911 worker suspended over gun call

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Gwinnett County 911 Communications Officer was ordered to serve a one-day suspension for providing faulty information to an officer in a fatal double-shooting of two Duluth women last July, police said.

A 10-month investigation by the Gwinnett police professional standards unit found 911 operator Phil Raines, 41, a six-year veteran, provided "an unequivocal statement that there was no gun" on the premises of 75-year-old Barbara Baker's home when police arrived July 21, police said Wednesday.

Raines sent a transmission to Gwinnett police Officer Lyndsey Perry that stated there was "no 69," or firearm, in the home, which was inaccurate, investigators found.

Asked if her daughter had a gun, Baker first replied, "I think she does, I don't know," and later said she was far from certain whether or not there were guns in the house, said Gwinnett police spokesman Officer Brian Kelly.

"These calls are very fluid and developing quickly, and (911 personnel) are trying to get a lot of information as quickly as possible," he said.

Raines formally appealed the suspension but it was upheld, Kelly said. He elected to use a day of annual leave in lieu of a suspension without pay.

In light of the error, Kelly said Raines was "held to task and educated to return to duty."

Perry, 35, a 10-year department veteran, was cleared in December in the fatal shootings of Baker and her daughter, Penny Schwartz, 51.

Police said Schwartz was suicidal and pointed a gun at the officer, prompting gunfire. Baker was inadvertently struck, and Perry acted within protocol, an internal investigation concluded.

Family members have decried Perry's actions as excessive use of force.

Jody Ahlfinger, Baker's daughter and Schwartz's sister, called the one-day suspension "insulting" to her family. Other key statements made by Baker in her 911 call should have alerted police, who failed to err on the side of caution, Ahlfinger contends.

"We can't even imagine how two people can lose their lives over an error, and the result is a one-day suspension," Ahlfinger said. "How is this going to change the future? We're shocked, devastated -- it's not believable, really."

Perry remains on administrative duty following her arrest on unrelated DUI charges in Hall County last month, Kelly said.