I-TEAM: Between 911 call and officer's arrival, 2 sisters shot
Surviving sister hopes speaking out about domestic violence will save lives
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a Jacksonville woman was killed and her sister was critically wounded in a double shooting in late October, the surviving sister begged anyone who's in an abusive relationship to not just call out for help, but cry out for help.
This week, the I-TEAM spoke with 28-year-old Lisa Rucker, who was just released from the hospital after she was shot in the head on Oct. 31, and uncovered it took 21 minutes for police to arrive at her San Juan Avenue condo after she called 911.
Lisa's sister, 30-year-old Ashlee Rucker, died in the shooting.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office later arrested Ashlee's on-and-off boyfriend, 32-year-old Chad Absher, on charges of murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
At 1:55 a.m. on Oct. 31, Lisa called 911 to report a disturbance because Absher wouldn't leave. Dispatch sent a patrol officer to the scene a minute later, at 1:56 a.m.
But that officer didn't arrive at the condo complex until 2:16 a.m. and, by that time, it was too late.
The I-TEAM obtained the 911 call, which is graphic and disturbing. In the call, Lisa, Ashlee and Absher can be heard arguing.
Lisa: "There is an altercation. I'm asking someone to leave and they will not get out of my apartment."
Dispatcher: "OK. Who is that? Your boyfriend? Your brother?"
Lisa: "No. It's my sister's boyfriend."
When Absher, a convicted felon, tries to stop the call, Lisa screams, "No."
"Get off the phone with the cops," Absher can be heard saying in the 911 call.
Dispatcher: "Did anyone hit you? Or did you hit anyone?"
Lisa: "No. It was my sister. She is asking him to leave. We are both asking him to leave. He won't leave."
At that time, Lisa told the dispatcher that Absher was not armed.
Dispatcher: "Does anyone have any weapons? Are drinking or drugs involved?"
Dispatcher: "Alright. We will send the next available officer. Call us back if anything changes, OK?"
Lisa: "OK. Thank you."
Minutes later, the fight heated up. Detectives said Absher pulled a gun, shot Lisa in the head and then killed Ashlee.
"I called the police before any of this even happened. I called the police," Lisa told the I-TEAM at her family's home.
Lisa is going through a long and painful recovery. She said she doesn't blame anyone, besides Absher, but wishes officers had arrived faster.
"If they would have gotten there 10 minutes sooner, they would have saved us," Lisa said.
The I-TEAM requested the call log, which shows JSO was dispatched at 1:56 in the morning, and the first officer arrived at 2:16 a.m. -- 20 minutes later.
By then, the shooting had already happened, and Absher was not there.
"Unfortunately, they were not fast enough," Lisa said. "But that’s all in the past. You can’t change it, unfortunately."
The Sheriff's Office told the I-TEAM that the call was labeled as a low-priority call, without lights and sirens, because the caller did not mention any aggressive behavior or a weapon, and those type of calls get put on a list until a nearby officer is available. A JSO spokeswoman sent a statement, which reads, in part:
A dispute call would be labeled a Priority 4 call. The standard for a call of that type is: The call is placed in queue (i.e., delayed for a predetermined time) until a patrol unit in the appropriate geographical area becomes available. This can include any call where there is minor property damage, no threat of injury, or there is not a potential of making a criminal apprehension at the scene. "
"It depends on what the person told the dispatcher when they called in," News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said.
Smith, who worked with JSO for 26 years, said it can be difficult for officers to prioritize what's most urgent, and that the double shooting happened in one of Jacksonville's busiest areas.
"Police officers are handling so many calls," Lisa said.
Lisa said she lost her best friend that morning, and to make matters worse, her 4-year-old son and Ashlee’s 9-year-old son were there when it happened.
"My nephew has to spend the rest of his life not (with) his mom," she said. "It kills me, too."
Lisa hopes speaking out and letting people know what happened will make a difference and save lives.
"I hope it helps someone. Anyone. Even if it's just one person," she said.
Her message: Don’t just call out for help. Cry out for help -- and do it early.
Lisa said it’s difficult when you love someone, but if you're in an abusive relationship, you have to get out.
There are options to escape domestic violence. If you are in danger, call 911. To talk with someone with the anti-domestic abuse organization Hubbard House over the phone 24 hours a day, call 904-354-3114 or 800-500-1119.
Surviving sister shares her heartbreaking story
After the horrific attack, Lisa talked with News4Jax about her terrifying ordeal following her release from the hospital this week. She had a heartbreaking story tell.
"It's tough," she said.
Lisa, who is recovering and staying strong, also bravely spoke out to save lives, sending a message about domestic violence.
At 28 years old, Lisa's life has been turned upside down. Even talking and eating have become difficult chores for her.
"A lot of pain," Lisa said. "My leg hurts really bad. My head hurts really bad. And I can't hear out of this ear."
But Lisa said, "The worst part is not having my sister because I know she would be right here to help me through all of this."
Lisa and Ashlee lived in the condo on San Juan Avenue. On Oct. 31, Lisa said, Ashlee’s on-and-off boyfriend, Absher, was over and they got into an argument.
"He was really paranoid," Lisa said. "He thought everyone was out to get him."
The argument escalated and as the sisters were about to leave, Lisa said, he pulled out a gun, shot her first and then turned the gun on Ashlee.
"I know I can’t change it and it has killed me inside," she said.
Both Lisa and Ashlee's sons were in the room and experienced unimaginable trauma they’ll live with for the rest of their lives.
"My son came up to me and said, 'Mom, please don't die,'" Lisa said. "Even though I 100 percent thought that I was going to die, I said, 'I'm going to be OK, baby.' And I blacked out and I came to and my son and my nephew are walking back-and-forth between me and my sister, saying, 'Please don't die. Please don't die.'"
Police said Absher escaped, but they arrested him days later.
"She loved him. She really did," Lisa said.
Friends and family members, including Lisa, said Absher had abused Ashlee. Lisa said she told her sister to leave him.
"Everybody has," she said.
What happened haunts them.
"It kills me that I can't change anything," Lisa said.
As Lisa makes a long and painful recovery, she’s pleads with others to speak out, step in and stop domestic violence.
"I hope that people struggling with domestic violence, that our story helps them in some way," she said.
News4Jax asked Lisa if there's anything that people can do for her right now.
"Just pray," the surviving sister said. "Pray for me and pray for my family, that we are able to, you know, mentally and emotionally get through everything."
The I-TEAM found Absher was convicted of shooting into the home of a former girlfriend in 2006, and he spent four years in prison for that. Now, he's behind bars without bond.
Again, if you are in an abusive relationship, or know someone who is, please get help.
You can call 911. You can also call the Hubbard House's 24-hour hotline at 904-354-3114 or 800-500-1119. To visit the Hubbard House website, click here.
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