Tapes Of 911 Calls Released In Polec Death Callers Were Upset And Frustrated As Dispatchers Consistently Responded In A Routine Manner. Also Yesterday, Two More Teenagers Were Arrested.

Posted: November 24, 1994

Tape recordings released yesterday of calls made to 911 the night Eddie Polec was beaten to death detail a mounting barrage of call after call from Fox Chase residents asking for police help and getting none.

Some callers were frantic. Some shouted in frustration. One cried and seemed near hysteria.

The response from dispatchers: most of the time, a polite but perfunctory ''We'll send a car." But as the cars failed to arrive, the calls grew more frustrated, the conversation turned ugly in the radio room at police headquarters.

One dispatcher to a young woman, crying that her friend is bleeding: ''Listen, listen, if you don't calm down, he gets no help. Do you understand that much?"

Another dispatcher to a caller who yells that a youngster is hurt and complains about police failing to respond: "You can hang up now."

The tapes were released the same day two more teenagers were charged with the murder of the 16-year-old Polec, whose skull was crushed by baseball bats in apparent revenge for a rape that never was.

The pair, Dawan Alexander and Anthony Rienzi, both 17, became the fourth and fifth suburban teenagers to be charged in the Nov. 11 slaying.

Police released the tapes after WCAU-TV obtained copies and effectively ended a lawsuit in which news organizations, including The Inquirer, were seeking access to the 911 record.

The tapes show at least 33 calls were made to police that night from Fox Chase, all reporting danger. The calls were fielded by more than a half-dozen dispatchers - and no one in the police radio room seemed to realize the calls were connected to the same episodes.

The first call from Fox Chase was at 10:01 p.m. But the first time the tapes reflect a car being dispatched is 10:41 p.m. - 40 minutes later.

The tapes show two consistent trends.

From the moment of the first call to 911, the callers were clear: There was a dangerous situation in Fox Chase. Packs of teens, carrying bats, were roaming the area. They were attacking cars and breaking windows. They were chasing other youngsters. They were beating up the youngsters.

The response from the police dispatchers was consistent: They took the information; they sometimes thanked the caller; they said a car would be sent. Their tone was detached, even bored at times. Routine calls handled the routine way.

Still, the police cars failed to show up.

The callers grew more frustrated, their tone more impatient, their voices higher-pitched. They flashed anger at the dispatchers.

The dispatchers returned with anger of their own.

By 10:45 p.m., when the woman, in tears and near hysteria, called to say her "friend's bleeding" and needed to be taken to a hospital, she was told by the dispatcher, "Listen, listen, if you don't calm down, he gets no help. Do you understand that much?"

"I'm trying," the woman replies, gulping breaths.

When that same dispatcher put her on a conference call with a man from the rescue unit, the police dispatcher seemed to belittle the caller's inability to identify precisely where she was located.

"She's calling from 501 Rhawn Street," the dispatcher told the man from the rescue unit. "She told me it was at Oxford and Verree first. She can't seem to get it together."

Earlier, at 10:37, when still no police had arrived, a female caller opened the conversation with a complaint, "I don't believe this - this rang about 10 times."

She explained there was a "big commotion going on outside our home. Like a gang fight." She said the assailants had clubs. She told the dispatcher that ''a kid is hurt." She described where the incident occurred.

When the female dispatcher responded "All right, was that it?" in a monotone, the caller answered sarcastically, "Yeah, that's it. Send a police car to Seven --"

The conversation turned angry. The dispatcher interrupted in a voice that overpowered the voice of the caller. "Wait a minute," the dispatcher scolded her. "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You asked me and I'm asking you. I have the information. You can hang up now."

Polec, a Fox Chase resident who was a senior at Cardinal Dougherty High, was run down and killed by members of a mob police say was reacting to a bogus report of a rape.

Detectives believe the spark for the attack occurred several days before Polec's death, when an Abington girl got into a quarrel with some other teenagers at a McDonald's restaurant in Philadelphia's Fox Chase section.

Yesterday, Alexander, a former Abington Senior High School student now involved in a reform school program, was arrested without incident at 7:50 a.m. at his Abington home by Philadelphia homicide detectives and Abington police.

At 11 a.m., Rienzi, of Warminster in Bucks County, surrendered at Philadelphia police headquarters, accompanied by his lawyer. Last night, Rienzi, a teenager with a wisp of a mustache, appeared to be near tears when he was held without bail during his arraignment.

During the attack, police sources said, Rienzi held Polec while others hit him. Alexander kicked Polec, the sources said, with what police believe were steel-tipped shoes. The sources said neither teenager had given a statement to investigators.

After interviewing scores of teenagers, police now have made five arrests in the slaying, charging suspects ranging in age from 16 to 18. Capt. John Apeldorn, commander of the Philadelphia police homicide unit, said the case was still very much alive.

"The investigation is active, it's continuing," Apeldorn said yesterday. ''There may be more arrests."

Police sources say two more juvenile suspects may face charges in Polec's death - one who provided the bats used to slug Polec and another who was in the pack that pursued him but stopped short of landing a blow.

Apeldorn noted that Polec had died amid a flurry of skirmishes between Philadelphia and suburban teenagers, and he suggested there could be arrests for violence unrelated to Polec's death. "We're taking a look at the entire incident," he said.

Alexander, of the 1600 block of High Avenue in Abington Township's Willow Grove section, and Rienzi, for whom police could not immediately give a specific street address, were also charged with possession of an instrument of crime and conspiracy. Police said the crime instrument was a baseball bat.

Both will be tried as adults, police said.

Rienzi was held without bail on the charges, police said. Alexander's arraignment was still pending early yesterday evening.

They join three others who were arrested a week ago and charged with murder. Those three are being held without bail.

Arrested Nov. 15 were Thomas Crook, 18, of Hatboro, who has denied

inflicting any fatal blows; Nick Pinero, 16, of Abington; and Bou Khathavong, 17, of Abington Township's Roslyn section.

Police investigators have said they believe that Crook struck the first blow, from behind, and that Pinero then hit Polec six times from the front. Khathavong is believed to have kicked and punched the youth.

During the attack, police sources said, Rienzi grabbed the fallen Polec, pulled him to his feet and held him so the others could get a clean shot at him with their bats. Alexander kicked him, the sources said. Police reportedly seized a pair of shoes from his home yesterday.

Apeldorn, the homicide unit commander, declined to detail the specific actions of the two youths charged yesterday. He would say only that both Alexander and Rienzi had played "a significant role" in the killing.

No one answered the telephone yesterday at Alexander's home in Willow Grove yesterday. A neighbor said Alexander's family, including his parents and two younger sisters, had moved there about a year ago.

Alexander formerly attended Abington High School, said Abington Superintendent James McCaffery. He reportedly attended the school for only a few months; McCaffery said rules on confidentiality forbade him from saying how long Alexander had been enrolled.

Alexander reportedly is a student at Lakeside Youth Services, a school in Horsham Township in Montgomery County for youths who have been expelled from other schools or have been sent there by the juvenile system.

A spokeswoman for Police Commissioner Richard Neal said he was not granting interviews about the surprise decision to release the tapes. The release reversed a previous stand by the department that the tapes would not be made public.

The decision was made, however, after WCAU-TV (Channel 10) News forced the city's hand. The station obtained a leaked copy of the audio tape of the 911 calls and began broadcasting a promotion that it planned air them on its newcasts last night.

There has been a growing controversy over the 911 response to the Polec killing. The new Police Advisory Commission, the city's civilian oversight panel, is expected to participate in a review of the 911 system.

Mayor Rendell could not be reached for comment, but other city officials said the tapes showed a failure of the system.

After listening to the tapes last night, Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski, who chairs Council's public safety committee, said the system "is not working."

She called it "ridiculous" that repeated calls came from the same location, describing the same emergency, and that dispatchers did not appear to realize the incidents were connected.

"It's absolutely ludicrous, all those calls coming in, and no one's aware that's a problem," she said.

She criticized "the arrogance of some of the workers" toward the callers, who were "emotional . . . scared."

"And they're just saying, 'OK, OK.' "

Krajewski said that under the previous system, police calls came into consoles assigned to different police divisions and were fielded by officers familiar with the city, making it simpler to spot locations than under 911.

Councilman Michael Nutter, who has been active on police-community issues, said the tapes revealed "stunning" problems with the 911 system that left both callers and dispatchers frustrated.

He said individual dispatchers seemed unaware that calls were flooding the system over the Polec attack. He also said the computer governing 911 appeared to give a low-priority to baseball bat attacks.

"Well, we're learning a bat can be a pretty lethal weapon," Nutter said.

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