Friday, September 25, 2015

After Fatal Police Shooting of Disabled Man, Mother ‘Needs Answers’
By Lindsey Bever
September 25 at 10:23 AM

When police pulled up to a shabby street in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday afternoon, Jeremy McDole was sitting in his wheelchair holding a .38 caliber handgun, police said. He had allegedly used it earlier and wounded himself — which is why they were called to the scene.

In a cellphone video, which purportedly shows the incident, an officer gave the first command: “Show me your hands!” Then a single gunshot. “Show me your hands! Show me your hands! Drop the gun! Drop the gun!”

Almost immediately, other officers rushed to the scene.

“Hands up, hands up! Put your hands up!” one shouted.

Police Chief Bobby Cummings told reporters Thursday that McDole never raised his hands or dropped his weapon. At one point, Cummings said, McDole allegedly pulled the gun from his waist and officers “engaged him.”

McDole rubbed his knees and repositioned himself in his wheelchair, though it’s unclear in the video whether he reached for a weapon.

Officers opened fire. McDole’s right leg kicked out and he slipped onto the ground.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

“This was murder,” his mother, Phyllis McDole, said, according to the Delaware News Journal. “He shot my son like he was roadkill.”

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Cummings told the family that local and state authorities were conducting an investigation. He said the four officers involved had been put on administrative leave.

“I’m sorry for the officers and family of Mr. McDole, as this encounter unfortunately ended with the loss of his life,” Cummings said, according to the newspaper. “I know that this incident could impact police and community relations, therefore, I will ensure a thorough and transparent investigation will be conducted.”

The Delaware Department of Justice also announced that a new unit within the department, which was created to build public trust in government, was trying to determine whether police acted within the law.

“The office will take these steps as quickly as possible in order to provide an account of the incident to the public,” the department said in a statement. “Making a determination about whether a person — including a police officer — should be criminally prosecuted under Delaware law is the responsibility of the Delaware Department of Justice and the department will make that determination following investigation in this case.”

The department investigates all police-involved shootings when someone is injured or killed.

But the state NAACP has called for a federal investigation.

“We can’t treat poor folks the way we’ve been treating them,” State NAACP President Richard Smith said, according to the News Journal. “They have a right to live. They have a right to breathe.”

McDole’s mother, Phyllis McDole, said she “need answers.”

“He was in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down,” she said, according to Fox News. “There’s video showing that he didn’t pull a weapon.”

Police have not yet authenticated the video footage.

McDole, 28, who went by “Bam,” was paralyzed several years ago when he was shot in the back, had a criminal record, including convictions for drug possession and disorderly conduct, according to the news station. He had been released from jail about a year ago, according to CBS News, and was living in a nursing home near the scene.

After this week’s police-involved shooting, some speculated McDole was trying to commit suicide by cop.

Family members seemed to dispute that.

“They couldn’t [use a Taser on] him?” McDole’s cousin, Alexis Anthony, told the News Journal. “They killed him instead. They could have knocked him out of his wheelchair.”

“It was an execution. That’s what it was,” his uncle, Eugene Smith, said later added, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t care if he was black, white, whatever.”

McDole was black. Authorities have not released the identities or race of the four officers.

On Thursday night, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) and Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams (D) stopped by a vigil for McDole. Some had spelled out “RIP BAM” in tea lights. Others were praying for peace and justice. At the scene, a flower bouquet clashed yellow chalk marks with gray powder that had been used on the street to soak up the blood.

“We want justice for my brother,” Ashley Morrison-Wright, 23, told the News Journal. “This isn’t right.”

Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. Tweet her: @lindseybever

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