911 call made after Ruthanne Lodato’s fatal shooting in Alexandria reveals chaos

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post - A photograph of Ruthanne Lodato greets mourners during funeral services on Feb. 15 at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Alexandria.

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In the moments after a gunman opened fire on a beloved Alexandria music teacher and her mother’s caregiver, the caregiver ran to a neighbor’s house and said the intruder was still in the home, according to a recording of the 911 call released Wednesday.

The recording, released to The Washington Post in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, highlights the chaos and confusion that took hold in Alexandria almost from the moment Ruthanne Lodato, 59, was fatally shot and her mother’s caregiver shot and wounded.

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AUDIO: Alexandria officials released this 911 recording on Wednesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

AUDIO: Alexandria officials released this 911 recording on Wednesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

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By the neighbor’s account to the 911 dispatcher, he tried to get the caregiver to come into his home, but she ran back to Lodato’s home. Based on bits of information from her, the neighbor told the dispatcher that the intruder in Lodato’s home was a woman and, at one point, said she was on the floor.

He was probably actually describing Lodato, whom police say was fatally wounded after the gunman — described as a balding, older white man with a beard — knocked on Lodato’s door on Ridge Road Drive about 11:30 a.m. Feb. 6 and began shooting when she and the caregiver answered .

The killing shocked Lodato’s friends and family members and the greater Alexandria community, where nearly everyone, it seemed, knew Lodato. The lifelong resident came from a prominent family with deep roots in the city, and she had taught music to hundreds of children over the years.

Police have said they have no suspects or motive and are looking into whether it may be connected to other crimes in the city, including the 2003 slaying of Nancy Dunning, who was the wife of Sheriff James Dunning, and the November killing of Ronald Kirby, the director of transportation planning at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. They have released a composite sketch of the bearded man and have said they are following up on hundreds of tips.

The 911 call does not seem to shed any light on the investigation, although it does offer some new details about the moments after the attack. The neighbor first tells a dispatcher that the caregiver “just ran over and told me there’s an intruder in the house.” He never says anyone was shot.

The neighbor stays calm throughout the call, which lasted about 61 / 2 minutes, even as the scene around him grows increasingly hectic. He tells an exasperated dispatcher that the caregiver went back to the house, saying she “ran off while I wasn’t looking.” He says he is taking Lodato’s elderly mother to his own house to get her out of the cold.

Lodato’s mother, Mary Lucy Giammittorio, 89, can be heard on the recording saying she was in her bedroom, but she seems not to have realized or comprehended what happened.

“I heard the dog barking, and the doorbell rang, and she went to the door for me, my caretaker, and then I heard a lot of barking and a lot of noise,” she says. “I was in my bedroom and I went and looked. . . . But that . . . door’s open . . . the front door was open, and this is my caretaker that came and got me then.”

As the dispatcher presses for details about the intruder, the neighbor says she is female. At one point, relaying bits of information from Giammittorio and the caregiver, whom he describes as “hysterical,” he says the intruder is “I guess, in the living room.” The caregiver can be heard in the background saying something about someone “in the house.”

Officers soon arrive at the scene, and the dispatcher hangs up. Police have said they quickly utilized police dogs and a helicopter to search for the gunman.

The neighbor declined to comment for this article. Crystal Nosal, an Alexandria police spokeswoman, said police could not comment on the tape because detectives considered it a piece of evidence.

 
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