Police release 911 tape from SF fatal dog mauling incident

The Associated Press
Thursday April 04, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — An elderly neighbor frantically called police as Diane Whipple was fatally mauled outside her apartment door, saying she was too afraid to intervene, according to a tape of her 911 calls. 

The 10-minute tape was not used in the trial of Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel, the dogs’ caretakers, who were convicted on all five counts they faced in the mauling. Jurors didn’t hear the tape, released by police Tuesday, because it was deemed inadmissable hearsay. 

The recording begins with Esther Birkmaier’s first call on Jan. 26, 2001, about seven minutes after the dogs Bane and Hera began attacking Whipple, a 33-year-old lacrosse coach. 

“Yes, I’m just a wreck,” the 75-year-old woman said. “Please send police ... We have two dogs rampaging out in the hall up on the sixth floor and I think they have — their — even their owner cannot control them. They are huge.” 

“OK, the owner knows that the dogs are in the hallway?” the dispatcher asked. 

“I think they’re attacking the owner too, I reckon — she’s screaming right now, and I don’t dare open the door ’cause the dogs are huge.” 

“Please hurry!” she continued. “I hear her screaming and I don’t dare open the door, these dogs are ferocious.” 

The dispatcher then reports not an attack, but that the dogs are out of control. 

A second 911 call was made by David Kuenzi of New York, staying with a friend in the building. He said he heard a woman screaming and a dog barking and feared someone was under attack. 

“I’m going to go up and see what the hell is going on,” Kuenzi said. 

“I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t go up there because you never know what you might get into,” the dispatcher replied, promising help was on the way. 

Still, the police had not yet arrived and the attack had been going on for a dozen minutes. Trapped behind her chained door, Birkmaier called 911 again. 

“I called five minutes ago, we have two ferocious dogs on the loose at 2398 Pacific,” she frantically said. 

“So you’ve already called us?” 


“We’re on our way ma’am, you just have to be patient. You only called five minutes ago.” 

Thirty seconds later, at 4:12 p.m., seven minutes after Birkmaier’s first call, the first two officers arrived. They urgently called for an ambulance and animal control officers. 

It was too late for Whipple, who died that night. 

Knoller, who was with the dogs during the attack, could get 15 years to life for second-degree murder. She and Noel could get four years in prison on the other charges, including manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog that killed someone. Their sentencing is May 10.