Charlotte Observer: Police To Review Policy On 911 Calls; Victim's Car May Have Been Found
Danielle Watson After capturing a suspect in the death of a south Charlotte restaurant manager, police announced Monday that they will review department policies on handling 911 calls, acknowledging several "missed opportunities" in how a dispatcher handled the case. The announcement came about an hour after Charlotte and Fayetteville police said they arrested Mark Anthony Cox, 22, at an acquaintance's home in Fayetteville. Police said they found Danielle Watson's car a block or two away. Cox was booked into the Mecklenburg County jail around 8:30 a.m. today on charges of first-degree murder in Watson's death. He also is charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon of a business and robbery with a dangerous weapon of an individual, according to the jail website. Watson's body was found Saturday morning behind a trash bin in the StoneCrest at Piper Glen shopping center. Police have not yet said how she was killed. Cox and Watson were co-workers at the Flying Biscuit Cafe. Watson had recently learned she was pregnant, her family and fiance said. Early Tuesday morning, a wrecker truck brough a blue Chevrolet Cavalier to CMPD headquarters in Charlotte's uptown. It fit the description of the car that Watson had been driving. On Monday, police released a 911 call from Watson's fiance in which he says he thought the restaurant was being robbed. But the police dispatcher who took the call gave officers an incorrect business name and address. In the 911 tape, Keith Smith, Watson's fiance, is heard giving an address on Rea Road and naming the Flying Biscuit restaurant. The dispatcher took the call for a "Plum Biscuit" - which does not exist - at 3930 Rea Road, a residential address. Police Capt. Mike Campagna said Monday that it is unclear what address Smith actually gave the dispatcher: 3930, which is incorrect, or 7930, the correct one for Flying Biscuit. The addresses are about four miles away. "I've listened to it a dozen times as well," said Campagna, CMPD's communications director. "And I can also hear it both ways." The 911 call came at 12:05 a.m. Saturday. Officers arrived at the incorrect location, a private residence, about 20 minutes later and cleared the scene. Police said the officer went to a nearby shopping center to find a business with the name Plum Biscuits. Police say they were called to the correct location six hours later based on a separate larceny call. The dispatcher who took the original call from Smith is on "administrative leave, temporarily, as we look into the situation," Campagna said. Missed opportunities In the 911 call, Smith told the dispatcher that Watson's shift was supposed to have ended at 9 p.m. "She should have been home hours ago," Smith is heard saying on the tape. "But it did sound like there was some kind of commotion in the background. She called me from work. And I'm concerned. I think maybe somebody's trying to rob it." At the end of the call, the dispatcher took Smith's phone number, and said he was sending an officer and would call back with an update. Campagna said "there's indication the officer made an attempt" to call back Smith after arriving at the wrong location. He said police are looking into what number the officer called back. "I think we missed some opportunities," Campagna said. "I think some follow-up could have been done on our end. ... Moving forward, we're wanting to look at what training could be done better. What policy needs to be changed? ... Our goal is 100 percent right all the time." Campagna said it is not CMPD policy for a dispatcher to repeat back an address provided by a caller. Campagna said that policy will be re-evaluated. Smith said late Monday afternoon that he is positive he provided the right information, but doesn't blame the dispatcher. "People make mistakes. I get that," he said. "Unfortunately, it was a bad one. ... But I convinced myself that whatever happened, happened before I made that call anyway. Whether it did or it didn't, that's what I'm convincing myself. I know that guy's gotta feel horrible. But people make mistakes. "The only person that I hold responsible has been caught." Records show Cox was released from prison in November after serving more than three years for robbery with a dangerous weapon and two counts of breaking and entering. Under a new state law, anyone accused of killing a pregnant woman could face two murder charges: one for the woman and one for her unborn child. Secret wedding planned Smith, a 32-year-old musician, said he met Watson about nine months ago at a Charlotte bar where his band was performing. Smith said they planned to be secretly married this weekend. "We didn't tell anybody anything," he said. "Not a whole lot of people knew that she was pregnant. I mean, my mom found out she was dead and pregnant in the same sentence." Smith said Watson will be buried in the wedding dress she picked out.