Evening Thunder Confused for Gun Shots; 311 Overwhelmed

thunderstormsTuesday evening, the Denver metro area encountered something it had not seen in quite some time; rainfall. Along with the rain, there was occasional thunder, which wouldn’t be a big deal, but living in Stapleton, loud noises tend to make people jumpy. “I have lived here for eight years,” said resident Paul Rice. “I have seen streets blockaded, helicopters overhead, and vandals running wild through the neighborhood. On top of that, we are right next to Aurora, which freaks the hell out of me. So, am I a little on edge, yes.” Kelly Dellert has had the same experiences while living in Stapleton. “I mean, houses getting broken into, car crashes, suspicious looking people, it is just a pretty crazy place to live,” said Dellert. “Of course, the Stapleton people are great, it’s those people coming through our neighborhood that concern me.”

Rice and Dellert were two of hundreds of Stapleton residents who contacted the local non-emergency number 311 to report the sound of gun shots. “We received so many calls within two hours, it was incredible,” said 311 operator Jeff Hall who was working Tuesday evening. “And, because of our protocol, we have to send squad cars out if there is the suspicion of gun shots. What was frustrating was that after several calls, we knew it was thunder, but the residents simply refused to accept that. So, we had to keep sending squad cars out. Obviously, it turned out to be a huge waste of resources, but I guess we kept Stapleton residents at ease, which is the most important.”

Rice encourages Stapleton residents to think through something first before calling the authorities, even if it is just a non-emergency number. “I mean, people could have just stepped outside,” said Rice. “Or maybe if anyone had known it may thunderstorm later as forecasters predicted we wouldn’t have had the obscene number of phone calls we did.” For his part, Rice said he intends to investigate a little more thoroughly next time. “I could have walked on the porch first,” said Rice. “But, would that have potentially put me danger? It’s tough because we have to balance being thorough and being safe.”

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