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Despite ShotSpotter alert, it took 31 minutes for police to arrive on scene where Officer Areanah Preston was killed

Officer Areanah Preston shot and killed: Timeline of events
Officer Areanah Preston shot and killed: Timeline of events 03:13

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thirty-one minutes – that is how long it appears to have taken for police to arrive on the tragic scene where Officer Areanah Preston was shot in Avalon Park, in an incident that ultimately took her life.

But dispatchers had been alerted to a round of shots that had been fired, thanks to a high-tech gunshot detection system.

We have done extensive reporting on the ShotSpotter system — although the company recently changed its name to "SoundThinking."

One of its biggest selling points is how quickly it notifies police that shots have been fired - often faster than a 911 caller.

So why did it take more than 30 minutes to get to the scene?

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, police dispatch indicated ShotSpotter had picked up eight rounds of gunfire on the south side of a house at 8157 S. Blackstone Ave.

Sensors picked up the sound of gunfire there around 1:42 a.m. Saturday, according to a CBS2 Investigators analysis of dispatch recordings from that morning. But we don't hear any discussion of an officer being assigned to investigate.

Shortly after 2 a.m., Officer Preston's Apple Watch appears to have identified that she was in distress and alerted 911.

According to Apple, if the watch detects "a severe car crash, it will display an alert and can initiate an emergency phone call after 20 seconds."

A dispatcher notes the 911 call from the Apple Watch came at the same address of the earlier ShotSpotter alert.

By 2:15 a.m., a call for a 10-1 - "officer needs assistance."

Why did it take so long? And could things have turned out differently if officers had reached Officer Preston sooner?

"The city is going to have to look into this," said former Office of Emergency Management and Communications 911 dispatcher Keith Thornton. "But those things do happen on a constant basis throughout our city, and we have to correct those issues if we want full accountability."

Thornton is well aware of what the timeline should look like. He answered countless 10-1 calls — including the call for Officer Ella French, who was shot and killed in 2021.

In the case of Officer Preston, Thornton said a ShotSpotter alert should have been treated as a "Priority 1" per OEMC protocols.

"This is straight from my protocols," he said. "That should be dispatched immediately."

The dispatch should have happened within 10 minutes, according to the written protocol.

It is unclear whether an earlier response would have changed the outcome in this case. But Thornton says it needs to be investigated.

"Something was flawed in the system, and it needs to be corrected," he said.

We reached out to Chicago Police and the OEMC for comment or any explanation of the delay. 

The CPD said they are not commenting on the matter at this time, while a spokesperson for OEMC told us they are also going to refrain from commenting at this time "due to the ongoing CPD investigation."

CBS 2 has several records requests in to help get to the bottom of this and we will, of course, be following up. 

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