Virginia man dies after 911 dispatcher mistakes call for 'butt dial'

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Robert Paulus, 56, suffered from heart disease and called 911, but the dispatcher didn’t get any response from him and concluded that the call was a “butt dial.”

Paulus died at his Fredericksburg apartment the end of April. According to the Free Lance-Star, his colleagues found him when he didn’t show up to work two days after the phone call.

An internal investigation of the city’s 911 dispatch center by the Fredericksburg Police Department is being done.

“We don’t trust them at this point,” Sara June Olin, the man’s stepdaughter, told the paper in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We’re not happy.”

Police spokeswoman Sarah Kirkpatrick told the paper, “The first thing we did was call the family and say we made a mistake and we apologized for it.”

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She said the dispatcher tried three times to get a response from the caller and heard nothing back during the call. Thinking nothing was wrong, the dispatcher hung up.

“Fredericksburg 911, what’s your emergency?” the dispatcher asked in the audio obtained by the Free Lance-Star. “Hello?” she asked multiple times. “Negative contact 23-46,” she said before hanging up.

“This was an unfortunate oversight that the Fredericksburg Police Department is taking seriously,” Kirkpatrick wrote in an email to the paper. “We are investigating the incident internally and reviewing protocol on how we determine if a call was received by our call center. We will be making changes moving forward to ensure this does not happen in the future.”

“The hardest part for us is that he was alone,” Olin told the paper. “That was the heartbreaking part.”

Paulus had suffered heart attacks before and had a defibrillator, according to the paper. He also had leukemia many years ago.

“I was lucky; I got 28 years with him,” his son, Michael Paulus, told WJLA.

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