Were police slow to respond to 911 call?

October 27, 2011

Charles Lavenson


A mountain biker on a path frequented by families and hikers had to wait about a half hour for law enforcement to show up to a 911 call of a dead, battered body he discovered at the base of Cerro San Luis Mountain in San Luis Obispo, several sources have told CalCoastNews.

Witnesses said Charles Lavenson, 63, was last seen less than an hour before a man discovered his body leading some to question if a quicker response time could have led to an arrest.

Sources tell CalCoastNews that the delayed response occurred because of a jurisdictional debate between the San Luis Obispo Police Department and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department.

Portions of Cerro San Luis Mountain are in the city of San Luis Obispo while other portions are in the county and under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s department. And while the bicyclist allegedly called 911 at about 4:25 p.m., police officers did not arrive until 5:09 p.m., partially because dispatchers were unable to decide which agency  should be called.

As a result, there was a delay in notifying law enforcement. The San Luis Obispo police log shows the call finally came at 4:53 p.m., with police arriving at the area of Lincoln Street and Mountain View at 5:09 p.m. Sheriff deputies were also called at 4:53 p.m. and arrived before San Luis Obispo Police officers at 4:59 p.m. to the area of  Higuera and Marsh streets, according to the log.

Sources tell CalCoastNews more than a half hour after the original 911 call was made, a lone officer approached the bicyclists, was led to the body, and said, “He’s dead.”

The first press release announcing the death says that both police and sheriff were dispatched to the scene at the same time.

“Due to the suspicious nature of the death and injuries, San Luis Obispo Police Detectives and the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Coroner responded to the location,” the San Luis Obispo Police Department’s release says.

Officials from the sheriff’s department claim that there was no argument over jurisdiction nor was there a delay in response time.

“There was no fight over jurisdiction,” said Rob Bryn, SLO Sheriff department spokesman. “It is their case. I do not think it took them an hour to respond, but I don’t know.”

San Luis Obispo Police Lt. Jeffrey Smith has failed to return numerous requests for information about the alleged delay.




  1. cheseburger says:

    Hell the guy was dead, I would rather try saving the living then tend to the dead.

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    • hincapie says:

      what happened to Charles?
      I run by his death site almost every day wondering, “What happened to Charles and why aren’t there more details regarding his murder?”
      SLO PD and Sheriff dept were slow to respond. After responding,who took responsibility to uncover this mystery? Who is working on this case? It has been almost three months since his death – is this now old news? Or maybe it’s because he wasn’t a BIG figure in our community? Can you imagine the work in progress if, say, Dave Romero was found the same way Charles was found…and responded to 45+ minutes later? I question the actions by 911, slopd and sheriff…whose jurisdiction was more important that a mans life; a murdered mans life.
      I suppose we will never know what happened to Charles. In the meanwhile, hopefully something will be done about 911 response time – dead or alive, 45 minutes is far too long no matter WHOSE jurisdiction it is.

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  2. Bob says:

    My experiences with 911 calls answered by the CHP have taught me that CHP dispatchers are rude & unprofessional, assuming you get past the busy signal and they answer the call!

    I learned long ago to keep my local agencies direct phone numbers on speed dial.

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