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City council moves for independent investigation of Kyle Plush's death, police and 911 conduct

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-15 07:39:03-04

CINCINNATI -- City Council unanimously moved for a "an outside independent investigation of the Kyle Plush death" on Monday, requesting the city government pay for an external investigator to conduct an all-encompassing inquiry into the behavior of police and 911 operators in connection to the 16-year-old's suffocation last month.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman tweeted a picture of the signed motion Monday morning and later confirmed its broad scope, saying he and his Council colleagues were unsatisfied with the results of the internal investigation publicized earlier that day.

Mayor John Cranley appeared to feel the same that morning, when he referred to the Cincinnati Police Department's internal investigation as "incomplete."

Ron Plush, Kyle’s father, released a statement Tuesday morning, saying he wants to clarify his family did not call for an independent investigation in the death of their son.

“What we asked for were answers to specific questions,” Ron said. 

Ron said his family “fully supports” the independent investigation if that is what it takes to get the answers.

“I also would like to thank the members of the City Council for making the investigation into the events of 4/10 a top priority,” Ron said. “They are doing an outstanding job in helping push for the answers that we need and we can't thank you enough.” 

Plush, a student at Seven Hills School, became trapped in his Honda Odyssey on April 10 while attempting to retrieve tennis equipment from the trunk. With a seat pressing against his chest and slowly restricting his respiration, he used Siri to make two frantic calls to 911.

Although he shared his location as well as the make, model and color of his vehicle multiple times, repeatedly voicing his fear he was about to die, the officers sent to investigate drove by the parking lot where he was asphyxiating without ever exiting their own car.

The grim task of discovering the body fell to Kyle's father, who found his son dead more than six hours after he had attempted to save himself.

"Kyle did everything he should've done -- everything a mom or dad would tell their child to do," Councilwoman Amy Murray said Monday. "And he was failed horribly."

Smitherman said Cranley would refer Monday's motion to the Law and Public Safety Committee, which would consider and likely pass it as an ordinance May 29.

Additionally, he said, the office of the city manager was already searching across the country for a company that could conduct the wide-ranging investigation council members believe is necessary.

The failures that contributed to Kyle Plush's death include those of police behavior, technology and communication. In addition to officers Brian Brazile and Edsel Osborn remaining in their patrol car while they searched, Stephanie Magee, the 911 operator who took his first call, did not tell officers about his insistence that he was in mortal danger but received an "acceptable" rating for her handling of the situation.

Amber Smith, the 911 operator who answered Plush's second call, during which he became audibly more agitated, turned on a system that reduced the call's volume and did not know how to turn it off. She said her computer repeatedly froze when she attempted to locate him and make the call a new incident in the 911 center's official system.

Osborn and Brazile might still have found Plush, even after all that, if they had access to the precise GPS coordinates the 911 center did. However, all they had was an approximate address -- 5471 Red Bank Road, which proved close but not close enough -- and an outdated, low-quality map system in their patrol car, city IT director Jayson Dunn said.

Smitherman said the external investigation would be separate from a 911 center "technology review" mentioned by Chief Eliot Isaac Monday.

Read the list of questions from the Plush family below. 

Plush family questions read at city hall by WCPO Web Team on Scribd