Pennsylvania 911 dispatcher Leon Price charged with not sending ambulance in death of Diania Kronk

Kelly Titchenell called 911 when her mother was suffering after days of heavy drinking. She made a desperate plea for medical assistance to a Pennsylvania dispatcher: “She’s going to die” without immediate help, she said.

But instead of immediately sending an ambulance for Diania Kronk in the summer of 2020, the dispatcher asked for more reassurance that Titchenell’s mother would be willing to be taken to a hospital a half-hour away.

“She will be, because I’m on my way there, so she’s going or she’s going to die,” Titchenell told the dispatcher with Greene County, Pa., As she drove to her mother’s boyfriend’s home, according to a recording of the 911 call obtained by The Washington Post.

Yet, Leon “Lee” Price waited and asked Titchenell to call 911 back once she arrived at the house to make sure Kronk was willing to go in an ambulance. “We really need to make sure she’s willing to go,” he said on the call.

Emergency medical services arrived long after the call was over, Titchenell told The Post. Titchenell found her mother nude on the front porch, speaking incoherently and bleeding. Kronk, 54, died of internal bleeding the next day.

Now, about two years after Kronk’s death, the 911 dispatcher has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to Greene County officials. Price, 50, of Waynesburg, Pa., Also faces charges of reckless endangerment, official oppression and obstruction, according to the Associated Press.

The charges represent a rare case in which a 911 dispatcher is charged in connection with someone’s death after failing to send help. Price, who was arraigned on June 29 and released on bail, faces charges after Titchenell filed a federal lawsuit last month in the Western District of Pennsylvania against the dispatcher, Greene County and two 911 supervisors alleging “callous refusal of public emergency medical services. ” Lawrence E. Bolind Jr., the attorney who represents Titchenell in the federal lawsuit, told The Post that Price’s hesitance during the nearly four-minute 911 call was “an intentional act.”

“I believe in my heart that my mother would still be alive if he would have sent an ambulance,” said Titchenell, 38, of Mather, Pa. “It should not have been his decision. He should have sent an ambulance and let the professionals decide if she should go to the hospital or not. ”

A message left at a phone number listed for Price’s home address was not immediately returned Friday. It was unclear whether Price has an attorney.

While Price’s employment status with the county remains unclear, Marie Milie Jones, an attorney for the county and 911 supervisors named in the federal case, told The Post that “Mr. Price is a member of a collective bargaining unit, and the county is following the necessary procedures under the CBA. ” It was unclear whether Price faced any discipline for the 2020 incident. Jones told the AP that her clients do not believe they are liable for Kronk’s death.

“It’s unfortunate that this woman had died. Certainly, from a personal standpoint, that’s very difficult, ”Jones said. “I’m not going to comment on the details of her circumstances.”

Greene County District Attorney Dave Russo said in a news release that the county detectives’ investigation of the case found that “911 services violated protocol and their own procedures by refusing to dispatch an ambulance to Ms. Kronk’s aid. ”

“According to the investigation, she was denied medical services when all three ambulances were available for dispatch,” Russo said.

A conviction of involuntary manslaughter carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, according to Pennsylvania attorneys.

The charges in rural Pennsylvania come weeks after a 911 dispatcher in Buffalo was fired after a Tops supermarket employee trapped during the deadly mass shooting there in May was hung up on. Erie County dispatcher Sheila E. Ayers was initially placed on administrative leave after Latisha Rogers, an assistant office manager at the supermarket, told the Buffalo News and WGRZ that she called 911 and whispered to the dispatcher in hopes of making authorities aware of the mass shooting unfolding at the grocery store. But instead of assistance in a moment when she was “scared for my life,” Rogers said, the 911 dispatcher dismissed her in “a very nasty tone.” Ayers was terminated last month after eight years with Erie County’s Central Police Services Department.

While criminal charges against 911 dispatchers are rare, they are not unheard of. In 2008, a 911 dispatcher in Detroit was sentenced to a year of probation and lost her job for not taking a boy’s call seriously when he told the operator that his mother had collapsed. Sherrill Turner, 46, was found dead hours after Sharon Nichols allegedly hung up on Turner’s young son in 2006 and accused him of playing games. The dispatcher had testified in the case that she could not hear the child.

Kronk worked in home health care and loved taking care of others, her daughter said. Kronk, who had five grandchildren, loved cooking for family and friends, especially her famous baked rigatoni with pepperoni.

“She wanted to make sure everyone else was okay,” Titchenell said.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Titchenell was vulnerable because of her autoimmune disorders, she said. She also suffered from fibromyalgia, a chronic neuromuscular disorder with no known cure. Though she and her mother had lived together in Mather – a small town more than 50 miles south of Pittsburgh – Kronk was spending more time at her boyfriend’s place in an effort to not bring the virus into Titchenell’s home.

“I panicked and did not want to have her coming and going. That’s why she stayed there for a long period of time, ”she said. “I did not want her bringing the germs back here.”

Titchenell knew her mother’s drinking had increased during the early part of the pandemic, which led to weight loss and her “turning yellow,” she said. But a text message from her brother that their mother was “in a bad way” prompted the daughter to drive to where Kronk was staying in nearby Sycamore, Pa., According to court records.

On July 1, 2020, Titchenell called 911 and was connected to Price. Cellphone service where her mother was staying was not good, so she called 911 before she arrived, Titchenell told The Post. At the start of the call, she explained that her mother was suffering after days of heavy drinking and urged for an ambulance to go get her.

“I can not get her in my car. … She can not even move, ”Titchenell said, according to the 911 call.

During the call, Price repeatedly told Titchenell that Greene County could not force Kronk to go in an ambulance if she did not want to do so. At this point, Titchenell told The Post, she was confused as to what was going on.

“I did not understand because usually if you call 911 they send help,” she said. “It really did not make any sense to me.”

After Titchenell told the dispatcher that her mother “isn’t in her right state of mind right now” to make that decision, Price bluntly told Titchenell that “no emergency services would be provided” without confirmation from Kronk that she would go to the hospital , according to court records.

“Can we at least try?” Price asked of Titchenell.

When Titchenell said she was 10 minutes away from her mother’s boyfriend’s residence, Price suggested she hang up and call 911 back to “make sure she wants to go before we send resources out there.”

“I’m sorry,” Titchenell said.

“No, do not be sorry, ma’am,” Price replied. “Just call me when you get out there, okay?”

Bolind told The Post that Price “never notified the police, never notified anyone to follow up” about Kronk’s condition.

“At some point, Mrs. Titchenell believes there was a decision made that for whatever reason, in her opinion, they did not want to waste resources to go out to where her mother was staying, ”he said.

An autopsy later concluded that Kronk died of internal bleeding.

Russo, the district attorney, told The Post that the next month of the investigation should determine whether additional charges will be brought against Price or the county.

“No one should be denied emergency services in Greene County or anywhere else,” he said. “Everyone should have equal protections and access to medical treatment.”

Titchenell described the past two years as being hell for her and her family. While she hopes for accountability, she said, she thinks about one of the questions she would ask the dispatcher if they were to speak again: “What would you do if this happened to your mother?”

“I do not ever want this to happen to anybody else,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.