NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A 911 dispatcher under fire for a social media posting is taking responsibility for what is clearly the worst thing she has ever done in her professional career.
WAVY News' Andy Fox met Jessica Camarillo at her apartment she shares with her 14-year-old son. Together they face an unknown future.
She is full of regret for hurtful words that could not be taken back once she hit the send button.
"When they yell ‘hold the air,' and then he said ‘officer down,' I believe he said ‘the officer's been hit'…I knew it was serious," Camarillo told WAVY.com about May 20th.
Her job that day was to get Norfolk detectives to the Wells Fargo at Colonial Avenue and 21st Street.
"At the time, we didn't know," she said. "We were assuming a bullet, but I knew we needed medics out there, and needed them out there now. You hear the panic and you just know something bad has happened."
What had just happened was Joshua Omar Johnson was passing a bad check at Wells Fargo and was shot dead in his car after officers approached. One officer was in the front and one in the back. Johnson backed up his car, running over a police officer he may not have known was there.
What happened next for Jessica Camarillo, however, could cost her the best job she's ever had.
On May 21, the day after the shooting, Camarillo made a controversial Facebook post from home while off-duty.
"I think the officers should sue the family for putting the officers' lives in danger, making detectives work past the time they were supposed to get off, the gas it took for them to get to the scene, the bullets used, the hospital bills, the equipment needed for forensic and making me work the channel instead of reading my hot, sexy book…lol," the post read.
Camarillo lowered her head at parts as Fox read it to her. She cannot defend what she wrote and she doesn't want to. She knows and admits she's wrong.
"I want to apologize to the family," she said. "I know what it is like to lose loved ones. My intentions were not to hurt. It was supposed to be a joke. It is a really bad joke. It was to lighten the mood. There was a lot of anger on both sides. Not just with the family and friends, but with the officers."
If that was the goal, it backfired. It created even more tension in an already racially charged story.
"It hurt. It hurt," Park Place resident Diane Hayes told WAVY.com. Hayes told Norfolk City Council about Camarillo's post on June 11. "She is our first point of contact. If you have this type of feeling in your heart for a people, what would you do if these people called?"
One week later, Camarillo was suspended without pay with a recommendation for termination. Camarillo knows she embarrassed the City, hurt Johnson's family and says she cries every day reminding her of that.
"The [Johnson family] is already going through a lot of hurt and I want to apologize for the hurt that I've caused. I don't know what I was thinking when I made that post, I think it is clear I wasn't thinking."
When asked if she still thought the officers should sue the family, she replied, "No, no. Of course not." Fox asked if she believed the officers should sue for the bullets used to kill Johnson. "No, I don't believe that at all. No. No. It was just a really bad joke."
What about reading the hot, sexy book? Camarillo was clearly kidding about that as she added ‘lol,' which stands for ‘laughing out loud.' Fox asked if she really read a book while she is working the channel.
"No, you need both hands to type in an emergency, it is serious. One mistake could cost someone their life," she said.
Camarillo says at the time of the Johnson shooting, she was actually going through the time consuming job of logging detectives into her computer.
For those who may think Camarillo is insensitive, she wants you to know this: "That was just an insensitive joke and I know people think I am insensitive. I'm really not. You have to have the love in your heart to do this job. You have to be sensitive. You have to know what people are going through."
"I am quite sure you can tell the ethnicity by their voice, their tone, the verbiage…if you hear that you might throw me on the back burner," Hayes told WAVY.com.
"When I answer a call, I don't care if they are black, white, Hispanic, Asian. I treat everybody the same way. They need help and I'm going to get them the help," responded.
Camarillo had an investigative hearing on July 3 to try and keep her job, however, she and her union representatives claim they were shut out trying to help her in the meeting. They claim Norfolk Human Resources quoted policy that simply does not exist.
Camarillo appeared along in front of four Norfolk supervisors and a hearing reporter who took notes on the hearing. Tuesday night, Camarillo and the union representatives build the cause that Norfolk violated the tenants of due process and fundamental fairness in their treatment of Camarillo.
Stay with WAVY.com for more on this developing
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