DENVER (CBS4) – The family of a woman beaten to death by her husband is claiming in a lawsuit that Denver police have a low priority for domestic violence calls.
The family feels that contributed to the death of Loretta Barela. CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger obtained a dramatic tape not heard in public until now.
More than two years after the incident the tape reveals the calls for help and the excuses for the delays. Now a court may determine if the city was at fault.
911 Operator: Denver 911, what is the address of your emergency?
Caller: It’s across the street at my house. My neighbor came and was pounding on my door and she had pants on and no shirt on.
It was a desperate call met with a promise of help.
911 Operator: We’ll get the officers to go over there, and like I said, I’ll put you up as an anonymous caller.
The caller saw Barela being dragged by the hair by her husband into their home. But 45 minutes later help still hadn’t arrived.
Caller: It’s been like 45 minutes and I’m really worried because like he, they came to the house, she pounded on the door and he drug her from my steps to her house.
The 911 operator offered a reason for the delay.
911 Operator: No we haven’t forgot about you, but it’s been extremely busy tonight and we will have couple officers to head out there and check on them.
But after investigating, the family in the lawsuit claims the only other incidents in that police district were a robbery and the two traffic accidents. At 3:07 a.m. police finally arrived — one hour and 11 minutes after the first call for help. Not seeing any problems, they left.
“It breaks my heart … because she didn’t get help when she needed help the most,” Barela’s daughter Maria Cruz said.
About 8:15 a.m. an even more disturbing 911 call came from Barela’s husband, Chris Perea.
Chris Perea: Me and my wife got in a fight last night and we went to bed and I think she’s dead. She’s all bruised up. I think killed her.
The operator offered directions to try to revive her.
Chris Perea: She’s cold.
911 Operator: She’s cold? … You want to try to do CPR? You want to try to help her?
It was too late.
Cruz believes her mother would still be alive if police handled in situation differently.
With the final call the 911 operator also sent the police.
Chris Perea: They are telling me to come out with my hands up.
911 Operator: Okay, go out and listen to them. We have to send officers out in any situation like this, okay?
Chris Perea: Okay.
The City of Denver declined to respond for CBS4’s story or turn over any reports because of the legal action. But in court documents it says it has no obligation to provide emergency services and is protected by governmental immunity
Christopher Perea was tried and convicted in the murder of Loretta Barela and is now in prison.