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Washington dispatcher in Josh Powell fire is reprimanded

Published: Thursday, April 19 2012 12:13 p.m. MDT

The Graham Fire Department battles a fire after an explosion at Josh Powell's Washington state residence killed Josh and his two sons.

Associated Press

PUYALLUP, Wash. — The Washington emergency dispatcher who handled the 911 call made by a social worker just before Josh Powell killed his two young sons and himself has received a letter of reprimand.

David Lovrak, a communications officer with Pierce County's Law Enforcement Support Agency who has 18 years experience, had a letter of reprimand placed in his file for violating four company policies during the call made by social worker Elizabeth-Griffin Hall.

Hall called 911 twice before Powell took a hatchet to his children and ignited his gasoline-drenched house. Following a series of questions by Lovrak, Hall at one point during her call anxiously asked Lovrak how long it would take for police to arrive.

"They have to respond to emergency, life-threatening situations first," Lovrak told her.

"Well this could be life-threatening," Hall fired back.

Lovrak received criticism nationwide after recordings of the 911 tape were released in February.

Last month, the assistant director of LESA sent Lovrak a written reprimand. Diana Lock noted in her letter that "the public trust has been shaken" and because several LESA policies were violated, "formal discipline is necessary and appropriate."

"Could you have handled this call better? Yes, and you have been the first to admit that," Lock wrote in her reprimand letter. "You have undergone local and national scrutiny, have admitted your errors, and have identified the ways you will correct and improve your call handling in the future."

On Feb. 5, Hall, an employee of the Foster Care Resource Network, drove Charlie and Braden Powell from the home of their grandparents Chuck and Judy Cox to their father's rental home in Graham for his weekly supervised visit.

The boys got out of the car and got ahead of Hall. After they walked inside the house, Powell shut the door on Hall, prompting her to call 911. She told Lovrak that she could smell gasoline from inside the home and tried to convince him of the urgency of the situation by explaining the high-profile nature of the case.

The reprimand letter noted there was "quite a bit of confusion" on Lovrak's part as he tried to sort through the particulars of the supervised visit. Lovrak also admitted sounding "contentious" at times during the call, and regretted it, according to the letter. He further admitted that despite the high profile nature of the case and the nationwide news coverage it had received, he did not know who Josh Powell was.

Lovrak dispatched a police officer to Powell's house about seven minutes after receiving Hall's call. He entered it as a "priority 2" call, which was appropriate for that type of situation. A "priority 2" call means there is a situation with imminent danger. In the letter, it was noted that LESA dispatchers — who handle approximately 1,000 911 calls per day — "do not have the luxury of seeing into the future or knowing the outcome."

Other than the letter, no other discipline was expected for Lovrak.

Josh Powell was the husband of Susan Cox Powell, who disappeared from her West Valley City home in December of 2009. Investigators suspect he killed her but her body has not been located.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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