A Nevada woman says she is speaking out about a situation she found herself in on June 30 because she wants Nevada people to know about a problem she had with the Nevada Police Department.
Cali Smith, 59, a lifelong resident of Nevada, found herself in the basement of her home, at 1840 10th St., fearful of an unknown intruder in her attached garage, and did not get the response she expected from the local police department.
Smith recounts the events of that situation, starting with the big storm that came through Story County at mid-day. Smith said she had gone outside and made her way to the edge of her property to see what the sky looked like.
“I was just about to the curb on the east side of the road when I noticed a man walking north on the sidewalk,” Smith said. “He turned and looked at me and then he started to come toward me. At first he was walking and then he started to run toward me.”
Smith said she ran to her house, and after standing a brief time inside her garage door, she went into her house, bolted the door shut and could hear the man entering her garage, carrying what looked like a laundry bag with items in it that were clanking.
Smith said she called 911 to report a suspicious person, and was told by the dispatcher that the police would call her. Smith said she did not mention that he was coming into her garage when she called, and she admits that she wasn’t panicked when she made that initial call to the dispatch center. “My voice wasn’t sounding panicked. I was trying to explain to the dispatcher what I saw. They dispatched it as a suspicious person.” Before making the call, Smith said she crawled down her stairs to her basement and yelled out that she was calling the police. She said the intruder never uttered a word, but she could still hear him moving about in her garage.
“I waited 10 or 15 minutes and no one showed up or called me, so I called 911 again,” Smith said.
By the time of her second call, Smith said she was very scared and was crying, as she believed the intruder was still in her garage. “That dispatcher told me she would get someone to come.”
About 10 minutes later, Smith said, a Nevada officer – Hillary Cale – called her by phone. “Hillary said she thought she knew who the man was … that she did not think he would hurt me and for me to take cover because of the storm.” Smith said Cale told her that she would stop by after the storm had passed.
Smith said she called her husband to come home from work and then called a friend to stay on the phone with her. “I was the only one left in the neighborhood, and (the intruder) knew it,” said Smith, who had watched one of her neighbor’s leave when she was first checking the clouds.
Director of Public Safety and Nevada Police Chief Ric Martinez has listened to the 911 tapes, and said he remembers the day the incident happened. He said he spoke to Cali and her husband, Mike, later on the day of the incident; he also allowed Cali to talk to the officer about what happened.
Martinez said he heard first-hand some of the radio communication from that day, and trusts that the officer didn’t hear the second page that came out from the dispatch office clearly, because he didn’t hear it clearly across his radio. Either the storm or other factors, Martinez said, cut up and muffled some of the transmission.
Martinez said the first page, about a suspicious person, where the caller wasn’t panicked, was not something that would jump to the top of the response list with all that was going on. He also said the officer, from the description given by Smith, suspected that the person being described was a homeless person she had dealt with earlier in the day, who wasn’t going to hurt anyone. But certainly she would check the area as soon as she could.
When the second page came out, Martinez said, the officer heard Cali Smith’s name, but didn’t clearly hear the information that the person was now considered an intruder. Therefore, she didn’t immediately respond. She assumed it was another reminder about the suspicious person call.
According to Martinez, after speaking to Smith on the phone, Officer Cale did drive over and check the area, and she looked on Smith’s property and in Smith’s garage and didn’t see anyone.
Smith contends that no officer ever responded to her house.
Martinez said the officer did respond, but simply did not take the next step to contact Smith, who was likely still in her basement, to let Smith know that she had checked over the property.
Not making contact as she checked the property, Martinez said, was the mistake the officer made. “As I’ve told Cali, the officer should have made contact with her at her house. That could have alleviated a lot of these concerns.”
Smith has been in constant contact with the city since the day of the incident. She has not only spoken with Martinez and Officer Cale, but also to Mayor Lynn Lathrop and Councilman Andy Kelly. Of the mayor and councilman, Smith said, she feels they have listened to her concerns.
But that hasn’t stopped Smith from continuing to let people know about her frightening experience. What she said she wants to have happen, is 1) for the town to know that the PD dropped the ball; and 2) for the policies of the PD to change. “If this is protocol, then we need to rewrite protocol so that they actually respond to something like this. Whoever was in my garage was kept at bay by two dogs barking their heads off. I do believe that if it weren’t for my dogs, this could have been a lot uglier.”
Smith said she believes the intruder paced back and forth in her garage for at least 20 minutes or more, as she and her husband saw wet footprints in the garage when her husband arrived home.
Martinez said protocol is in place to respond to this type of situation. He admits the error by the officer was that when she responded, she did not make contact with the victim to let her know that she had checked on her house.
Martinez said in a community that has very few “unknown intruder” situations, especially on the day shift, and with a very young, inexperienced police force, he hopes that lessons can be learned from this incident and others. “The (Law Enforcement) Academy trains them for most things, but you simply can’t replace that with real experience,” he said.
Martinez feels he’s done what he can do by talking with the Smiths, talking with his officer and allowing the victim to speak with the officer, who he said needed to hear from the person who felt wronged.
“I do take this very seriously,” Martinez said. And had the communication not been somehow broken up on that second page to where it wasn’t understandable enough to make police officers realize that they needed to respond immediately, Martinez said he would have been there. “Every officer listening to their radio would have been there,” he insisted.
Smith said she’s not done digging about the protocol in these situations, from the dispatch center to the PD. “I have had no closure. This happened a week ago today (Monday), and it is as fresh in my mind as it was a week ago. I do not go out without having something in my hand, like a hammer. I make sure that I lock my house.
“What I’m going to do … I don’t know, but I can tell you what I’m not going to do – I’m not going to shut up.” Smith said she plans to attend the next City Council meeting, this coming Monday, July 14, at City Hall to speak about her incident during the public forum. That meeting begins at 6 p.m.