Man in wheelchair who was killed had gun; mother calls shooting ‘unjust’: Police
WILMINGTON, Del. — The police shooting of a man in a wheelchair was “unjust,” his mother said Thursday, but authorities described a different scenario, saying the man was pulling a handgun from his waist when officers shot him to death.
The shooting happened on a narrow street in Wilmington on Wednesday around 3 p.m. (1900 GMT). Officers responded to an emergency call from a man who had shot himself, and when they arrived, 28-year-old Jeremy McDole was “still armed with a handgun,” Police Chief Bobby Cummings said at a news conference.
McDole’s mother, Phyllis McDole, interrupted the briefing.
“He was in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. There’s video showing that he didn’t pull a weapon … I need answers,” she said.
Cummings said officers approached McDole and told him to put the weapon down. As McDole was removing the gun from his waist, officers “engaged him.”
“I assure you that not one of those officers intended to take anyone’s life that day,” Cummings said.
Video of the shooting posted online, which the chief said appeared to be authentic, shows an officer approaching McDole with a gun drawn, shouting “show me your hands” and “drop the gun.” Other officers then appear in the video with their guns drawn, yelling similar commands.
McDole moves around in his wheelchair and reaches into his jeans, but it’s unclear from the video what he is doing. The officers, who are not in the video at this point, fire multiple shots and McDole falls out of his wheelchair.
Cummings said he was not aware of any attempt by officers to use nonlethal force before shooting McDole. He also would not say whether he thought the situation should have been handled differently.
“Only our thorough investigation will reveal that,” he said.
The shooting is being investigated by the department’s criminal investigation and professional standards units, as well as the Delaware Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which will determine whether any officers will be charged. The state agency investigates all police shootings that result in injury or death.
Richard Smith, head of the Delaware chapter of the NAACP, called for a special prosecutor to investigate the shooting, and “to not have cops investigating cops.”
McDole’s uncle, Eugene Smith, was among a crowd of a couple dozen people who gathered Thursday at the scene of the shooting. Smith said he was with his nephew about 15 minutes before shooting and he didn’t see a gun.
“He had a book bag, but I never seen a gun,” he said. “It was an execution. That’s what it was. I don’t care if he was black, white, whatever.”
McDole was black. The race of the four officers who fired was not released. Police treatment of black men has become a major issue in the U.S. in the aftermath of killings in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere.
All four of the officers are on administrative duty. One has been on the force for 15 or more years and the others had been there for about five years, the police chief said.
Mayor Dennis Williams announced earlier this year that officers would have body cameras by the end of 2015.
At the news conference, he said: “We want answers just like you want answers.”
McDole was shot near an auto parts store in an area that includes a mix of shops and row houses.
Smith said McDole had gotten out of jail about a year ago and was living in a nursing home.
McDole has an arrest record that dates back to 2005 and includes convictions for drug possession and disorderly conduct. He was also arrested for carrying a concealed deadly weapon and resisting arrest, but those charges were dropped. In November, McDole was found to have violated his probation.
McDole was paralyzed when he was shot in the back in 2005 by a friend he had been walking around a neighbourhood with, smoking marijuana, according to court documents.