We posted an article about Tonie Wells, a 22-year-old woman, who was found dead at the bottom of her home’s staircase in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on Wednesday morning. Her husband, Barry Wells, was taken into custody by the New Rochelle Police Department on Wednesday after his brother turned him in, reported The New York Times. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that Tonie’s death could have possibly been prevented.
Two New York Police Department officers have been suspended without pay because they did not respond properly to a 911 call placed at 9am, about an hour before Tonie was found dead, reported The New York Daily News. The caller has not been identified, but they were able to hear Tonie say, “He’s going to kill me,” which the caller repeated to the 911 operator. The two officers – identified as Wing Hong Lau and Wael Jaber – were then dispatched to the home but neither got out of the car to check out the disturbance.
The New York Daily News speculated that the officers may not have gotten out of the car because of frigid temperatures in New York City. On the other hand, a high-ranking NYPD source said that the two officers received “incomplete information” when they arrived at the home. In my opinion, neither of those reasons is acceptable for not checking out a domestic violence incident. Police Commissioner James O’Neill agreed stating, “I talk about my pride in the N.Y.P.D. each and every day. And if, unfortunately, there are times that we don’t live up to that standard, it’s up to us to make sure that we fully investigate that. And if discipline needs to be dealt out, we’ll do that.”
Lau, 47, and Jaber, 42, are both 11 year veterans, so I can safely assume that they know the appropriate protocol for responding to calls involving incidents like Tonie’s. And they don’t include not getting out of the car because of below 20 degree weather or not having “complete information.”
Family friend Victor Brown, 21, believes that Tonie would still be alive if the officers did their job. He said, “If they would have done something ahead of time, this wouldn’t have happened.” One police source even stated, “In the end they never checked out the situation, but that’s not to say they would have been able to save her. They decided to roll the dice and this is what happened.”
While no one can, without a doubt, say that Tonie would still be alive if the two officers responded correctly, I know for sure that it would have helped in some way. Tonie’s aunt, Katherine Rivera, believes that this her niece’s story will bring more awareness to domestic violence. “If what my niece went through can shine light on someone else’s (struggle) to get someone else to run, to save a life. If my niece’s memory can do that, then we will do what we can do to help someone else.”
Correction: In the article yesterday, we stated that Tonie Wells was 8 months pregnant when she was killed on Wednesday as this was reported by The Shade Room and The New York Post. That has not been confirmed.