WILMINGTON, Del. – A review of a 5-year-old case where police officers fatally shot a Black man in a wheelchair has resulted in the Delaware Attorney General's Office coming to the same conclusion: the former Wilmington officers who shot Jeremy McDole will not be charged.
The conclusion was reached by the Department of Justice's Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust and was issued in a 9-page "supplement report" released Tuesday – a day shy of the five year anniversary of when Jeremy McDole was shot by four Wilmington officers.
McDole, 28, was sitting in his wheelchair when police fatally shot him after authorities received a 911 call about a man with a gun. A bystander’s cellphone footage showed officers repeatedly telling McDole to drop his weapon and raise his hands, with McDole reaching for his waist area before shots erupted.
A report from then-Attorney General Matt Denn’s office concluded that former Wilmington Police Senior Cpl. Joseph Dellose discharging his firearm created uncertainty among other responding officers who, not knowing where the gunfire came from, also opened fire on McDole. Denn’s office criticized Dellose for “extraordinarily poor police work” and said he should not carry a firearm.
But Justice Department officials still cleared the officers of wrongdoing and said evidence did not indicate they willfully used excessive force.
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This anniversary also marks when the statute of limitations runs out, meaning charges cannot be brought against the former Wilmington officers who shot McDole.
"Charging decisions under the laws at the time have not changed. Neither has our resolve for reform. We cannot undo the tragedies of the past, but we can work to prevent them from reoccurring," Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a statement.
Jennings went on to say she will continue to advocate for the establishment of a Statewide Civilian Review Board with subpoena power, mandatory statewide participation in a Do Not Hire Database and the codification of an objective use of force standard.
Keandra McDole, Jeremy's sister, said Wednesday during the 4th and final Jeremy McDole Day that she was "disappointed" by the contents of Tuesday's report.
She said she "had faith" in Jennings to at least bring assault charges against Dellose.
With the statute of limitations gone, Keandra McDole said the Justice for Jeremy McDole movement will now focus on changing a decades-old law that allows police officers to use deadly force if they believe "such force is immediately necessary" for protection.
"I want my hands in changing this law," she said. "It’s personal."
Emboldened by a nationwide movement against police brutality, multiple protests have called for the reopening of the Sept. 23, 2015, incident in which Wilmington officers fatally shot McDole.
In a meeting with Jennings earlier this year, Jones and the McDole family wanted the case reopened because of new evidence Jones said he had found. The Justice Department said they had already interviewed one of the witnesses on multiple occasions, while the other witness was never identified by Jones.
Keandra McDole, according to the supplement report, provided the name of the new witness.
After interviewing the new witness, the Justice Department said it reviewed surveillance footage of where the witness allegedly was.
"But the witness is not observed in the recording," according to the supplement report.
The report also delved on other allegations made to question the legitimacy of the case, including Carl Rone's involvement in the initial investigation. Rone was the former chief ballistics expert for Delaware State Police who reviewed the case. Has was found guilty in 2018 on charges he falsified records.
At least one criminal sentence has been vacated as a result of Rone falsifying work records.
While Rone's ballistics report did not weigh on whether the police acted criminally in McDole's shooting, the report said the ballistics evidence was re-examined by a qualified and widely recognized expert from New Jersey, Stephen Deady.
"Fortunately, the evidence Rone examined – ballistic evidence – is not fungible," according to the report. "In other words, unlike some forms of evidence in a criminal case which lack distinctive or unique characteristics, ballistic evidence bears permanent markings."
The new report also worked to address allegations that the gun officers said they found in McDole's boxers had been planted by Wilmington Police. Keandra McDole said Wednesday that she still contends that her brother did not have a weapon on him during his interaction with police that day.
According to the new report, DNA testing of McDole's blood was compared to swabs from the grip, trigger and the revolver's bullets. The DNA analysis was completed by Bode Cellmark Forensics in Lorton, Virginia.
"The DNA profile obtained from the grip matches Jeremy McDole," according to the report.
When asked what assurances the Justice Department can provide to the public that has called previous investigations "cover-ups," a department spokesman said: "I believe those concerns are addressed in the report."
Tuesday's report confirms the department's May 12, 2016, use of deadly force report that cleared the four Wilmington officers of criminal wrongdoing.
While the 2016 report did not result in charges for any of the officers, the 32-page report was highly critical of Dellose, saying he showed "extraordinarily poor police work" during the incident.
Dellose fired at McDole with a shotgun about two seconds after ordering him to put his hands up, the report found, creating uncertainty among other officers – Senior Cpl. Thomas Silva, Cpl. Thomas Lynch and Cpl. James MacColl – who, not knowing where the gunfire came from, then all turned their weapons on McDole.
The report concluded that Dellose should not be employed by city police in any role where he would carry a firearm in public.
Dellose parted ways with Wilmington police in April 2018, but the department has not provided a reason for his departure. The other three officers are also no longer on the force.
In the months after the fatal shooting, the McDole family sued the city of Wilmington and its Police Department and received a $1.5 million settlement in 2017.
Keandra McDole said Wednesday that she's now focused on finding a new Attorney General candidate for 2022, and dealing with the use-of-force laws.
"My brother is dead. There’s no bringing him back," she said. "My job, and my family’s job, is to fight like hell and make sure this doesn’t happen to another person. If we don’t change this law, there will be another Jeremy McDole."
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Jeremy McDole: No charges after police fatally shot Black man in 2015