‘This will teach you:’ Police receive death threats over 911 call from woman who died in flood

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FORT SMITH, Ark. — Officers with the Fort Smith Police Department were receiving death threats after a 911 call from a woman who died during flash flooding was released.

Aric Mitchell with the Fort Smith Police Department said the department received death threats across all platforms, including written messages and phone calls.

“There isn’t anything that would rise to a threat level of concern, as most appear to be from out-of-state and include no specificity,” Mitchell said.

The 911 audio recordings and body camera footage from Fort Smith police officers during their efforts to try and save Debra Stevens from flash flooding were released — .those of Stevens’ last dying moments.

Stevens died around 6 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 on Kinkead Avenue while delivering papers.

The 911 dispatcher, Donna Reneau, told Stevens, “This will teach you. Next time, don’t drive in the water. How you didn’t see it — you had to go right over it.”

Fort Smith Interim Police Chief Danny Baker released the following statement about the events:

“I am heartbroken for this tragic loss of life, and my prayers are with Debra’s family and friends. All of our first responders who attempted to save Mrs. Stevens are distraught over the outcome. For every one of us, saving lives is at the very core of who we are and why we do what we do. When we are unsuccessful, it hurts.”

Baker also addressed Reneau’s actions, saying, “The manner that she spoke during this conversation would have probably been addressed, but it would have been more a rudeness quality type service complaint. I don’t think it would have risen to the level of terminating someone.”

Reneau, a certified dispatch trainer for new employees, put in her two weeks’ notice before this, and the call came on her last day and final shift. She was named Fire Dispatcher of the Year in February.

“We can’t investigate someone who no longer works here,” Baker said. “However, an investigation into our policies, our responses, our dispatch center, I’ve talked to the fire chief. We are looking at what we can do to increase training for our dispatchers, swift water rescues, and other things,” Baker said.

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