Santia Williams needed help. Her 250-pound ex-boyfriend, Jason Jenkins, had snatched their baby from her arms, violating a judge’s order to stay away. After taking off with the girl, Jenkins threatened to kill the 2-month-old and himself.
Williams made at least four calls to Suffolk County police over the next week. Recordings of the July 2011 calls capture Williams’ voice, scared and confused about why police would not arrest Jenkins.
The last call for help came from Williams’ 12-year-old nephew, who lived in the same Bay Shore apartment as Williams.
“There’s a guy with a gun,” the boy told the 911 operator. “Please come fast, quickly. Please, please, please.”
When police finally did arrive to take Jenkins away, they needed body bags instead of handcuffs.
Long Island judges grant roughly 30,000 orders of protection every year, mostly in cases where a man has harmed or threatened to harm a woman. The orders are supposed to marshal the power and authority of the law enforcement system on behalf of those in danger by placing restrictions on individuals who have been deemed a threat.
But the system failed Williams, 26, a mother of two. Despite Williams’ repeated pleas that police arrest her abusive ex-boyfriend for violating an order of protection, Jenkins, 27, remained free to kill Williams with a shotgun before turning the gun on himself.
Drawing broad conclusions about the system that protects domestic violence victims is difficult. Access to Family Court records in New York State is limited to respect an individual’s privacy, and state agencies proved unwilling to provide even basic information that would not identify individuals, such as dates protective orders were issued and served.
However, in a joint investigation, Newsday and News 12 Long Island reviewed three hours of 911 calls and radio transmissions and more than 300 pages of documents related to the Williams case, including the records from an ongoing wrongful-death lawsuit Williams’ mother filed in July 2012 against Suffolk County, its law enforcement agencies and 15 officers. The court file contains a document in which the county admits to specific failures uncovered in an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation, but not the IAB report itself.
Reporters also interviewed 21 people, many with direct involvement in the Williams case or in the system meant to protect women like her.
The examination offers a look at a worst-case scenario of what can happen in a domestic violence case when the system fails to protect someone who turned to it for help.
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