A terrified woman from Josephine County, Oregon, dialed 911 to report that her violent ex-boyfriend is trying to break into her home, but in response she was told that there are no officers on duty to help her.
The cash-strapped sheriff’s department in the county had been forced to lay off 23 of its 29 deputies after losing millions in federal aid. The remaining six officers had their shifts slashed to eight hours Monday through Friday.
Unfortunately for the woman faced with an out-of-control jilted lover, her 911 call came on a Saturday.
Eventually, the crazed man forced his way into the house, choked his former girlfriend and raped her without no one there to stop him.
The suspect, Michael Bellah, was later arrested and pleaded guilty to kidnapping, assault and sex abuse.
The details of her horrific ordeal last August emerged on Tuesday after voters in Josephine and Curry counties with the lowest property taxes in the state turned down tax increases that would have increased the number of officers on the force.
Even if the county residents were to approve the levy, which would have raised taxes from 59 cents to $1.48 per $1,000 of property value for the next three years, it would have been too late for one local woman.
At 4.58am on August 18, the Cave Junction resident called 911 to report an emergency.
‘My ex-boyfriend is trying to break into my house. I’m not letting him in but he’s like, tried to break down the door and he’s tried to break into one of the windows,’ the unnamed victim told the dispatcher.
The woman explained that her ex-boyfriend, Michael Bellah, had put her in the hospital just weeks prior, and she has been trying to keep him away.
Because the number of deputies at Josephine County’s Sheriff’s Department had been cut following the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act – a multimillion- dollar annual federal aid payment for timber-producing counties – the remaining officers were only available 8am to 4pm Monday through Friday.
Since the incident report came on a Saturday, the dispatcher transferred the call to the state police.
But the officer who picked up the phone at the Oregon State Police headquarters in Grants Pass that morning was not much help either, OPB.com reported.
‘Uh, I don’t have anybody to send out there. You know, obviously, if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away? Do you know if he’s intoxicated or anything?’ the officer, who identified himself as Ray, told the caller.
The woman explained that she has already asked Bellah to leave and warned him that she was going to call police, but that did nothing to stop him from trying to break down the door – something he had done in the past, according to the girlfriend.
The state police dispatcher stayed on the phone with the woman for more than 10 minutes, during which time she told the operator that there is already a warrant out for Bellah’s arrest.
‘Once again it’s unfortunate you guys don’t have any law enforcement out there,’ Ray the dispatcher could be heard telling the frightened woman.
‘Yeah, it doesn’t matter. If he gets in the house, I’m done,’ she says in reply.
According to police records, a few minutes later, Bellah used a piece of metal to pry open the front door.
He then proceeded to choke his former girlfriend before sexually assaulting her. Later that day, he was arrested by the state police.
Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said that due to lack of funding , residents of the county are not guaranteed protection in case of an emergency simply because there are not enough deputies on hand to respond to every call.
‘There isn’t a day go by that we don’t have another victim,’ Gilbertson told NPR.
Through her attorney, the woman who made the 911 call in August said in a statement she felt hopeless, alone, and very scared on that day.
She said that the tax increase could have spared other people the nightmare she had to live through.
However, residents of Josephine County decided on Tuesday to reject the three-year levy to raise $9.1million a year by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, which would have increased their property taxes.
The county, population 83,000, is looking at further cuts that would leave just one sheriff’s deputy on patrol and an even smaller jail to hold suspects awaiting trial.