Listen: 911 audio released from mass shooting at Texas outlet mall
Most calls were short, but one lasted more than four minutes: A man begging for dispatchers to send help as he tried to stop his wife and child from bleeding out
By James Hartley
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
ALLEN, Texas — “We’re getting help to you as fast as we can,” the dispatcher told the man calling about his wife and two children. “Can you put some pressure on the wounds at all? For anybody?”
The 911 operator had been jumping from one call to the next from the moment a 33-year-old man opened fire on shoppers at the Allen Premium Outlets.
Dispatchers in Allen were so flooded with 911 calls about the mass shooting on May 6 that they entered a routine of immediately asking two questions when they answered calls: “Are you calling about the shooting at the outlets?” and “Is anybody around you injured?”
If the answer to the first question was no, dispatchers hung up. When the answer to the second question was no, they told the caller to keep their head down, lock doors and stay safe, then disconnected the call.
Audio from the 911 calls obtained by the Star-Telegram painted a picture of horror, panic and shock at the outlet mall.
The audio at times became muddled with background noise of phones ringing, operators asking questions or giving instructions and people in the background on the other end of the calls.
Gunshots sound in some of the earlier calls, and people crying and screaming are audible even after the shooting had stopped.
From whispered questions from people hiding and wanting to know if they were safe to desperate pleas for help from bystanders and family members caring for victims to descriptions of the gunman and tips like an abandoned car on the side of the road or a license plate number, the calls hadn’t stopped coming.
Even later in the evening, after the bulk of calls had stopped flooding in, operators were still taking calls with questions
When they were with someone who was injured, callers described the wounds of those shot to dispatchers, told them where they were and then were instructed to stop the bleeding and wait for help to arrive.
In the audio, the 911 operators can be heard passing along information to first responders, taking as much time as they could afford to comfort those trying to save victims and then hanging up with the assurance that help would be there as soon as possible.
Most of the calls were short, but one lasted more than four minutes: A man begging for dispatchers to send help as he tried to stop his wife and one child from bleeding out. His other child already wasn’t breathing, he said.
“I don’t want to lose two more,” he told the dispatcher, crying with desperation clear in his voice. “Get somebody here! ... I need an ambulance, please ... my wife is dying.”
The dispatcher told the man that paramedics were on the way and gave instructions on trying to stop the bleeding.
“They’re getting there as fast as they can,” the dispatcher told the man. “I need you to control the bleeding, OK? Can you put something on the wound?”
Dispatchers calls answered a flurry of calls one right after other as families, store employees and witnesses reported the locations of many of the 15 shooting victims. Eight victims died and seven were hospitalized.
Dispatchers received multiple calls about a woman shot in the stomach and locked in a back room of H&M.
Other callers included a child telling dispatchers their mother was shot outside H&M and that a security guard, likely 20-year-old Christian LaCour, was shot inside The Cosmetics Company. LaCour died while trying to help shoppers get to safety, witnesses told police.
“I need you to bear down please,” a dispatcher told the woman at H&M after confirming they were trying to stop the bleeding. “I have to keep taking 911 calls.”
One person calmly told dispatchers she had a victim outside the New Balance store with a gunshot wound to the lower back, bleeding had been stopped and the victim was conscious and breathing.
“Can you please get them to safety and stop the bleeding?” the dispatcher asked.
The caller handed the phone off to a man.
“We’re in safety right now,” he told the dispatcher.
“OK, stay there,” the operator responded. “We’ve got help on the way. I’m letting them know but I have to keep answering questions, or um, 911, OK?”
Other than giving instructions on how to stop the bleeding and passing on information to first responders about the locations of victims and the severity of their wounds, there was nothing dispatchers could do.
Calls continued after the shooter had been killed by a police officer who was already at the mall responding to a different report. People asked if they could end the lockdown in whichever store they’d taken shelter. Friends and family called in hopes of getting information on a loved one at the mall.
The 911 operators couldn’t tell those at the mall anything other than to keep their heads down and wait for police to give the all-clear. There was no telling if there were more shooters. For those concerned about people at the outlets, there was nothing they could do.
Almost every call ended the same way.
“I have to hang up now.”
That’s what the dispatcher had to tell the man pleading for help to save his wife and child. It was one of the longest calls an operator had with someone at the mall, but eventually, they reached a point at which there was nothing else the dispatcher could do.
In the first 911 calls, dispatchers answered calls as they normally would, asking for a location. The first caller didn’t say anything for a full minute before a man answered and said he was calling from the Select Shades store in the mall.
After that, it was to the same two questions, getting through calls as quickly as possible to locate more victims.