HCSO takes 2 hours to respond to shots fired call

July 11, 2012 4:15:33 AM PDT
If someone were to ever fire shots at your house, you'd expect authorities to arrive as soon as you called them. But a family that lives outside the Baytown city limits is wondering why it took sheriff's deputies hours to respond to their call for help.

Carolyn and James Johnson said it sounded like a mini war outside their home on Independence Day. They live in the Harris County Sheriff's Office District 3 on the east side. And on a good night, we've learned, about a dozen deputies patrol the district's 250 square miles.

The Johnsons had planned on watching the Fourth of July fireworks from their usual spot, their living room. Instead, the fireworks came to them.

"We heard just a rapid bang, bang, bang, bang, bang and then the first bullet came through the wall," Carolyn said.

That was the first shot, just a few inches from Carolyn's head and it exited.

The Johnsons called 911, not once, not twice but...

"I called about eight times," Carolyn said.

All the while, the bullets kept coming. The house, which is in unincorporated Harris County near Baytown, was hit a total of five times between 9 and 11:30pm, but a Harris County deputy didn't show up until after midnight.

"It's way too long," James said.

Harris County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Christina Garza agrees.

"We don't want anybody to have to wait such a long time," she said.

According to their records, the Johnsons' first call was at 9:35pm, the deputy arrived at 12:07am -- a two and a half hour wait. Priority 3 calls like theirs are supposed to be a 10-minute wait.

Garza says deputies were busy responding to higher priority calls on a night that was busier than usual, and the Johnsons just suffered from a budget that has no room for new deputies.

"It is the reality of it. We're doing the best that we can with what we do have," Garza said.

The Johnsons are understanding, but they also can't help but worry about their next emergency.

"If I really need them. I hope they show up quicker than that," James said.

The sheriff's office received four to five times the normal call volume on the night of July 4.

A study on the deputy union's website shows the department needs 2,600 new deputies, but there's a hiring freeze that no one is happy about.

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