Hiding in the dark outside moments after her brother shot both of her parents in the family’s home, a 31-year-old woman called 911.
She said she didn’t know if her parents were alive, and she didn’t know if her brother was going for her next.
“My brother just shot my mom and my dad,” Avery Cato whispered Tuesday evening, begging the 911 dispatcher to send help.
Dispatchers got the call at 6:11 p.m. Tuesday, moments after Harrison Cato, 35, killed Bennie and Ava Cato and later turned the gun on himself, police spokesman Eric Barnes said Wednesday.
The shootings raised the number of domestic homicides in the city this month to five, out of nine total homicides, interim Police Chief Wayne Bewley said.
On Wednesday, Bewley and Mayor Frank Scott Jr. urged the public to report incidents of domestic problems, saying the best way to prevent such situations from escalating is to report early.
“We all play a role in crime and crime prevention,” Scott said. “We all have a responsibility as citizens of Little Rock that we help curb this violence.”
When officers arrived Tuesday night at 3501 Dorset Drive, Bennie and Ava Cato were dead. Their son would die less than an hour later from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
When Avery Cato called 911, she didn’t know any of that yet.
“Do you know if your parents are still alive?” a 911 dispatcher asked her, according to the call recording.
“I don’t know,” Cato said. “He shot them in the house, in the kitchen. … I ran out of the house.”
She ran two houses down, leaving the front door open and the stove on in the kitchen. She had been cooking dinner for her mother, father and brother, who lived together in the brick home.
Cato told a dispatcher that she was standing in the shadows of another house, hiding from her brother. He hadn’t left the house, she said, and she didn’t know what he was going to do.
The dispatcher stayed on the phone with Cato for more than 10 minutes while police arrived and began searching the house. The dispatcher repeatedly told Cato that she was sorry, that Cato needed to breathe and that help was on its way.
“Stay calm for me, OK?” the dispatcher said. “We’ve got help coming as fast as we can. Where are you hiding?”
Before she could answer, a gunshot fired, loud and echoing despite the distance.
“OK ma’am?,” the dispatcher asked, her voice rising. “What’s that?”
When Cato responded, she whispered so quietly that her words were hard to discern.
“That’s my brother.”
Someone had placed purple and red flowers next to the front door at 3501 Dorset Drive on Wednesday beneath photos of Bennie and Ava Cato. The neighborhood was quiet, and the officers who had flooded the area the night before were gone.
Bennie and Ava Cato married young. Ava was 18 and Bennie was 19 when they wed in June 1976. They had at least three children: Harrison and two younger daughters, who were twins.
Bennie Cato was listed as an Entergy relay technician in a 1993 public service commission filing, and Ava Cato is listed as a provider of network operations staff member for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, according to a regional map of employees.
In 2001, the couple bought the land where they would build their home, according to Pulaski County records. Two years later, their two-story brick house was complete.
Harrison Cato was married in 2008, but the couple filed for divorce fewer than two years later. His then-wife filed for a one-year protection order against him, according to court records. The request was denied because the wife did not file charges against Harrison Cato.
Harrison Cato was arrested in July 2016 on a charge of third-degree domestic battery, according to court records.
Ava Cato filed for an order of protection against her son in 2012, though the judge declined to grant it. The reason for the denial was not listed in the dismissal order.
According to Avery Cato, Harrison was living with his parents when he killed them.
Bewley said the recent rise in domestic homicides is unlike other crimes, such as retaliatory or gang-related violence. The private nature of domestic issues makes policing and preventing such violence difficult, he said.
“I think it would be remiss of us to not mention that many domestic violence victims are reluctant to come forward,” Bewley said. “Our call of action to the public is if you see something, say something.”
Of the nine homicides in January, Bewley said officers have either arrested someone or identified a suspect in eight. In seven of the nine deaths, the victims knew their killer, he said.
Scott directed residents seeking help in domestic abuse situations to the Police Department’s crisis intervention hot line and victim services program. The Little Rock Police Department has a crisis intervention hot line that’s always in service and can be reached at (800) 332-4443 or (501) 376-3219. The victim services program is run locally by city employees, Bewley said, and can be reached at (501) 371-4357.
Nationally, one in four women and one in nine men are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
In 2017, Arkansas ranked sixth in the nation in the number of women murdered by men, according to the Violence Policy Center, and has consistently ranked in the top 15 in past studies.
Everyone, Scott said, has been affected or knows someone who has been affected by domestic abuse.
Before the end of her 911 call Tuesday night, Avery Cato flagged down one of the responding officers.
“Officer, please,” she said. “How are my parents?”
The officer spoke to her for a moment before turning to someone in the background, saying “That was her parents.”
Cato began to sob into the phone. Before she hung up, though, she spoke once more to the dispatcher.
“Thank you, ma’am,” she said to the voice that had listened to her for more than 10 minutes and tried to calm her when her breathing became quick and shallow. The dispatcher never gave her name.
“Thank you, ma’am,” the dispatcher replied. “I’ll be praying for you.”
Metro on 01/31/2019
Print Headline: Alarm raised as Little Rock domestic killings rise to 5 in month; 911 call released in latest homicides
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