I Have Just Committed a Father’s Worst Sin.
Pamela Mandery answered the phone when a Puyallup man called 911 about 3:30 a.m. March 24 to say he had shot his son and daughter and was going to kill himself.
The 43-year-old dispatcher at the City of Puyallup communications center used her roughly 20 years of experience to repeatedly tell the man to put down his gun, cooperate with police and not hurt himself or anyone else.
Michael League, 69, was safely taken into custody minutes later. His wife and two young grandchildren were unharmed. His son and his daughter died.
Few who listen to the recording of the call would dispute that Mandery’s directions and composure kept the tragedy from escalating further.
Q: Walk us through that shift, from the start of the day to the end.
A: The day itself was just a typical day. You get calls from all ranges, from simple noise complaints to some priority calls, but you never expect something of this magnitude. When it happened, it did change the com center, that’s for sure.
Q. What changed?
A. We had an incredible team that night, and everybody has their jobs to do. I took the call, I entered it into the computer and then it sends it to the dispatcher, who sends it to the units. Nothing stops. We still had other stuff. We had to have someone take over my radio so I could focus on that (the call). Everyone worked together to make the outcome the way it was. It wasn’t just one single person, for sure.
Q. When you get a call like that, what’s your first priority?
A. Your heart sinks, and then your mind turns to: “You have to switch, you have to focus on the task at hand.” Your training and experience kicks in. My priority first and foremost is officer safety. And then I need to focus on other people, make sure nobody else is getting hurt, or that he doesn’t harm himself.
Q. When you find out there are children in the house, how does that change what you do?
A. It’s definitely hard not to get emotionally involved, but you really have to separate yourself. There’s more of a focus: “Now I need to make sure these other people don’t get hurt, and make sure I am talking with him and he is communicating with me.” That way I can have him listen to what I need to tell him to do, and hopefully he does it.
Q. The way you remain calm during the call and repeatedly give him instructions, is that your training?
A. That’s what we’re all trained to do. If you don’t have that calmness, it could change the outcome and how he reacts. Me getting upset isn’t going to help the situation. My job is to talk him out of doing what he wanted to do, and the only way to do that is to try to remain calm and get him to listen. I had to focus on that.
Q. Describe your training.
A. It is constantly a learning atmosphere. I can’t say in 20 years I’ve ever taken the call that somebody said: “I just shot two people and I want to kill myself.” You definitely can’t prepare yourself for something like that, but you do what you’ve got to do to make sure they get the help that they need. You hope you made a difference, but it doesn’t always work that way. In this case, he didn’t harm anyone else after he called and he didn’t harm himself, and no officers were hurt. So that’s what was important on my side of it.
Q. What happens after you finish a call?
A. That is one of the hardest parts. You do get that adrenaline and you’re working, and then when the officers get on scene, you disconnect and you’re done and they take over. Then you have the adrenaline dump. You don’t get that closure. A lot of officers are good at keeping us posted afterward, because they know how important it is to have closure, so that way we can process it.
Q. Did you connect with them after this call?
A. I made sure to follow up the next day. It’s important that we do follow-up together and get the whole picture. If I need to talk to somebody, I have no problem calling them up and getting some answers.
Q: Do you follow cases as they are prosecuted, or watch media coverage of calls you take?
A: Different calls affect you differently. A lot of different things happened in this call. I tried not to watch the media too much, but I do have questions, and I want to know what happens. I’m just very selective.
Q: At the end of that day, did you go home to your family? What happened after?
A: I was fortunate that I was off a couple hours later. I go to the gym after work, so that was my outlet at the time. And then I have two little grandchildren that I just love on, so I had them come over. That makes it all better.
Q: When you come in for work the next day, does it just start all over?
A: Emergencies don’t stop. You finish your shift, you continue taking calls. There are resources, if something affects any of us. They will make sure we’re taken care of. After a critical incident, we make sure we get enough sleep, get enough exercise, eat right, take care of ourselves. We’re pretty good at knowing what we need to do to make sure everything is OK.
Q: Did you have a shift the next day?
A: Yes. It’s part of the job.
Q: What do you think the public should know about your job?
A: It takes an incredibly unique person to do it, and we are definitely a special group that is a very integral part of the first responders. Dispatchers as a whole are a vital link to these types of calls. We’re the anonymous voice.
ANYBODY WANT TO GUESS HOW MUCH TIME THIS MAN GOT FOR DOUBLE MURDER
A 69-year-old Puyallup man who shot his two adult children to death as they slept in his home last year was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.
Pierce County prosecutors had recommended a 31-year sentence for Michael League, who will turn 70 next month.
But Superior Court Judge Garold Johnson decided to give League a drastically reduced sentence after the defendant’s attorney, family and friends recounted the “living hell” victims Dennis League and Danielle Faucett put their parents through for years.
Dennis League, 46, was an alcoholic, Faucett, 43, a schizophrenic who abused drugs. They stole from their parents, berated them almost constantly and physically abused them, witnesses testified.
"Nobody could live like they were living,” family friend Donna McArthur said of Michael and Jo Ann League. “You can’t imagine what they went through.”
On March 24, League retrieved his .22-caliber pistol and shot his children in the head after he and his wife returned from a getaway to the ocean to discover police had been to their home to investigate a fight while they’d been gone. It was the 167th time police had been to the house over the years, mostly to deal with Dennis League and Faucett, witnesses testified Thursday.
Michael League used a pillow to muffle the sound so as to not wake his wife and two young grandsons, who were in the house at the time. He then called 911 to report he’d “committed a father’s worst sin,” court records show.
Prosecutors charged him with two counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of second-degree murder as part of a plea deal. As part of the deal, prosecutors said they’d seek a 31-year sentence but wouldn’t oppose League’s request for a sentence below the standard range.
Defense attorney Mary K. High made that pitch Thursday. She described the Leagues as good parents who did all they could to care for their children, even after they chose wrong paths in life.
“They provided rehab, treatment, places to live,” High said. “They would even drive their children to appointments and make sure the mental-health professionals could come to the house to have a meeting.”
They were repaid with abuse that escalated over the years, she said.
“In Mike’s mind … there was nothing else he could do that would protect his beloved wife, who he loves so very much,” said High, who suggested incarceration of no more than four years. League’s family and friends wanted him released with credit for time served.
Jo Ann League told Johnson her husband was “pushed over the edge by all the trauma, violence and chaos in our home.” She asked the judge to show mercy and release League, who suffers from numerous illnesses.
“He’s already going to be in jail for the rest of his life, feeling bad for what he did,” she said. “He’s absolutely broken-hearted. So am I.”
Two of Michael League’s grandchildren, including Dennis League’s daughter Kayla, testified on their grandfather’s behalf.
“I just want my grandpa to come home and get the treatment he needs,” she said through tears.
Michael League wept throughout the hearing, including when he was given a chance to speak.
“I do not cry for myself. I cry for my children, my wife, my family and my friends,” he said. “I take full responsibility for what I did. I loved my children when they were born. I love them now, and I always will love them, no matter what happened. I will never forget my children, and I will live to regret what I did for the rest of my life.”
The judge took the lunch break to formulate League’s sentence.
Once court resumed, Johnson began by reminding everyone that two people were dead, killed at their father’s hands.
“There were alternatives,” the judge said, including seeking professional help in getting Dennis League and Faucett out of the house. “Murder is not easier. It is not acceptable. It is criminal.” But Johnson went on to say League’s crimes were mitigated by the behavior of his children, who, in essence, he ruled, committed years of domestic violence against the defendant and Jo Ann League.
“There was a pattern, certainly of emotional abuse and physical abuse to some extent,” the judge said. “There was a pattern of theft and deception and emotional abuse … that very few could probably tolerate over the years.
“The court does find, to a significant degree, the victims, both of them, provoked this incident.”
Johnson then sentenced League to two five-year terms, to run concurrently, and awarded him credit for the nearly year he’s already served in jail awaiting the resolution of his case. League turned then turned his family and friends, patted his heart with his hand and smiled through his tears.
“Way to go, Michael,” one of his supporters yelled before jailers led League off to serve out his sentence.