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Alexandria Police Miffed at Release of 911 Call in Lodato Killing

Police Chief Earl Cook 'shocked'; release could "hurt investigation,' police spokeswoman says.

A funeral for Ruthanne Lodato was held Saturday at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Alexandria. She died Feb. 6 after she was shot at her home by an unknown intruder. Pool photo
A funeral for Ruthanne Lodato was held Saturday at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Alexandria. She died Feb. 6 after she was shot at her home by an unknown intruder. Pool photo
The City of Alexandria released the 911 call from the Ruthanne Lodato shooting, and that apparently came as a surprise to the Alexandria Police Department, according to a police spokeswoman.

The Washington Post filed a Freedom of Information Act request for audio of the call and received it "probably from the City Attorney's Office," said Crystal Nosal, public information officer for the police department. 

Lodato was killed with her mother and a caretaker in the home. In the 911 call, a neighbor is talking to police after being notified of the shooting by the caretaker, who brought Lodato's mother with her. The, caretaker, who was injured, runs back to the Lodato home. 

Nosal said the police department "did not know" the audio had been released until they received a phone call from a reporter about it and said they would not release the audio. Patch left a message with the City Attorney's office Thursday.

Audio of the 911 call was sent to The Washington Post "inadvertently," from the Alexandria City Attorney's Office, after they filed an FOIA request, said Corine Parks, a paralegal there.

"It will not be released again, it was a mistake," she said. 

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "911 records are presumed open under Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706.G., but personal, medical or financial information is those records may be withheld if the safety or privacy of any person is jeopardized."

"It was a clerical error," Nosal said. "It was given out inadvertently, probably from the city attorney's office, and the police department wasn't informed."

Nosal said "somebody with the city had to contact the Alexandria Office of Emergency Communications. They should have known better." 

Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook, "was shocked," said Nosal, adding that there is concern about how release of the audio might impact the investigation.

Meanwhile, officers were out Thursday, two weeks after the shooting, in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred on Ridge Road Drive. Officers set up roadblocks to hand out flyers to drivers.

"People have patterns," Nosal noted. "It's the same time period" of the shooting. Police were called to the home Thursday, Feb. 6 at about 11:30 a.m.

In all, Alexandria police have received about 500 tips so far from the general public, she said.

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(Editor's note: We've updated the story with a comment from the City Attorney's office.)
OldTownEer February 20, 2014 at 06:25 PM
Rather than acting like their upset or their feelings are hurt, why don't they actually attempt to solve a a real crime that doesn't involve ad-hoc tax collection for once.
NoBS February 21, 2014 at 06:57 AM
It's fair to be upset about this. The name of the neighbor who made the call can be heard very clearly. He is a witness. It was stupid and sloppy of some clerk somewhere in the city attorney's office to release that tape without clearing it with police first. At the very least, the neighbor's name, and perhaps other information, should have been electronically redacted. I'm generally all for transparency but I have to side with the APD on this one.
Deborah Kelly February 21, 2014 at 07:28 AM
What did you expect - the Washington Post is a rag newspaper!
Linda Couture February 21, 2014 at 08:31 AM
While it takes a resident weeks often months to get results from FOIA requests, the press apparently has priority in the process. Now isn't that special!
NoBS February 21, 2014 at 11:02 AM
I have to wonder how this happened so fast given the usual reticence of APD and the ALX government in general to share info. It's worth an investigation into the city attorney's office as to whether proper protocols were followed. If some low level clerk turned this over without checking with superiors, that person needs to be reprimanded or even fired. I'd go so far as to look into whether money changed hands.
moo moo February 21, 2014 at 04:17 PM
Your comment about some low level clerk is insulting at best. The FOIA request would have went over to the Police department and Emergency communications division for both city departments to comply with the request. I am not buying the story that APD knew nothing about this. It also would take a higher city official to approve the FOIA and turn the information over to the press. The higher paid people in the government have no clue what they are doing. What a shame!! but your screen name says it all here NO BS about it! Maybe the city manager needs to be fired because he has no control of his city.
NoBS February 22, 2014 at 07:06 AM
Moo Moo, you are assuming that official protocols were followed and that everyone did their jobs according to policies put in place for this sort of thing. That is not a smart assumption to make here. Clearly something went very wrong. Why are you so sure a "higher city official" approved the FOIA request? I suspect the "higher city official" never even saw it. A FOIA request comes in at a clerk's level. I know - I've filed several. It can be filed in person or mailed, emailed etc. It is first received by a clerk or administrative person or whatever you want to call it - someone very low on the totem pole. That person is suppose to time stamp it and bring it to the person responsible for reviewing it and gathering the requested infromation. It then goes to a higher level of managerment and should be reveiwed by at least one level of the legal department - paralegal at least but preferably an attorney - for review of redactions before it is released. All of that takes time. The law cites a minimum period of time to respond and the city and other government agencies can request additional time to notify the person making the request. I got a "we need extra time" notice when I requested some simple, noncontroversial documents a few years ago. This speed with which this 911 tape was released tells me that the normal steps were not followed in this case. Now we need to find out who received the initial request, who logged it in to the system, and where it went from there. Whoever had their hands on the request or had access to the recording falls under suspicion. My best guess is that somebody somewhere got paid. The one thing I agree with you about is that "the city manager needs to be fired because he has no control of his city." I'd go so far as so say we don't need a city manager at all. We need to make the position of mayor a full time position with a real salary so we are electing the person who runs this city rather than paying someone else to do it while we have only a figurehead mayor who is really nothing more than an exalted member of city council.

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