Waffle House shooting took place in 42 seconds; police sent to wrong location

Police tape blocks off a Waffle House restaurant Sunday, April 22, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. At least four people died after a gunman opened fire at the restaurant early Sunday.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (Metro Police Mug Photo)

It's an event that still haunts Nashville - four lives cut short after police say a gunman walked into an Antioch Waffle House early on a Sunday morning.

Dispatchers quickly sent emergency crews to the scene, but they were sent to the wrong address before getting the correct location.

Dispatch calls show crews first arrived at an older Waffle House at 816 Murfreesboro Pike. When crews arrived, they didn’t find a crime scene. Dispatch then sent crews to the correct location -- 11 miles down the road.

The Emergency Communications Center acknowledged sending crews to the wrong spot.

“A delay can mean death,” said Buck Dozier, a retired Nashville Fire chief.

According to a release from ECC, police say the tragic shooting happened in 42 seconds.

Dozier says what happened that day is not uncommon, especially with the overwhelming growth happening in Nashville. He says the number of calls have more than doubled since his time with the department.

Dozens of new developments are popping up each day. If your address isn't registered, that means 9-1-1 could have a hard time finding you during a crisis.

It certainly was a challenge the morning of the Waffle House shooting. In a statement, Michelle Donegan said the newer Waffle House was not yet in the 9-1-1 system, which caused confusion on the actual location.

“The services provided by police, ambulance and fire are so critical and time is of essence,” Dozier said.

Which means having your brand new address in the system so 9-1-1 can find you is critical.

Metro Public Works assigns brand new addresses for new developments. Afterwards, they put it into the Property Tax Assessors data base. From there, the address is disbursed to various places like the Post Office and 9-1-1.

That’s too long of a process for some like new residents Meg Mazzone, who lives in a new Germantown development where she cares for her daughter.

“That would be very scary,” Mazzone said. “I would want to be sure someone could find us for sure.”

FOX 17 News asked Donegan what her department is doing to get quicker access to new addresses and ensure they are uploaded into the system. We’ve not yet received that answer.

See below for a statement from Donegan about the timeline of events the morning of the Waffle House shooting:

"In regard to the April 29th tragedy at the Antioch Waffle House, as is the case in almost all critical incidents, Emergency Communications Center staff is reviewing the call-taking and dispatching processes to ensure professionalism and to assist in on-going training for ECC personnel.

In the Waffle House incident, it is understandable that the first callers to the Emergency Communications Center did not know exactly where on Murfreesboro Pike they were. We understand from the police department that 42 seconds elapsed from the time of the first shot outside the Waffle House to the time that the shooter fled the building. We also understand from the police department that the shooter was inside the restaurant for 27 seconds. What the callers saw and experienced was unimaginable.

Here is an example of the multiple calls being answered by separate operators at the ECC:

  • 3:24:33 Initial call answered—Caller does not know the street address and is unable to verify the cross street.
  • 3:24:44 2nd caller – does not know the address, but into the call gives the numerical of 3532 Murfreesboro Pk
  • 3:24:49 4th caller cannot give street address, but further in the call gives 3571 address (call taker sends up the call to South)
  • 3:24:50 5th caller does not know the address (call taker sends up the call to Hermitage)

In an effort to ascertain the location of the shooting call as quickly as possible, the call taker handling the 5th call opted to use a computerized “criss-cross directory” to attempt to gain a specific street address. Upon querying Waffle House and Murfreesboro Pike, the only location provided was the long-established restaurant at 816 Murfreesboro Pike. The Waffle House at 3571 Murfreesboro Pike, which opened as a new location in late 2017, was not reflected in the “criss-cross directory.”

Each call taker keyed initial and updated information as conversations continued with the callers. That information was then sent to dispatchers for two precincts, in that Murfreesboro Pike is the dividing line between the South and Hermitage Precincts.

This timeline reflects the work being done as quickly as possible by ECC dispatchers as they read the information being sent to them by call takers:

  • 3:25:38 – call received by South dispatcher
  • 3:25:40 – call received by Hermitage dispatcher
  • 3:26:01 – Hermitage dispatcher took all airs and put out a 10-52 (shooting) at 816 Murfreesboro Pike
  • 3:27:11 – Hermitage Dispatcher broadcasts that it is the Waffle House at 3571 Murfreesboro Pike
  • 3:27:30 – South Dispatcher advised car 325 that she is dispatching him to this emergency call
  • 3:27:30 – Hermitage officer confirms 816 Murfreesboro Pike is clear while other Hermitage Precinct officers are enroute to 3571 Murfreesboro Pike
  • 3:27:48 – South Dispatcher activates the “attention all cars” tone
  • 3:27:58 – South Dispatcher again activates the “attention all cars” tone and airs a code 9000 (active shooter) at 3571 Murfreesboro Pike. By this point, based on the continuous information being provided, the ECC staff determined that this was
  • more than just a shooting call, but was an active shooter event.
  • 3:28:09 – South Dispatcher assigned two units to the call at 3571 Murfreesboro Pike---Officers from both the Hermitage and South Precincts are now enroute.
  • 3:32 a.m.—Officer on scene at 3571 Murfreesboro Pike

The shock and confusion among persons involved in or are witnesses to an incident such as this can be overwhelming. The stress of incidents as being reported over the telephone by citizens is often imparted to the staff of the Emergency Communications Center. The trained personnel at the ECC work to overcome the emotion of the caller so that first responder assistance can be sent as quickly as possible. They did so in this incident, just as they do every day on behalf of Nashville’s citizens."

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