Norwick offered statistics to defend the dispatcher, saying 115 "so-called 911 hang-up calls" came through the dispatch center every day, 83 of which came from cell phones. "These calls can range from children playing with phones, buttons inadvertently bumped on phones left in coat pockets or purses, or crime victims looking for help," Norwick said.
Tragically, in the case of Brittany Zimmermann, a very violent crime was under way inside the apartment she shared with her fiance. The police investigation into her murder turns one-month-old today and has produced no suspects and kept the college community on edge.
The Madison Police Department released a statement Thursday acknowledging that the 911 call was made, a fact that had not been previously shared with the public.
"That day, the MPD brought this call to the attention of the Dane County 911 Center," the statement reads, adding that the police requested that the dispatch center not release "information pertaining to this call," a request that has not changed.
But police say the call's recording should have indicated to dispatchers that some type of emergency was taking place. "It would be accurate to state that there is evidence contained in the call, which should have resulted in a Madison police officer being dispatched," the statement reads. "That would have been consistent with both Madison Police Department Policy, and national 911 standards."
Police offered no indication of what evidence from the call should have prompted the dispatch. Neither police nor Dane County dispatch are willing to release the recording, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
Madison police also released a January 2007 memo that was sent to the county communications center about a technology upgrade that would allow dispatchers to determine the location of a call from a cell phone.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who held a press conference Thursday to release the police statement about the cell phone call, did not immediately return a phone call from ABC News today, but DeSpain, the police spokesman, said that if it were not for Norwick's press conference, the police would not have held one of their own.
Few details have been released regarding Zimmermann's murder, one in a string five unsolved homicides in 10 months that have shaken the Wisconsin college town. In late January, 35-year-old Joel Marino was stabbed to death with a paring knife inside his apartment. Unlike Marino, Zimmermann's exact cause of death has not been confirmed. "We're not releasing the cause of death and have asked the coroner to do the same," DeSpain said.
Shepard, who said the story followed three weeks of reporting, cited anonymous law enforcement sources in the story. He said he sent an outline of the story to Norwick revealing his intention to report the 911 call. Norwick would not comment, Shepard told ABC News, because of the police request to not share information about Zimmermann's 911 call. Shepard argues, however, that police did not ask him to make a blanket denial that the call was ever made.
When he began to apply pressure on authorities about the 911 call, he said, some police began to feel like the dispatchers were pointing fingers at police when it was the dispatcher's mistake that may have compromised the police response.