Victim of domestic violence, house fire shares story at Polk Cou - KPTV - FOX 12


Victim of domestic violence, house fire shares story at Polk County levy hearings

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As public hearings continue over whether to put a Polk County public safety levy on the ballot in May, a woman who called 911 fearing for her life but was told there was no deputy was on duty to respond is sharing her story.

Lisa Mitchell is a volunteer firefighter, but she also was the victim of a domestic assault that escalated into a fire at her rural home in July. She called 911 twice, but nobody could come to help. A deputy wasn't on duty.

When she called a third time to report the flames, firefighters responded but had to wait down the street until a deputy could secure the scene.

The fire spread, and Mitchell lost her home. It took five months to rebuild.

"My life was in danger," she told Fox 12, adding that her daughter was home at the time as well. "Having to sit and wait is agonizing."

She's sharing her story for the first time at public hearings, including one held in West Salem Tuesday night, to show her support for the levy.

It would bring back 22 of the 34 criminal justice positions that have been lost in Polk County since 2008, as millions of dollars in timber funding has dried up.

It would also restore 24-hour patrol coverage.

As it stands now, Sheriff Bob Wolfe can only pay for one deputy on duty from noon-10pm each day. If someone calls 911 after hours, they'll likely have to wait - unless someone is seriously injured in a person-on-person crime like a stabbing or shooting and medics are in route.

"To have to tell my officers, 'You've got to go home at 10 o'clock because we don't have any money to pay you, and when bad things happen we might or might not call you,' it's horrible," Wolfe told Fox 12 Tuesday.

It was just last week a young Dallas man who struggled with mental illness died in his parents' front yard. Chris Clothier attacked his father and passed out. On the phone with 911, his mother pleaded for someone to respond. But a deputy wasn't on duty, and by the time medics were cleared to enter the scene by an arriving deputy, it was too late.

Clothier died of cardiac arrest contributed to by excited delirium. His death was ruled an accident, but his parents believe it may have been prevented if someone responded sooner.

"That family was totally distraught to be told, 'I'm sorry but we don't have anyone to send," Wolfe said.

Given other medical factors at play, Wolfe isn't sure that having a deputy on duty would have saved Clothier's life in particular, but he knows there are hundreds of calls that go unanswered and says the time to act is now.

The levy would cost $90 a year for someone with a home valued at $200,000 and would expire after five years. At that point, commissioners say, it would likely need to be renewed.

If you'd like to weigh in on the levy, there will be one more public hearing. It's at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Polk County Courthouse in Dallas.

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