Daughter's 911 call for pizza was actually a domestic violence report. The dispatcher knew

Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY
Smartphone screen with the emergency number 911 dialed – Person calling the support service phone line asking for help

When dispatcher Tim Teneyck answered the 911 call, he was confused by the caller's request: a pizza order. 

"This is the wrong number to call for a pizza," he told the caller.

But the caller insisted, and soon Teneyck realized what was going on: Someone needed help.

The incident led to a domestic violence arrest, and authorities in Oregon, Ohio, praised Teneyck for his quick thinking, which helped a woman and her mother who needed a discreet way to call for police assistance.

"This dispatcher did a great job," Oregon Police Chief Michael Navarre said. 

Audio of the call, which came in last week, was published by the Toledo Blade:

"Oregon 911," Teneyck says.

"I would like to order a pizza," the woman responds, giving her address.

"You called 911 to order a pizza?" Teneyck replies.

"Uh, yeah," she replies, giving her apartment number.

"This is the wrong number to call for a pizza," the dispatcher says.

"No," she repeats multiple times. Then it clicks for Teneyck.

"I'm getting you now. I got it," Teneyck says.

According to Navarre, the caller's mother's boyfriend returned home intoxicated and began assaulting the mother. The woman who called 911 "knew she would not be able to do that in his presence," he said.

Teneyck told WTVG-TV that he had never received a call like this in 14 years of working as a dispatcher.

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"You see it on Facebook, but it's not something that anybody has ever been trained for. We're just trained to listen," Teneyck told the station.

The dispatcher said his intuition kicked in and allowed him to understand what was happening.

Teneyck asked the woman simple "yes or no" questions to get the necessary information without raising suspicions, Navarre noted, praising his work.

"Turn your sirens off before you get there. Caller ordered a pizza and agreed with everything I said that there's domestic violence going on," Teneyck said over police radio.

According to a police report of the incident, Simon Lopez, 56, was arrested and charged with domestic violence. Lopez denied hitting the woman, according to the arrest report. The Toledo Blade reported that he remained in jail on bond.

"When you answer the 911 lines, you don’t know what’s going to happen," Teneyck told the newspaper, adding that the woman who called "did everything right."

The situation is similar to a Super Bowl ad in 2015 that depicted a woman calling 911 during a domestic violence situation when she was unable to tell the dispatcher what was going on.

"Sometimes you have play the hand you're dealt," said Harriet Rennie-Brown, executive director of the National Association of State 911 Administrators.

"The caller is doing the best they can ordering the pizza," she said. It's on the 911 operators to "hear inflections in voice and to realize this isn't a prank call."

"It is a tough situation to be able to extrapolate a lot of information form a very small source of data," she said.

An Associated Press story last year debunked a myth that all dispatchers are trained to recognize the pizza call as a cry for help.

"Setting any expectations of secret phrases that will work with any 911 center is potentially very dangerous," Christopher Carver, dispatch center operations director for the National Emergency Number Association, told the AP.

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Navarre said he hopes the situation shines a light on the fact that 911 operators can respond to unconventional calls and that there are alternative methods to get help.

He said creating a code word with a friend is one way to reach out for help while being discreet. Rennie-Brown said some 911 call centers have text options, which are often used for domestic violence cases. The Oregon, Ohio, 911 line cannot receive texts, Teneyck told The Washington Post.

Rennie-Brown said calling 911 and putting a phone in your pocket so the dispatcher can hear what is happening may be an option. 

When these options aren't available, it may require a sharp dispatcher, Rennie-Brown said. These situations require "somebody who is intuitive and can hear a tremor in somebody's voice and hear the insistence to hear that the person is saying, 'My mom is getting beat up and I need your help.' "

Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 911 pizza call in Ohio was domestic violence report: Police