911 dispatcher who asked ‘Why are you whispering?’ during Buffalo shooting, to be fired

May 20, 2022, 9:00 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:15 pm

(CNN) — The assistant office manager at the Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, New York, had already survived one mass shooting.

Nearly 12 years ago, Latisha Rogers and her brother, Danyell Mackin, were at City Grill restaurant in Buffalo when a man opened fire, killing Mackin and three others. Four people were wounded, including one who succumbed years later to those injuries.

Then Saturday, a gunman whose rampage authorities say was fueled by racist hate entered Rogers’ grocery — and began firing.

“It’s just constant, just shooting. He won’t stop. It’s constantly going,” she recounted Thursday to CNN’s Don Lemon.

Hiding behind the service desk counter, Rogers dialed 911. But the dispatcher handled her plea so dismissively local officials now intend to fire her at a May 30 hearing, a top county official said.

How it went down has compounded Rogers’ trauma.

“I’m just back at another massacre and going through this again, trying to find a healing process,” Rogers said.

Ten people at the Tops store, including an armed security guard, were killed and three wounded; 11 of the 13 were Black. The White 18-year-old accused in the shooting has pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge. He is being held without bail at least until his next court appearance June 9.

‘Why are you whispering?’

Rogers was at the supermarket’s service desk with two coworkers, on the phone with a customer, when she heard “large booms” in quick succession, she told CNN.

“I look up out the window and I saw this customer, this lady with her shopping cart — she just stopped — and she just had this really funny look on her face and then she just turned to run,” Rogers said.

“Next thing you know, you just keep hearing boom, boom, boom,” she said. “All we could do was just drop to the ground.”

Rogers hid behind the counter, “praying that he didn’t see me,” she said of the shooter.

“I was trying to think fast,” she said. She reached into her back pocket, grabbed her own phone and dialed 911. “I proceeded to whisper because I didn’t know how many people there were in the store or anything, I didn’t want to be heard.”

Softly, Rogers implored: “‘Please send help, there’s a person in the store shooting.'”

“‘What? I can’t hear you,'” the dispatcher responded, she said. “‘Why are you whispering? You don’t have to whisper, they can’t hear you.'”

Nervous, Rogers dropped her phone, she said. The dispatcher kept speaking, but Rogers couldn’t make out the words.

“She said something and then she hung up the phone,” said Rogers, who then switched her phone to silent in case anyone rang.

Next, Rogers dialed her boyfriend and, in the same tone she used with the dispatcher, asked him to call 911 to report there was “a person in the store shooting.” Then, a coworker rang Rogers on a video call to ask where she was, and in that same hush, she relayed her location and asked her to call 911.

When that call ended, Rogers noticed the store had gone “dead silent,” she said. Even the music somehow had gone offline.

“It’s just a complete, eerie, creepy, silence in the store and you can hear him walking around,” she said. “It just sounded like he was walking like on glass, you could hear it crunching under his feet.”

Rogers stayed hidden, waiting, until she heard police and saw an officer escorting an employee away. When she came out from behind the counter, all she saw were “bodies,” she said.

“It wasn’t a good sight at all,” she said, shaking and fighting tears. “The first person that I saw was the security guard, Aaron Salter. And I knew it was him, by his uniform.”

“To see what I saw, I would never want nobody to ever experience that, ever.”

911 call under investigation

The 911 dispatcher who spoke with Rogers was put on administrative leave Monday, Erie County officials said.

It wasn’t clear who ended the call, but “the 911 operator was inappropriate,” County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Wednesday at a news conference.

“We teach our 911 call takers that if someone is whispering, it probably means they are in trouble” and the caller may be in “an area of concern, not just with regards to active shooters but potentially with regards to domestic violence that someone may be calling,” he said.

A May 30 hearing will be held “in which our intention is to terminate the 911 call taker who acted totally inappropriately, not following protocol,” he said, reiterating the dispatcher’s tone was a “completely inappropriate response” in a “terrible situation.”

The dispatcher’s name would not be released, due to department standards regarding anyone under administrative suspension or leave, Poloncarz said.

Law enforcement response time to the shooting was not affected by the handling of Rogers’ call, Erie County spokesman Peter Anderson said Wednesday.

Central Police Services on Sunday went through all calls associated with the shooting, Poloncarz explained. “They identified this one call, the issue associated with it, it was completely unacceptable.”

Rogers is “not a cold-hearted person at all,” she told CNN, but thinks the 911 dispatcher should lose her job.

“Right is right and wrong is wrong,” she said. “It was just like, I was just bothering her, and I feel like when she hung up on me, she never called back.”

“I feel like she left me to die, and I legit thought I was going to die that day.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Taylor Goodridge...
Tyler Kingkade, NBC News

Utah boarding school ignored teen’s sickness complaints before she died, ex-staff say

A Native American teenager who died while attending a Utah boarding school for at-risk youth had been sick in the weeks beforehand, but staff had been trained to assume students would lie about being ill and did not try to bring her to the hospital until the day she died, former staff members said in interviews. 
22 hours ago
Bed Bath And Beyond is in financial trouble...
Paul R. La Monica and Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

Bed Bath & Beyond says it can no longer pay its debts

(CNN) — The end could be near for struggling retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, as it warned in a regulatory filing Thursday that it received a notice of default from its lender, JPMorgan Chase. Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) plunged more than 20% on the news, to about $2.56 a share. The company […]
22 hours ago
The rotation of Earth's core may have paused, scientists in China have suggested. (Adobe Stock via ...
Lianne Kolirin

Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, study suggests

The rotation of Earth's inner core may have paused and it could even go into reverse, new research suggests.
22 hours ago
A worker rings up a customer at a cash register in a Walmart store on January 24, 2023 in Miami, Fl...
Paul Wiseman, Associated Press

US economy slowed but still grew at 2.9% rate last quarter

The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace from October through December, ending 2022 with momentum despite the pressure of high interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession.
22 hours ago
Chunli Zhao appears for his arraignment at San Mateo Superior court in Redwood City, Calif., on Wed...
Olga R. Rodriguez and Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press

Suspect in Half Moon Bay farm killings faces 7 murder counts

A farmworker accused of killing seven people in shootings at two Northern California mushroom farms has been charged with seven counts of murder.
22 hours ago
In an aerial view, San Francisco police officers and F.B.I. agents gather in front of the home of U...
Adam Beam, Associated Press

California judge orders release of footage of Pelosi attack

Footage of the attack on former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband will be released publicly.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
911 dispatcher who asked ‘Why are you whispering?’ during Buffalo shooting, to be fired