Metro 911 Director retires one week after Waffle House lawsuit blames slow response for death

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The Director of Nashville’s Emergency Communications Center is leaving her position. The news comes one week after a lawsuit was filed because 911 operators sent Metro Police to the wrong Waffle House the morning of last year’s mass shooting.

ECC Director Michele Donegan is retiring, according to the Mayor’s office. She has been with the department since 2015. Before that, she was a 28-year veteran of the Metro Nashville Police Department. 

Last Monday, April 22, the family of Waffle House shooting victim Akilah DaSilva filed a lawsuit against Metro government.  

The documents say because 911 operators sent Metro Police to the wrong restaurant, medical help wasn’t immediately available to DaSilva and contributed to his death. DaSilva died from massive blood loss at Vanderbilt Medical Center. 

News 2 was the first to report last May that officers were sent to the wrong Waffle House because 911 operators ignored the GPS coordinates available for those calling inside the restaurant. 

The operators ignored the coordinates, in part, because the restaurant was new and hadn’t yet been added to their electronic phone book.

However, at least one caller gave an operator the correct address and police still weren’t immediately sent to the right location.

Months later, the restaurant still wasn’t in the phone book, no additional training had been provided and reviews from that night say that nothing went wrong. 

The Mayor’s office says Donegan’s decision is not connected to the lawsuit or the mistakes News 2 discovered.

In a statement, Mayor Briley’s spokesman Thomas Mulgrew said:

“Michelle Donegan has spent more than 30 years protecting Nashvillians, both in the Police Department and as director of Nashville’s Emergency Communications Center. Her decision to retire was made months ago, and she informed Mayor Briley in early April of her wish to do so. Any allegations that Mrs. Donegan was let go, forced out, or that her retirement is tied to any litigation is false.”

Mulgrew also provided an email that shows Donegan scheduled an appointment to discuss her pension with Human Resources on April 10.

However, the DaSilva’s attorney Daniel Horwitz was suspicious of the timing. He said that he feels safer now that Donegan is leaving. 

“The Briley Administration ignored the ECC’s catastrophic negligence in responding to the Waffle House shooting for a full year—right up until it forced a lawsuit on the matter,” Horwitz said in a statement. “The DaSilva family appreciates that there has now been some small measure of accountability, but much more needs to be done to prevent the same fatal mistakes from recurring again.”

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