KOLD Investigates: Dangerous delivery in Tucson area highlights growing threats

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 3:12 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In emergency situations, every second matters.

A DoorDash driver tells says a customer threatened to shoot him and it took too much time for 911 dispatch to answer his emergency call.

The driver said it was a frightening ordeal, especially considering there have been several fatal incidents for delivery drivers across the country.

It was a simple stop at Walgreens for DoorDash driver Ryan Menehune.

He got an order to deliver three items to a customer at an east-side apartment.

But the order fell short.

“They’re out of two or three items. The customer got irritated over the phone and became pretty aggressive. Hung up on me,” Menehune said.

He showed up to the apartment to deliver the one item and as he approached the customer “he snatched out of my hand and just went off on a verbal tirade,” said Menehune.

Seconds later , Menehune said, the customer told him he was going to grab his gun and smoke him.

Just as Menehune turned the corner to get back to his car, he said, he heard the rack slide on the man’s gun, meaning he’d loaded a bullet into it.

Menehune owns a custom handgun and repair company and is a self-defense instructor. He can identify the distinct sounds coming from a gun.

“He just said he’s going to shoot me. He verbally threatened me,” Menehune said.

That’s when he called 911 and put his phone in his pocket.

The customer, he said, searched for him, taunting him to come back closer to him.

Menehune drove out of the apartment complex terrified, still waiting for 911 dispatch to pick up. A few minutes later he was transferred to the TPD emergency line.

“I was greeted with a nice automated message that my call was important to them and to stay on the line because someone would be there to help me shortly,” he said.

Worried the customer may have jumped into a car and followed him, Menehune said, he drove around in fear for his safety. He estimated it was more than two minutes before he was able to get though to a dispatcher.

And now he’s wondering: Why did it take so long?

Deputy Chief Chad Kasmar, the interim Public Safety Communications director, said the phone rang for 51 seconds, which is longer than he would have liked.

”The goal,” Kasmar said, “is to answer a 911 call within 15 seconds 90% of the time and within 20 seconds 95% of the time.”

Menehune’s call fell well outside those goals.

“Sometimes we answer those calls in two seconds and then sometimes, during a surge capacity where we staff according to call load, it’s possible to get more calls than we traditionally do, which can back up that timeframe,” Kasmar said,

The staffing shortage continues to be a challenge, Kasmar explained. Of the 164 authorized positions, 100 are currently filled.

“So we’re holding about 60 vacancies right now that we’ve been actively recruiting and hiring for throughout the year,” said Kasmar.

When Menehune called 31 calls came in in a 10 minute timeframe. That shift had been nearly full-staffed, but half of the call takers were trainees.

“We’re trying to take the time to train folks. It’s actually the trainee in the seat and they’re not going to be as efficient and that going to impact our overage call processing time, but this is something we expect,” Kasmar said.

Kasmar said dispatch talked to Menehune for 33 seconds, in which Menehune reported leaving the parking lot after a customer pulled out a gun over a DoorDash order.

The dispatcher then determined that “it wasn’t an urgent emergency because he reported he had removed himself from the situation was the absolute right thing to do.”

The dispatcher placed Menehune on hold to transfer to TPD. He waited just over 2 and a half minutes.

Kasmar said supervisors can adjust workflow during peak hours when needed.

And that might be needed considering there’s been an uptick of 911 calls in recent months: around 10,000 more calls a month.

Menehune also reported the incident to DoorDash. He feels the company doesn’t offer enough training, resources and protection in dangerous situations.

“Because we’re independent contractors for them, they don’t offer anything,” Menehune said. “But that question of -- are you safe?”

KOLD reached out to DoorDash for an interview and received the following statement.

The company said it just launched SafeDash, an in-app toolkit for driver safety in six major cities. Tucson is not included on the list, but will be by the end of the year.

A DoorDash spokeswoman said the app has been developed over time in response to what the company has heard from drivers.

When Menehune was asked whether he would continue to work for DoorDash, he replied: “You know, that’s a tough one. We’ll see how it goes.”

Kasmar noted that if you call 911, don’t hang up at any time, because it’ll send your call to the back of the line.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.