Dispatcher who hung up on caller has EMT license suspended

Fire chief also announces the department will start giving crisis intervention training to all firefighters and dispatchers next week

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque Fire Department dispatcher who told a 911 caller trying to help a teenage shooting victim to "deal with it yourself" before hanging up has had his emergency medical dispatch license suspended.

New Mexico Department of Health investigators are looking into the actions of Matthew Sanchez and will present the information to the EMS licensing committee.

Sanchez will have a hearing before the commission, which can decide to revoke his license.

A recording made public this week revealed that Sanchez hung up on 17-year-old Esperanza Quintero, who was seeking help for a friend shot in June.

Police said 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver later died.

Sanchez had sent an ambulance before hanging up and it arrived within minutes. He resigned Tuesday.

Fire Chief David Downey told reporters Wednesday that the department will start giving crisis intervention training to all firefighters and dispatchers next week.

A department spokeswoman said she was not sure if some employees had previously received the training.

Sanchez should not have hung up on the caller in such a traumatic situation, according to Downey.

"It was outlandish. Unforgivable," he said. "You cannot call 911 and be treated like that. You can't do it."

In the recording, Quintero snaps at Sanchez for repeatedly asking whether Chavez-Silver is breathing.

"It was upsetting at the time, but I didn't have a choice," Quintero said. "What more could I have done?"

Efforts to reach Sanchez for comment have been unsuccessful. A message left with Local 224 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the union representing Albuquerque firefighters, wasn't immediately returned Thursday.

Despite the ambulance's quick response, Downey called Sanchez's conduct "egregious" and said the department has notified the New Mexico agency governing emergency medical licenses.

Quintero told The Associated Press that she wished Sanchez had done more to help after Chavez-Silver was shot while watching friends play cards inside a home.

In the recording of the call, Quintero is heard saying, "I am keeping him alive!"

Sanchez asks, "Is he not breathing?"

The caller responds, "Barely!"

The caller is then heard frantically encouraging Chavez-Silver to keep breathing.

"One more breath! One more breath!," Quintero tells him. "There you go Jaydon. One more breath! There you go Jaydon. Good job! Just stay with me, OK? OK?"

Sanchez then asks again, "Is he breathing?"

Quintero responded, "He is barely breathing, how many times do I have to (expletive) tell you?"

"OK, you know what ma'am? You can deal with it yourself. I am not going to deal with this, OK?" the dispatcher says.

It seemed from the tape that Sanchez hung up on the caller in mid-sentence.

"No, my friend is dying," she said as the call ended.

Dr. Jeff Clawson, medical and research director of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, said records show that Sanchez became certified as a dispatcher in February 2012 and was recertified two years later.

The exchange illustrates the stress that comes with life-and-death 911 calls and how they can be mishandled.

"Somebody with no experience at all, it's almost understandable," said Brett Patterson, also of the academies. "But if you're trained and certified, it's not forgivable. That should never happen."

Officials said Sanchez was employed by the Albuquerque Fire Department for 10 years and was a firefighterbefore being assigned to a dispatcher job. It was unclear why the change was made.

Police said Chavez-Silver was watching a card game at a friend's house when six shots were fired at the bay windows from outside. Witnesses said Chavez-Silver yelled that he had been shot then fell to the floor.

A bullet struck Chavez-Silver in the upper body, and he was rushed to a hospital where he died, investigators said.

His family said Chavez-Silver, a recent high school graduate, had enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

No arrests have been made in the shooting.

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