Amid wave of calls for police reform, protesters renew attention on Jeremy McDole case

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Jeanne Kuang


Bolstered by a nationwide wave of protests against police brutality, Wilmington activists are turning renewed attention to the case of Jeremy McDole, a Black man in a wheelchair who was shot and killed by city police in 2015. 


At a march Tuesday morning through downtown Wilmington, McDole's sister demanded a reopening of the Delaware Department of Justice investigation into his killing and a change to a state law that the Justice Department found is "entirely subjective in nature" and "deferential" to police who use force.


"We will not stop," Keandra McDole said, until the officers are charged. 


Joining McDole's family was Terence Jones, a private investigator and newly appointed Criminal Justice Committee chairman for the Delaware NAACP State Conference, who said he's working on a report urging Attorney General Kathy Jennings to reopen the case. 


In a statement, Department of Justice spokesman Mat Marshall reiterated prosecutors' 2016 findings in their investigation of the McDole shooting. That report concluded Delaware law allows officers to use deadly force when believing it necessary, "whether his belief was reasonable or unreasonable." 


"In the absence of new evidence, there is currently no legal basis for the DOJ to reopen its investigation into Mr. McDole’s killing, because the law at the time of Mr. McDole’s killing governed the conduct of the officers," Marshall said. 


"The attorney general has cited the challenges of this case in her advocacy for a stronger, objective use of force standard so that the tragedy of Mr. McDole’s killing could not be repeated in Delaware."


Compared with the hundreds who marched across downtown Wilmington this month, Tuesday's protest was small. But several dozen showed up in the middle of the hot summer day, weaving through Market Street traffic and crowding the entrances to city and state office buildings on French Street. 


"Shotgun Joe has got to go," they chanted, referring to Senior Cpl. Joseph Dellose.


Dellose and others had responded to the 1800 block of Tulip St. after a person called 911 and told dispatchers that a man in a wheelchair had shot himself and that he had a gun in his hand.


Cellphone video showed McDole rubbing his knees as Dellose and three other officers moved in. Officers could be heard on the video screaming at McDole to drop his weapon.


Dellose fired at McDole with a shotgun about two seconds after ordering him to put his hands up. The report from then-Attorney General Matt Denn's office found this created uncertainty among other officers who, not knowing where the gunfire came from, also opened fire on McDole. 


Denn's office took the unusual step of singling out Dellose for "extraordinarily poor police work" and said he should not be employed by police in any role in which he would carry a firearm. 


Protesters on Tuesday wanted Dellose and the other three officers involved fired.

In fact, none of the four who shot McDole works for the Wilmington Police Department anymore — but little else is known about their tenures.


Senior Cpl. Danny Silva left the department in September 2017, Dellose in April 2018 and Cpl. Thomas Lynch this March. 


Cpl. James MacColl's last day with the department was this April after he faced an internal trial board for dishonesty in another case. The board ultimately recommended he be fired, Police Department sources told Delaware Online/The News Journal.


He was also charged with dishonesty, those sources said, for lying about changing the barrel of his department-issued gun in the shooting of 18-year-old Yahim Harris last February. Prosecutors this year dropped carjacking charges against Harris after being tipped off about that dishonesty.


Citing the state's Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, which shields many police records, including disciplinary ones, from the public, Wilmington police have declined to reveal the circumstances of any of the four officers' departures.


"Had they not kept MacColl on the force, [Harris] would not have got shot," Keandra McDole said at the protest. MacColl was initially cleared in a Department of Justice report on Harris' shooting, but a reopened investigation into his conduct is still active, Marshall said. FORGOTTEN BOARD: Wilmington has made no progress restarting civil rights commission

As part of a 2016 settlement agreement with McDole's family in which the city paid $1.5 million over his death, Wilmington officials said they would update police training and improve the department's use-of-force policy to be more in line with Seattle's, which addresses de-escalation procedures.

On Tuesday, Keandra McDole said she has not heard about these changes since police Chief Robert Tracy started in the spring of 2017.  The department recently released its use-of-force policy, dated December 2017, and said it does require de-escalation tactics as well as a "continuum" of warnings and other actions before police use deadly force.

Wilmington police spokesman David Karas refused to say which changes were made in compliance with the settlement agreement.



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