OAKLAND, Calif. - KTVU has obtained the 911 audio from an incident at Lake Merritt that erupted into a national controversy involving a white woman -- since nicknamed “BBQ Becky” -- calling police on a two African-American men using a charcoal grill.
Most of what is in the April 29 emergency calls has already been made public. But the calls show for the first time that the woman who dialed 911 -- Jennifer Schulte -- did not want to state her race to the dispatcher, who also ended up questioning her about her mental history. The calls reveal a lengthy and terse conversation between Schulte and the dispatcher when Schulte refused to describe herself over the phone so that police could find her at Lake Merritt.
2 Investigates obtained the 911 phone calls through a California Public Records Act request that was initially denied by Oakland police. KTVU had asked for the audio in June, but only received the calls on Friday after this news agency's lawyers sent police a letter urging their more timely release. 2 Investigates was the first to report the story, both online and in its evening broadcast.
In the first phone call, Schulte tells the dispatcher, “I’d like to report that someone is illegally using a charcoal grill in a non-designated area in Lake Merritt Park near Cleveland Cascade. I’d like it dealt with immediately so that coals don’t burn more children and we have to pay more taxes.”
The male dispatcher asks for a description of the person Schulte is calling about, and whether she wants the police to make contact with her when they arrive. She says yes. The call lasts less than two minutes. The call was given a low priority, as noted by the NFD in the supplemental dispatch report. NFD means "no further description," and it's dispatcher parlance which means that the dispatcher didn't seek any more information, according to retired veteran dispatcher Rachael Herron, who worked for 19 years in three East Bay cities.
However, the followup 911 call placed by Schulte about two hours later takes a much different tone.
Michelle Snider, the woman who took the original cell phone video of the incident that went viral, can be heard in the background. Snider, who is white, is also married to Kenzie Smith, one of the African-American men who was using the grill that day. Smith had called his wife to help him out and document the interaction after Schulte called 911 on him.
The female dispatcher – who is not the same one who answered the original call – seems confused about the situation and asks Schulte, “Who’s yelling in the background? Why is the person yelling? To panic over a barbecue? I don’t understand.”
Schulte responds, “I don’t know.” And the dispatcher further asks if she can walk away from the situation, but she replies that Snider is following her.
The voice of Snider and other unidentified people in the background can be heard through much of the call, but their exact words are not always clear.
About a third of the way through the second 911 call, the dispatcher asks for Schulte’s name but she is reluctant to provide it or a description of herself when asked. Eventually she tells the dispatcher she is wearing a dark navy blue sweatshirt and jeans, and that she has shoulder-length brown hair. When the dispatcher asks for her race and age she says, “My race doesn’t matter.”
The dispatcher responds, “It does matter. How are we going to find you? Just any lady? Are you black or are you white?”
Schulte: “It doesn’t matter. I want the police to come I’ve been waiting two hours for them.”
Dispatcher: “How are they going to find you?”
Schulte: “They usually call your cell phone when they’re here.”
Dispatcher: “I’m talking to you right now. Have you ever been to John George?”
Schulte: “What’s John George?”
Dispatcher: “It’s a mental facility.”
Dispatcher: “Ok, then. Please answer my question. They’re coming to you right now.”
Schulte continues to refuse to answer and the dispatcher tells her she’s going to hang up, before Schulte finally provides the information. When asked if the people she is reporting have a gun or a knife, she tells the dispatcher she doesn't know.
The police report, also first obtained by KTVU, indicates that police evaluated Schulte for a 51-50 psychiatric hold, but ultimately determined "she didn't fit the criteria." A 51-50 in California allows a police officer or another professional to take a person into custody for up to 72 hours to evaluate their mental state and whether they are a danger to themselves or to others.
KTVU has repeatedly tried to contact Schulte, whose LinkedIn profile has now been deleted. Her online profile stated she attended Stanford University and works for an environmental firm in Oakland.
In a separate interview, Smith told KTVU that even though Schulte said "race doesn't matter," she had told him and his friend, Onsayo Abram, to get off her private property. Lake Merritt is city property.
And Smith and Abram also told KTVU that Schulte called them them the N-word and told them to get out of the park. Smith said this all occurred before he called his wife, Snider, to document what was going on. None of this alleged racist behavior was captured on video or audio. But both men have told the same story about that day at the lake.
Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan has since nominated Smith for a post on the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. In the meantime, Smith has also decided he's running for city council.
In an interview with KTVU this week, Smith said that when Schulte called 911 on him, he "feared for my survival."
KTVU's Lisa Fernandez and Brooks Jarosz contributed to this report.