"The subject is on fire," the police dispatcher said.

"It will be a minute before I am en route," veteran officer Mark Dawson replied.

Eight minutes then passed before Dawson arrived on the scene of the motorcycle accident.

Every minute is precious when a person suffers life-threatening injuries. Every minute can make a difference between life and death.

Dawson heard the call, heard it was a personal injury motorcycle accident, heard that the subject was on fire, knew that it was in his patrol area.

Yet he didn't go directly, as quickly as possible, to the accident site.

Dawson was with another on-duty officer in the other officer's squad car at the time the call came in to dispatch, 6:24 a.m. Tuesday, July 23, according to Anderson Police Chief Tony Watters. Dawson and the other officer then returned to police headquarters in downtown Anderson, Watters said.

Dawson later told supervisors he had personal business to take care of before responding to the call, according to the police chief.

But what "personal business" could have possibly approached the importance of hustling to help a person engulfed in flames?

When the call came in, Dawson and the other officer could have, should have, gone directly to the scene. Instead, they took the time to stop at headquarters so that Dawson could drive to the accident scene in his own squad car.

Police have not divulged Dawson's location when the call from dispatch came in. Perhaps the police station was on his way to the accident scene. But, even at that, the time to stop and change cars cost critical seconds, probably minutes, when Dawson should have been on the scene.

From police headquarters to the accident scene — Raible Avenue and 25th Street — is a 3-mile, 8-minute drive, according to Google Maps. But a police officer with lights flashing could surely cover the distance in less than five minutes.

Firefighters and another officer arrived on the scene before Dawson. He almost certainly should have been first, given that the accident happened on his beat.

The motorcyclist, Chase Kumkoski, 23, died. A preliminary crash investigation showed he was speeding northbound on Raible Avenue when he ran a red light and crashed into a westbound SUV in the intersection.

If Dawson had arrived on the scene as quickly as he should have, would Kumkoski still be alive? It's impossible to say.

According to Chief Watters, Dawson has been verbally reprimanded and a written report has been placed in his personnel file.

"We accept responsibility for this incident," Watters said in an article published Wednesday in The Herald Bulletin, "and we have taken preventative measures to make sure it doesn't happen again."

That's of little solace to Kumkoski's family.

"Whatever personal and written reprimand, that's not enough," his mother, Brandy Neff, said in the Wednesday article. "I will make sure that this never happens again. ... Nothing is going to bring my son back, but it might help someone else."

Neff's angst is exacerbated by other failures of police at the scene.

Officers neglected to notify the coroner for more than an hour, and all the while Kumkoski's body, partially covered by a tarp, couldn't be moved. Watters said there was miscommunication between firefighters and police. But Anderson Fire Department Chief Dave Cravens said it's always the police department's responsibility in such situations to notify the coroner.

While Neff waited agonized behind the yellow police tape for the coroner's arrival, officers were callous and unsympathetic toward her, she says.

"I waited three hours before I knew for sure my son was dead," she told The Herald Bulletin. "I was like, 'Why can't you tell me? Why can't somebody tell me? ...

"There's a dead boy, there's my dead son, lying on the ground, and nobody cared. My son is not a freaking dead animal on the side of the road like he didn't even matter. They have no regard for life. None."

No doubt, Neff was hysterical at the scene.

No doubt, police were just trying to do their job.

But, in this case, they did it poorly.

Their job is to show up as quickly as possible when it's a life-or-death situation.

Their job is to call the coroner promptly when circumstances warrant.

Their job is to treat family and other members of the public with respect and courtesy at crime scenes and elsewhere.

From the moment that dispatch said, "The subject is on fire," Anderson police failed miserably to do their job.

More online

To read related news articles, search for "Chase Kumkoski" at heraldbulletin.com.

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