Winnipeg police chief calls investigation into why 911 call cancelled

WINNIPEG - Police in Manitoba's capital have launched an internal investigation to find out why a response to a 911 call was cancelled just before a fatal shooting outside a downtown nightclub.

Winnipeg's 911 centre received a call at 1:39 a.m. Sunday from staff at the Opera Ultralounge, who reported a fight outside the bar, police Chief Devon Clunis said Tuesday. A call for service was generated within three minutes.

Seventeen minutes later, the response was cancelled for reasons that aren't clear. Four minutes after that, someone called 911 to report a firearm had been discharged. Rustom Paclipan, 23, died.

Clunis was unable to say who decided to cancel the response and why.

"That's why I've ordered the investigation — to really determine all of those details," he said at a news conference.

"There are numerous reasons why (a call may be cancelled), but again, because of the nature of the situation, I really do not want to speculate."

James Jewell, a retired homicide investigator who runs a blog on justice issues, pointed out that the timeline given by police shows the call came in as bars were closing — a very busy time for the 911 centre.

Jewell said there are three likely scenarios under which a 911 call might be cancelled: staff call police to say the situation is resolved; police attend and find no problems; or time passes and someone at the 911 centre cancels the response because no other calls from the scene have come in.

"It's interesting to note the call was cancelled at 1:59:45 a.m.," Jewell wrote in an email.

"The Opera Ultralounge closed that night at 2:00 a.m. Considering almost 20 minutes elapsed since the call was entered, it's not difficult to assume someone may have used their discretion to close the call under the belief police were no longer required."

No arrests have been made in the shooting death and there was no indication Tuesday how long the internal police investigation might last.

The 911 centre was the subject of a provincial inquest in 2002 following the deaths of two women who had called police and the centre a total of five times in one night.

Doreen Leclair and Corrine McKeown were asking for protection from William Dunlop, McKeown's former boyfriend. He stabbed them to death before police arrived at Leclair's house after the fifth and final call.

The inquest recommended better training and higher staffing levels at the 911 centre.