Gwen Minnis, a 47-year-old woman from Lehigh Acres, Florida, called 911 on March 13 because she believed she was having a heart attack. It must have been a terrifyingly familiar feeling. Minnis was just home from the hospital three days earlier, after suffering a first heart attack.
The 911 dispatcher sent the call to Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Yvan Fernandez, who acknowledged receiving the call.
And then, according to the sheriff’s office, Deputy Fernandez made a decision that looks bad not only looking back on it — but one that should have been, as soon as he made it, an obvious mistake of tragic proportions.
Rather than rush to the scene of the emergency call, Fernandez decided to have lunch.
Fernandez was busy enjoying lunch with three other deputies at a pizza joint. He did not arrive at the scene of Gwen Minnis’s heart attack for more than an hour after receiving the emergency call.
In fact, he didn’t even refer the call to another deputy for almost a half-hour after getting the call at 1:11 p.m. — even though the 911 dispatcher followed up with him at 1:19 to make sure he received the call and was on his way.
But he wasn’t on his way. According to the internal affairs report on the incident, Fernandez just kept eating. When the second deputy finally arrived at 2:04 p.m. — close to an hour after the initial emergency call went out — he found Gwen Minnis lying in the front yard of a friend’s home in Fort Myers, “covered with ants,” according to witnesses.
Sadly, Minnis was already dead.
Fernandez himself didn’t show up until 2:21 p.m. — even though the pizza place where he had lunch was a mere 15 minutes from the site of Minnis’s death.
“He got the call and he acknowledged the call and didn’t give any reason why he wouldn’t respond,” Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott told WINK TV, which first reported the deputy’s bizarre decision. “We had every reason to believe that he was going to respond to that call.”
While deputies and other police officers are entitled to designated meal breaks during which they are exempt from responding to calls, Fernandez was not taking one of his authorized breaks, according to the internal affairs report.
Once the report was released, Fernandez was fired from his job. Though the deputy has reportedly acknowledged that he failed to follow protocol in the lunch-eating incident that resulted in the death of Gwen Minnis, Fernandez has reportedly retained a lawyer to fight his dismissal.
[Image via WINK-TV]