It’s hard to say who’s at fault, and the mother of a dead son is pointing fingers at both the Bexar County Fire Marshall and the apartment complex in which the victim lived when a locked gate stopped emergency medical personnel from saving Chris Clingan’s life last year. The 22-year-old man was stabbed multiple times by his roommate before calling 911 and asking for help to hurry to his aid. Despite Bexar County deputies, EMS and firefighters being on scene within minutes to the Regency at Overlook Canyon, Clingan still lay dying in his apartment while the first responders sat on the other side of a locked gate that surrounded the community according to this KSAT report online. And while Clingan’s mother hasn’t filed a lawsuit, her vocal protests of the event has San Antonio lawyers wondering how a case might play out in court, and whether it would be one that would involve both the city and multiple apartment complexes in the area.
It’s been a year since her son’s death, but Babbette Clingan “is haunted by her son’s dying words and she can’t stop listening to them” from the 911 dispatch recording in which Clingan asks for help for the last time. Babbette Clingan is outraged that despite local requirements that all gated residential communities allow “first responders to use their sirens to open the gate in about three seconds,” no help came for her son. Instead of waiting outside, where a dispatcher’s “desperate attempt to reach Clingan” was recorded saying, “I need a gate code. We already have people there, we’re just needing the gate code to get in,” they should have been able to get in quickly using the “siren-operated sensor system (SOS).”
So what went wrong?
San Antonio lawyers and journalists following the trail of events would be sorting through statements by Bexar County Fire Marshall Craig Roberts, whose job it is to enforce SOS law compliance, and who originally stated that the “apartment complex didn’t have an SOS, but it turns out the gate was equipped with one and the first responders had two more ways to get in.” Information like this would only make Babbette Clingan feel ill that her son’s life was seemingly so senselessly lost. Apparently Regency at Overlook Canyon had “an SOS and they had both a Knox key operating system and a manual override gate,” Fire Marshall Roberts has said. So why the first responder failure, San Antonio lawyers and Clingan might be asking?
It turns out to be something of a heartbreaking administrative error, when the name of the apartment complex was changed, but the county dispatch records weren’t updated, so the first responders didn’t have all the information when they arrived. San Antonio lawyers like S. Lee Stevenson say that accountability in instances like this is tricky and complex, and Roberts has said that the coordination between multiple kinds of gate locks in communities, apartment company management ignorance of the SOS law, and gate maintenance can often interfere with first responders ability to trigger the SOS, even when first responders are informed and ready.
Babbette Clingan is getting louder about her loss and putting gated communities into compliance, hoping that “him dying will open up people’s eyes that it’s something that is a necessity, it’s crucial to saving lives.”