Chaos and confusion led to delay in finding Taunton stabbing victims

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) – A Taunton Fire Department official acknowledged Thursday there was a delay in the discovery of two stabbing victims during last week’s violent rampage in Taunton, and said an effort is underway to discover what led to the confusion.

Lt. Kevin Farrar described the roughly 20-minute delay as “disconcerting to all of us” and said city officials are working to prevent it from happening again.

Police say 28-year-old Arthur DaRosa went on a spree May 10, first fatally stabbing 80-year-old Patricia Slavin and injuring her daughter, Kathleen, then driving into the Macy’s at the Silver City Galleria mall, where he stabbed a pregnant woman and killed a man who tried to intervene before being shot by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.

“The amount of information that came in and the nature of the incidents all came together and, unfortunately for the Slavins, there was a delay in finding them,” Farrar said. “I’m not going to say discovering Ms. Slavin sooner would have saved her life, but I wish we had.”

According to a review of 911 calls by Target 12, the first call in the chaotic incident described it as a simple car accident.

“It’s at the top of Claire Terrace and Myricks Street, a bad accident,” a caller said to a dispatcher.

Ten seconds later, Kathleen Slavin called 911 and told a dispatch operator both she and her mother had been stabbed.

“This guy came in and stabbed us,” Slavin frantically tells the dispatcher on the recording. She then gives the operator her address.

Farrar said Taunton uses a private ambulance company, American Medical Response Inc. (AMR), a division of Colorado-based Envision Healthcare Corp. The dispatcher kept Slavin on the line as he conferenced the call in with AMR, which dispatched an ambulance to the location.

By that point a fire department dispatcher had already sent a fire truck to respond to the first call of a car accident.

Farrar said before emergency responders arrived on Myricks Street, 911 calls started to come in from the Silver City Galleria saying there had been a stabbing.

“My conjecture is that [first responders] got on scene [at Myricks Street] and witnessed a car accident,” he said. “I think they just assumed they were not what they were told originally.”

He added, “I think the overflow of information aided to the confusion.”

About 21 minutes after the first 911 call, Farrar said another member of the Slavin family came home and found the two women seriously injured from the knife attack. He then ran outside and yelled for help.

“The most frustrating thing to me was we had the information, AMR had the information, the police had the information; everyone had 270 Myricks St.,” Farrar said. “Yet three agencies responded and three agencies didn’t go into that house in a timely manner.”

Firefighters performed CPR on one of the Slavins, according to dispatch recordings. Patricia Slavin was transported to Morton Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her daughter Kathleen, 48, was transported to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston with serious injuries. She was released earlier this week.

Farrar said the dispatcher that night is pretty “torn up” about the delay, but said “he did his job.”

Farrar acknowledged there is a potential for a similar delay to happen again and officials are actively working on solutions to avoid that.

He said a long-term fix would be to build a centralized dispatch center that would put the fire department and private ambulance under one roof. But he is also examining a short-term solution that could include using technology to cross-communicate with the ambulance company about exactly where first responders are when they get on scene.

Farrar also said last week’s attack was an unusual incident that led to an intense flash of chaos in a short period of time.

“We are still discussing, but this won’t go away until I have a solution,” he said.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

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