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Deputies sent to Josh Powell's house 8 minutes after 911 call

February 8, 2012 |  7:24 pm

Powell boys memorial
Nearly eight minutes passed before a 911 dispatcher sent sheriff's deputies to Josh Powell's home in Graham, Wash., where he was killing his children, emergency call logs showed Wednesday night.

Tapes of the conversation Sunday between a social worker and a 911 call center were released earlier in the day. They showed the social worker trying to stay calm but seeming to grow increasingly frustrated as the person on the other end of the phone repeatedly asked for details about who she was, why she was at the house, what kind of car she was driving, and finally told her a deputy would be sent when one was free.

“They have to respond to emergency, life-threatening situations first,” the call center worker said.

“This could be life-threatening!” the social worker interjected. “He went to court Wednesday and he didn’t get the kids back, and I’m — I’m afraid for their lives.”

The social worker was delivering the children for what was to have been a court-ordered supervised visit. Powell, a person of interest in his wife Susan's 2009 disappearance, let the boys in but barred the social worker. He had lost custody in September.

The Associated Press obtained the call logs Wednesday night under a public records request. Nearly eight minutes elapsed from the time the social worker made the first 911 call until deputies were dispatched, the AP reported, and it took another 14 minutes for the deputies to arrive.

The 911 call lasted nearly seven minutes. The logs show deputies were sent about a minute after the call ended.

According to the logs, the social worker called from her cellphone at 12:08 p.m. Five minutes later, the man who took her call transferred the information to a dispatcher, who alerted two deputies about 2 1/2 minutes later, at 12:16, the AP reported. They arrived at 12:30, when the house was engulfed in flames.

Authorities say Powell had splashed gasoline around the house and ignited it. He had also attacked the children with a hatchet. 

At one point, the social worker tells the call center that she can hear the children crying. 

Earlier Wednesday, Pierce County Sheriff’s Det. Ed Troyer raised questions about how the first of two 911 calls was handled; the second was from the social worker to the fire department. “Our concern is the etiquette and lack of manners. It doesn’t have to be that way, right?” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. 

But he said the protracted call, handled by an independent call service center, did not delay dispatch of a patrol car, which arrived before the fire department did. Some of the confusion, he added, was due to the fact that the social worker at first did not know Powell’s street address.

The independent call center that handles 911 calls for Pierce County, the Law Enforcement Support Agency, issued a statement Wednesday night. Director Tom Orr offered condolences to the family and expressed shock at "the deliberate, heinous and evil actions of Josh Powell."   

"All of us at LESA take our citizens’ safety very seriously and we have begun a full investigation of how these calls were handled," Orr said. "We know that seconds count and we are committed to providing the fastest response possible." 

It was moments after the first 911 call that the social worker called again. The house was in flames. This time, she was put through to the fire department.

“There’s two little boys in the house. They’re 5 and 7, and there’s an adult man. ... He blew up the house and the kids!” she said, speaking calmly but urgently.

“And you think he might have done it intentionally?” the dispatcher asked.

“Yes,” she replied.


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-- Kim Murphy in Seattle and Connie Stewart 

Photo: Alex Ramirez, 17, brings a balloon to a growing memorial to Charlie and Braden Powell on Tuesday at Carson Elementary School in Puyallup, Wash., where Charlie attended school. Credit: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press