers were able to ask officials questions.

Kyle's aunt addressed Isaac's report that multiple officers, as well as dispatchers, called Kyle's cell phone and received his voicemail message.

Plush's aunt said that Kyle had a detailed and personalized voicemail that began with "hello this is Kyle." She asked why it was not communicated between officers and dispatchers who said they were under the impression they were looking for a female.

Councilman PG Sittenfeld piggybacked off those remarks, asking why officers wouldn't have gone into Seven Hills Schools to ask "we have information that there's a Kyle in a van. Can you help us out with that?"

Sittenfeld called entire situation an "enormous failure."

In the past few weeks, the circumstances surrounding Kyle's death have been called a "perfect storm."

Kyle's dad, Ron Plush, had questions about that phrasing.

"One thing I've heard over the past month is that what happened to Kyle is the 'perfect storm.' So was this a perfect storm or a series of multiple failures?" said Plush. "Is it unpredictable that when someone needs help, they call 911? Kyle knew he was in trouble and didn't call his mom and dad. He knew he needed to call the one entity that could respond quickly and ultimately address the immediate crisis best. Was that unpredictable?"

Plush laid out several questions about his son's death, many of those relating to the GPS location 911 dispatchers received from Kyle's cell phone.

See the list of questions below: 

"Did the 911 call taker have the coordinates when the call came in or as she was going through the call?," Councilwoman Amy Murray asked."I know that we've seen them on the sheet but how did they know where to send them?"

Officials said that the first call taker had coordinates for the area in which Kyle was trapped in his van. The call taker then entered those coordinates into the CAD system and dispatchers were responsible for translating those coordinates into an address for officers to respond to.

Murray said that when the coordinates were put into a computer, the location comes down to almost exactly where Kyle's van was located.

Plush also had questions about the officers not exiting their cruiser while searching Seven Hills campus.

Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman said that councilmembers received the results of the investigation that morning. He added that they were processing the results during the council meeting.

The Law and Public Safety Committee will take two weeks to go over the information gathered in the release and will reconvene on May 29, Smitherman said.

When the group reconvenes, police officials as well as the Plush family will be in attendance.

"I'm going to be a bulldog on this" said Murray to the police officials, "I'm not going to stop until we have every answer that we need answered. Every single one."

Watch the entire hearing below: 

The Law and Public Safety Committee will meet again May 29 to discuss the questions brought up by the results of the investigation.

The Plush family and police officials will be in attendance at that meeting.

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