GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of a man who was killed by his son has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ottawa County dispatchers, saying they were negligent when no deputies were rushed to the house after an initial 911 call the day of the murder.
The 27-page suit names the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority and seven dispatchers as the defendants. It alleges they violated James Boone’s Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, that the dispatch authority failed to properly train and supervise its dispatchers, gross negligence by the dispatchers, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death. It seeks more than $25,000 in damages.
James Boone, 64, was bludgeoned and stabbed to death by his adult son, Kenneth Boone, on Dec. 1, 2019. Dispatchers first took a call from the Boone household near Spring Lake around 6:15 a.m. that day. Kenneth Boone called to say he was “not feeling safe with my dad right now,” and saying, “Come arrest me,” a transcript of the call included in the lawsuit showed. Kenneth Boone said his father was threatening him, but James Boone then told dispatchers his son had actually threatened him.
“Ma’am, he’s threatening me. Will you hurry up?” the transcript records James Boone as saying.
He explained to dispatchers that his son had been prescribed medication to manage mental illness but had stopped taking it. He said his son had called 911 “because he knows that he could do something bad to me.”
At the time of the first call, no one had been hurt.
The suit alleges that a dispatcher twice told James Boone she was sending officers to the home.
But no one was ever sent. The Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority previously told News 8 that the call was entered into the system as a Priority 2 call and not immediately responded to because no deputies were available — they were all busy on another death investigation, a drunken driving case and weather-related traffic problems. Had the report been listed as Priority 1, dispatchers would have reached out to the sheriff’s office to ask for guidance.
At 7:24 a.m., a little more than an hour after the first call, Kenneth Boone called 911 again.
“I (expletive) killed my dad,” the transcript shows he said.
Asked how, he replied, “A (expletive) hammer.”
Kenneth Boone was soon arrested as he walked down the road near his home, covered in blood, still carrying the hammer.
James Boone was found beaten to death in the home. The lawsuit claims the assault was so violent that he was “unrecognizable.” An autopsy report included in the suit listed multiple blunt force wounds to the head and 22 stab or sharp force wounds to the torso and pelvic area.
In September 2021, Kenneth Boone pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. He died Nov. 21, 2022, after suffering a medical episode, the Michigan Department of Corrections says.
The dispatch authority told News 8 in 2019 that four employees could face discipline and that the agency was considering protocol changes about contacting the sheriff’s department directly if no one responded to a call after a certain amount of time. News 8 has not been informed as to whether any discipline was issued or any policy changes enacted.
The lawsuit accuses the dispatchers and dispatch authority of failing in their duty to protect James Boone because no deputies were sent after the first call. It says the dispatch authority failed to train employees properly and ensure the timely dispatch of deputies.
The suit was initially filed in Ottawa County Circuit Court in November but then moved to federal court because it includes accused violations of constitutional rights. It was filed in federal court Thursday.