Unanswered 911 Calls in Baby's Death Expose Dispatch Problem

Critics are calling out San Diego leaders saying they need to come clean about just how bad the issue is

The parents of a 3-day-old baby killed by the family dog in a mauling last week twice called 911 but didn’t get an answer, and critics are calling for change.

"It's absolutely tragic and I think every parent who heard this story had their heart break a little bit," said Matt Awbry, a spokesperson for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Faulconer’s office responded to NBC 7’s request for information on what happened when the Mira Mesa couple tried to reach a 911 operator.

The newborn, Sebastian Caban, was with his parents and the family dog Thursday in a bed when the mother suddenly coughed, according to an autopsy report.

"The dog made contact with the baby leading to traumatic injuries," said Sgt. Tuu Nguyen, of the San Diego Police Department Child Abuse Unit.

Shortly after the incident, the couple made two unsuccessful 911 calls, SDPD officials confirmed.

The couple called once, waiting 28 seconds for an answer, police said. The couple then called again and waited 31 seconds.

They ended up driving the newborn to Rady Children’s Hospital where medical staff pronounced him dead. The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the death an accident.

The issue has been ongoing for years. The San Diego Police Officers Association say the dispatch center is not fully staffed with its operators on mandatory overtime for more than 3 years.

San Diego police say they have been losing people to retirement, other agencies or stress leave.

Now critics are calling out city leaders, saying they need to come clean about just how bad the issue is.

Mayoral candidates Ed Harris and Lori Saldana say the issue is out of control. They believe more should be done to protect the public’s safety.

Awbry said this is the first year the full staff has been fully funded in the city’s budget. He added that recruitment has been going on year-round.

"What we don't want to do is politicize it," Awbry said. "That's why Mayor Faulconer is focused on making sure we have solutions, making changes so we're actually hiring more through."

Between 7:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., when the family was calling for assistance, dispatch received 73 total 911 calls, according to SDPD.

The department has asked for the public’s help in making sure those with emergencies can get through on 911 by using the non-emergency line for requests for information, reports of minor theft and crimes that are not in progress.

The dog, a 2-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier, is in the custody of the Department of Animal Services and under quarantine.

Any decision on the fate of the dog will be made by the department after speaking with the family.

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