TODAY   |  May 18, 2013

Woman dies after waiting nearly an hour for police

The Dallas, Tex., 911 system has come under fire for years, known for being understaffed and overwhelmed by more than two million calls a year. Last summer one case became a wake-up call that the city needed to treat domestic violence calls a lot more seriously. NBC’s Kate Snow reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> hour with a pretty disturbing story. a dallas woman called 911 on the day she was allegedly killed by her ex-husband. despite hearing her screams for help over the phone it took nearly an hour for police to arrive. "rock center's" kate snow here to tell us more.

>> dallas ' 911 center came under fire for years, overwhelmed, under staffed. but last summer, one case became a wakeup call that the city needed to treat domestic violence calls a lot more seriously.

>> dallas 911, what is your emergency?

>> reporter: on a friday morning in dallas last august, a woman was clearly in trouble.

>> why are you doing this?

>> hello.

>> deanna cook never actually spoke to the 911 operator , but her screams and pleading lasted close to nine minutes. the attacker heard on the tape too.

>> i'm going to kill you, i'm going to kill you.

>> reporter: two days later when deanna didn't show up for church, deanna 's family went to the home and kicked in the door.

>> all the stuff on the floor and i walked in the bathroom.

>> okay. that's when we found her, she was in the bathtub, and it was horrible.

>> reporter: her family would later learn that deanna called 911 on the day she died and it took nearly an hour for officers to get to her house. on the way, they stopped at a 7-eleven and when they arrived at the home, they knocked on the door and left after five minutes.

>> you knew the call came from her. why didn't you do what you are supposed to do?

>> reporter: what does it say to women in this city when that happened?

>> it would say to a woman these aren't priority calls.

>> page blink is head of one of the largest family violence centers in dallas .

>> it would say that sometimes they get away with it. and maybe you do everything right and still die.

>> reporter: last year the 911 call center in dallas was short staffed that 30% of operator positions were unfilled. at the same time, incident of domestic violence at a record high.

>> in 2011 , we had 10 domestic violence murders, in 2012 , we had 26. so we know we have a problem.

>> reporter: the 911 operator took deanna 's call. they blame you, they said deanna cook died because of a botched 911 call mishandled by you.

>> i didn't blame people for thinking that, because they don't know all the information.

>> reporter: and the obvious question is how could you not stand up and scream and say, i got to get somebody to this person right now?

>> i didn't hear it. if i heard as much as you are saying, then i would have.

>> reporter: the head sets that 911 operators use don't block out background noise.

>> what i did hear initially was the screaming. to me, that was enough to get the police there.

>> of course, that's not what happened. the operator says she became the scapegoat of a system that broke down every step of the way, she's okay with that because of improvements that have been made. better head sets, more than 911 operate sxorzs and a priority on domestic calls.

>> we think of domestic calls, there is an urgency.

>> it is better now.