Fired Denver 911 operator Juan Jesus Rodriguez told Ran Pal to return to Denver, and when he did, his brother, Jimma Reat, was shot to death last year. But Pal could have refused, a lawyer for Rodriguez said in arguing that a lawsuit filed by Reat's family should be dismissed.
Rodriguez "had no reason to believe his requests for the plaintiffs to return to Denver would lead to death .... they could have said no," Eric Ziporin told U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty on Tuesday.
Reat, 25, was returning home with Pal, a second brother and a friend last April when a group of Hispanic men rolled up beside their rental vehicle and began harassing them. The men, who were in a red Jeep, screamed racial epithets at the Sudanese refugees, threw bottles and one of them waved a gun.
They made it home to the parking lot at their apartment in Wheat Ridge, but Rodriguez told them in order to file a complaint they would have to come back to Denver and meet police.
Rodriguez was fired for his handling of the incident.
The operator lied when he told the group they had to come back to Denver to file a report, said Erica Grossman, a lawyer for Reat's family.
In fact, that wasn't required, and Rodriguez knew that, Grossman said.
And he lied a second time when he told Pal he had sent police to meet them before he had actually done so, she added.
Ziporin said Rodriguez told Pal that they could wait and make the report later.
Hegarty asked Ziporin if it would be reasonable for someone who wanted an assailant caught to wait 24 hours to report an assault.
Ziporin said allowing the lawsuit to go forward would create a new type of liability for dispatchers who must make quick decisions.
Hegarty's decision on the dismissal will be in the form of a recommendation to U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn, who is the judge in the case. Hegarty didn't decide the matter on Tuesday.
The lawsuit also names the city and county of Denver.
Ziporin said Reat's family is blaming Rodriguez and Denver, rather than those who committed the crime.
"I disagree with that," Hegarty said. "If the real people were around, they would be blaming them."
Reat's killer has not yet been apprehended.
Members of Reat's family, including his mother, and Changkuoth Pal, another of his brothers who was with him when he was shot, attended the hearing in U.S. District Court.
He said he was upset by Ziporin's arguments. "We thought we were being sent to a safe site, but it turned out it wasn't. They are trying to blame the driver, my brother Ran. Everybody knows he was obeying the order given to him by dispatch."