WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A man fatally shot by Wilmington police while sitting in his wheelchair was armed with a revolver and had evidence of gunshot residue on his hand, according to a court filing Friday in which city attorneys asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the man’s family, who has claimed he was unarmed.
The court filings also publicly identified, for the first time, the four officers involved in the shooting of Jeremy McDole.
McDole was shot last September after police received a 911 call about a man who had shot himself and was still armed with a gun.
A bystander’s cellphone footage shows officers repeatedly telling McDole to drop his weapon and raise his hands and McDole reaching for his waist area before shots erupt.
Police Det. George Pigford said in a court affidavit that officers found a .38 caliber revolver with four spent casings and two live rounds in McDole’s underwear after they went to render first aid.
“A DNA profile found on the .38 caliber revolver matched the DNA profile obtained from Mr. McDole,” Pigford wrote, adding that scientific analysis found gunshot residue on McDole’s right palm and right sleeve.
Officials also said toxicology tests found evidence of marijuana and PCP, or “angel dust,” in McDole’s bloodstream.
But contrary to a 911 caller’s report that McDole had shot himself, there was no evidence that any of his gunshot wounds came from the .38 caliber revolver, according to Pigford.
Alexandra Coppadge, a spokeswoman for Mayor Dennis Williams, said that while the 911 caller told police that McDole had shot himself, other witnesses reported that McDole was firing a gun into the air. Coppadge declined further comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
Thomas Neuberger, an attorney representing McDole’s family, said in an email that the motion to dismiss the lawsuit lacks merit and appears to be an attempt to keep the family and the public from learning the “real facts.”
“The motion will be met with a timely response and we expect a fair and full hearing by the federal court on the many meritless arguments raised, such as the claim that no policeman would ever know that he cannot shoot to kill an unarmed man in a wheelchair,” Neuberger wrote.
The family has claimed in the lawsuit that McDole was unarmed, and has implied that officers planted the gun.
The lawsuit also claims that McDole, who was black, was the victim of intentional racial discrimination, and that the four officers involved in the shooting would not have shot a similarly situated white person. The city rejects any claim of racial discrimination.
The officers involved in the shooting are identified in court papers as Joseph Dellose, Thomas Lynch, Danny Silva and James MacColl. The race of the officers was not included in the court papers.
Friday’s court filing includes a detailed chronology of the shooting, starting with the 911 call from a frantic woman.
The cellphone videos shows Dellose approaching McDole while shouldering a shotgun, which he fires after McDole rises and pivots toward him. Dellose again then gives repeated commands for McDole to show his hands and “drop the gun.”
About 10 seconds later, other officers appear in the video, also ordering McDole to put his hands up.
Instead, McDole lifts the waistband of his pants with his left hand and shoves his right hand inside, then starts to pull his right hand out, according to city attorneys. As he does, three shots ring out, followed by about seven more. City attorneys wrote that Lynch, Silva and MacColl all discharged their weapons.
The city’s filing claims that the officers acted reasonably and feared for their lives and the lives of others.
The shooting is being investigated by the police department’s professional standards unit to determine whether any of the officers violated departmental policies or procedures. The Delaware Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust is conducting a separate investigation, as it does following any use of deadly force by police, which will determine whether any officers will be charged.