When the 911 Universal Emergency Number was created in 1968 it was for the sole purpose of giving a citizen the opportunity to contact a number that could be implemented quickly to summons law enforcement assistance in life-threatening and emergency situations. From its very inception, authorities have stressed the importance of only using 911 for these types of emergency situations but it would seem that from a frantic and fake 911 call to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office on February 28th. that some people still do not grasp the importance of using that emergency number in the proper manner.
The Sheriff’s dispatcher received a desperate-sounding and frantic call on 911 at 8:32 am that Monday morning from Rosemary Martinez Ortiz who said that her 23-year-old daughter-in-law had just been car-jacked at gunpoint and kidnapped by the suspect who drove away in the daughter white Chevrolet pick-up truck with an unknown license plate number. The dispatcher immediately broadcast the available information to all patrol deputies as they raced to the reported crime scene in an attempt to apprehend the robbery suspect and rescue the 23-year-old victim.
Deputy Ben Garcia was assigned as the lead patrol investigator as he relayed his reported information to other units and to the dispatcher. As is common practice in such emergency situations, the dispatcher shut down all radio traffic except for information on the alleged robbery and kidnapping case.
Deputy Garcia spotted a white Chevrolet pick-up truck that matched the description of the wanted vehicle and conducted a felony traffic stop on the truck. Getting the driver out of the truck, he was temporarily detained until it was determined this was not the right truck or occupant before he was released.
Several Sheriff units were patrolling the area in search of the correct vehicle before Dep. Garcia was finally able to locate Ortiz and her daughter-in-law at the Valero Gas Station on CR 3550.
Evidently seeing the number of deputies swarming the area in search of the alleged carjacker, Rosemary Ortiz broke down and started apologizing and admitted she had faked the 911 call in order to get deputies to the scene faster and that her daughter-in-law who was standing with her, was not kidnapped nor was there a suspect with a gun hidden inside of a folded towel.
As Dep. Garcia continued to interview Ortiz, the true story came out. It appeared that Ortiz and her daughter-in-law are from Houston and the daughter-in-law’s truck was, in fact, stolen from a location in that city. Ortiz said they were not satisfied with the response time of the Houston Police Department so they did not wait for them to arrive and take a report. Instead, Ortiz said her daughter-in-law had left her air pod in the stolen truck and they followed the air pod to the Liberty County area. When Ortiz arrived in Liberty County, she made the fake 911 call to the Sheriff’s Office to get a deputy to her location quickly.
It was explained to Ortiz that by her reckless actions, she had set in motion a series of events that could have easily gotten someone hurt or tied up the 911 dispatcher when someone who was really in trouble needed help. Dep. Garcia took Rosemary Martinez Ortiz into custody charging her with the State Jail Felony of False Alarm or Report where she was then booked into the Liberty County Jail.
In addressing this fake 911 call, Sheriff Bobby Rader said it best when he commented “It is very frustrating and time-consuming to chase false information. In this case, an innocent person was detained. You cannot imagine the stress and emotions that deputies go through trying to save any person that has been kidnapped or is being held hostage The deputies will be making felony stops and risking their lives to save others. Then it was discovered that the 911 call was fake. Even though the suspect was arrested, the time took to investigate this case, the time it took to stop a vehicle, the time it took to find the “not kidnapped” person can never be repaid”.
The original case of the stolen truck in Houston will be handled by the Houston Police Department. The final point here is do not “play” with the 911 Emergency number…. Lesson Learned; Do NOT do this.