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Liberty police response stirs concern

Published: Wed, April 30, 2008 @ 12:06 a.m.
Liberty 911 Call
Audio clip

By John W. Goodwin Jr.

Residents in the area said a foot search should have been done.

LIBERTY — People close to a township woman who was found dead on her front porch early Monday after being locked out of her home all night are wondering if more could have been done to save her.

A neighbor who called 911 says the outcome might have been different if police officers, called twice, had gotten out of the car to listen and look.

Liberty police, however, will not change any policies regarding response to such calls, the police chief says.

Mary Rush, 87, of Mansell Drive, was found on her front porch, unconscious with severe cuts, just after 7 a.m. Monday. Police say the porch area was covered in blood. A large rock was also found by a nearby broken window.

Police have since determined that Rush, who suffered from a form of dementia, locked herself out and was cut trying to gain entry to the house. She died of hypothermia, police said.

Police had been called twice by Rebekah Huston, who lives three houses away on the opposite side of the street. Huston said she heard someone crying out about 3 a.m.

Huston can be heard on the 911 tape telling police she is unsure where the cries were coming from, but that they had been going on for an hour.

Huston said officers did arrive after each call to 911, but no foot search of the area was conducted.

“I had been hearing moans like someone was hurt outside, so I decided to call 911,” said Huston. “The first time they came they rode by really slow without using the [spot] lights and after they got past my house, they sped up and left. The second time they came out, they did shine the lights, but only on my side of the street.”

Rush lived on the opposite side of the street.

Huston said she did not want to go outside and search the area because she was unsure if the noise was coming from a potential intruder. She said her feeling was that the police are better equipped to handle such situations.

Huston and her husband found Rush on the porch the next morning.

Huston said she does not want to speak badly about the police department, but she said the whole situation could have been prevented if the officers had gotten out of the cars and waited to hear the moans.

Mary Lou Griffith, who has known Rush for 15 years, said she was upset to hear police officers had been sent to the area twice during the time Rush was likely outside. She said officers should have checked the area on foot even if it was raining.

“When you get a call and a second call 40 minutes later, doesn’t that tell you something is going on?” she asked.

John Kragel of Barth Drive, an 18-year friend of Rush’s, would visit her daily to help with medications and eat dinner with her two to three times a week. He said the police “surely should have found her.”

Police Chief Anthony Slifka said the department will not change any policies addressing calls for noises heard outside at night.

Slifka said the department has responded to numerous calls like the one made by Huston and will continue to respond to such calls in the same fashion. He said officers did canvass the area by car and just didn’t see anyone.

“We went out there and looked and didn’t see anything. These officers would not have left her out there if they had seen her,” he said. “Miss Rush could have been three blocks away and walking back when we got there. The point is, we don’t know.”

Rush has two sons, one living in Vienna Township and the other living in New Hampshire. The son in Vienna could not be reached.



1nlhinct(7 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

I am furious. Of course a foot search should have been done ON BOTH SIDES OF THE STREET. Maybe the first call to 911 should have shown a light on both sides of the street as well. But certainly the second call should have prompted the three police cars that responded to get out of their car, despite the rain, and walk the beat. This tragedy should not have happened. She was found on her front porch five hours after the first 911 call. She bled to death on her front porch. Absolutely unconsciounable. The Police Chief should revise his procedures immediately or be suspended immediately without compensation pending a full investigation. All of the residents of Mansell Drive will certainly appear to testify. This is absolutely horrible.

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2apollo(1227 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Great job Liberty PD. Why bother to get out of those warm cushy cars and actually do your job when you can sit on your fat *****! All involved should immediately be fired and the chief reprimanded. But, they'd probably hire replacements from the friends and family list and we'd just get more incompetents. Remember this next time the PD needs more funding for raises and cadillac bennies.

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3twonieces(4 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

The tragic death of this lady demands change in the way the Liberty police respond to 911 calls of this nature. It is inconceivable that police TWICE failed to get out of their cruisers and search for the injured person. Defending this policy is a further failure to the residents of Liberty Township. If the police had been as diligent as the neighbor who called twice, this tragedy may have been avoided. The police response failed the neighbor who called twice, failed to find the injured person and adds insult to injury by failing to admit that the responses were inadequate. Residents deserve better and should settle for no less than a full investigation of this matter.

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4commoncents(53 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

This is extremely troubling for two reasons. The most insensitive and disgusting demonstration of incompetence is in Chief Slifka's comments. An elderly citizen in the community is needlessly dead and all he can say is that policy won't be changed. Even if it were justified (which it isn't!), what a mindless position to express.
The second shameless aspect is the obviously lazy and incomplete patrol responses by the officers. Two successive calls about moaning sounds for over an hour...did they really think that someone would be sitting out in plain view? Common sense, not police policy, dictate that you actually use a little effort to investigate beyond a cursory glance from inside a moving car.
Chief Slifka is the one who should be fired for extreme stupidity, and someone with meaningful law enforcement knowledge and ability should be hired to properly train those inept officers.

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5Nate(1 comment)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

How safe do the citizen's of Liberty feel now? These "cries" heard in the middle of the night could have been the result of a multitude of different crimes, yet these officers in their infinite wisdom decided nothing was going on by simply driving by. Wouldn't reports of "hearing someone crying" constitute a policy which would require a police officer to get out of their car and listen?
The Local Media has a perfect opportunity to make a positive change for the Valley by pursuing this story. The police response and the Chief's comments are unacceptable and I would hope the Local Media can put enough pressure to cause a change of policy so this doesn't happen a gain in Liberty or any other part of the Valley.

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6nlhinct(7 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

The Liberty Trustees need to immediately put the Chief on Administrative Leave without pay, call in the State to do an INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION of the policies and procedures of the Liberty Police Department and make sure that this tragedy of neglect will never happen again. Liberty cannot investigate Liberty. Objective eyes are needed. They are required. This elderly victim should not die in vain. In death, her legacy should include improving the safety of every resident of Liberty. May she rest in eternal peace.

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