911 caller says Paso Robles police never showed

A Paso Robles woman is blaming the city’s Police Department for failing to respond to her son’s 911 call after a man threatened them at a Carl’s Jr. restaurant drive-through.

Patti Jackson and her 15-year-old son reported that a man terrorized them while they were waiting in the drive-through line Sunday. They called 911, hoping police would come. That never happened, the Jacksons said. Jackson said police later told her that the call wasn’t a priority.

But Police Chief Lisa Solomon said the incident was a misunderstanding. An officer was dispatched as soon as police had information about the incident, but the officer could not locate the suspect.

“This was a misunderstanding,” Solomon said. “In my estimation, it was handled properly.”

The Paso Robles Police Department is dealing with understaffing, though Solomon contends that wasn’t an issue regarding the handling of the incident.

Jackson said she pulled into the drive-through at the Carl’s Jr. at 2201 Theater Drive shortly before 7:30 p.m. with her son, Cody.

She parked behind a man who was waiting for his food. The man got out of his car and began yelling profanities, she said, accusing her of pulling in too close to him.

Jackson said the man, about 60, threatened to beat her up as he stood outside her window pointing and shouting from about 2 feet away.

She said her son called for help. He described the man and their location and reported the man’s license plate number. Jackson said they were told police were on their way.

“We waited for 30 minutes, but no police ever came,” Jackson said. “I’m frustrated, upset. What if he had a gun?”

Jackson said she followed up with the department Monday and was told by police that because of reduced staffing and other calls at the time, her incident wasn’t prioritized. Police also told her that officers looked in the area for the suspect to no avail, she said.

Solomon countered that an officer was dispatched before the completion of the two-minute 911 call, and he was told the suspect had left the scene.

Solomon said the reporting party believed the man to be drunk, so police were on the lookout for an intoxicated driver with the description of his car and license plate number.

The officer arrived within six minutes to the area around the Carl’s Jr. and searched for the suspect but couldn’t locate him, Solomon said.

The man was contacted in Atascadero at his home Monday and police took a report that they’ve submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for review under the allegation of disturbing the peace.

Solomon said officers weren’t aware the woman wanted police to return to Carl’s Jr. Because no suspect was identified that night, they didn’t follow up by interviewing the reporting party.

“It was a miscommunication,” Solomon said. “We had been dealing with the son and didn’t know the mother had expected us to come to Carl’s Jr.”

The Police Department has faced stringent budget cuts over the past four years, dropping to about 30 officers compared with 54 officers in 2003.

The Sheriff’s Department has been assisting with a gang crackdown in the North County in part because of the department’s reduced staffing.

Solomon said the department has continued to handle emergency calls with appropriate responses and that reduced staffing hasn’t been an issue regarding emergencies.