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Protesters call for DOJ to reopen investigation into police killing of Jeremy McDole

The nationwide protests for racial justice have reignited rage in Wilmington over the 2015 police killing of Jeremy McDole. Dozens marched through Wilmington Tuesday to demand justice.

The protesters called for the Attorney General’s office to reopen the investigation into the death of wheelchair user Jeremy "Bam Bam" McDole at the hands of four Wilmington police officers in 2015. 

The state Department of Justice's investigation at the time found officers Joseph Dellose, Daniel Silva, Thomas Lynch and James MacColl’s use of deadly force was justified under state law, but flagged Dellose for “extraordinarily poor police work that endangered both the public and his fellow officers.”

Jeremy’s sister Keandra McDole led Tuesday’s protest, and says the Use of Force statute needs to change.

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Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Keandra McDole talks about her brother's killing by Wilmington police officers.

 

“Because if we don’t change that one law, all of them reforms mean nothing, because an officer can still murder anybody and get away with it," she said.

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Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Protesters gather at the Carvel state building in Wilmington, looking to talk to Attorney General Kathy Jennings

Keandra McDole is not the only one pushing for change to the statute. The ACLU of Delaware, the NAACP state conference of branches and individual community advocates have renewed similar calls in recent weeks, building on efforts dating back to 2016. 

The calls for reform may be gaining traction in Delaware amid the nationwide protests. Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced earlier this month she is advocating for a stronger use of force standard in state code. The Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force to be led by former police officer State Rep. Franklin Cooke (D-New Castle) will be tasked with considering proposals regarding the use of force, among other issues, members of the Legislative Black Caucus announced earlier this month.

Tuesday's protesters also called for all four officers involved in McDole's shooting to be fired and charged.

Wilmington Police Department spokesperson David Karas says none are currently with the department, though Lynch and MacColl were on the force up until this spring. Karas declined to elaborate on the circumstances of their departures, citing Delaware's Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, which keeps records of internal investigations into police misconduct from public view.

 

 

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Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Branden Fletcher walks through Rodney Square at Tuesday's protest

 

New Castle resident and community organizer Branden Fletcher attended Tuesday’s protest with a sign that read, “Defund the police.”

“We want a reallocation of resources," said Flectcher. "There’s no reason that police officers should be on the street, killing Black and brown people and still getting paid.”

Fletcher says resources should be diverted toward housing and healthcare for all. “There’s no reason why police should be funded like they are today, and people can’t afford to go to the doctor."

Fletcher sees the policing reforms being proposed by lawmakers as a “good first step,” but says they need to go farther. "We have to keep on putting pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing," he said.

Delaware Department of Justice spokesperson Mat Marshall says in the absence of new evidence, there is no legal basis to reopen the investigation into McDole's killing— as experts at the time said the officers could not be successfully prosecuted under state law.

"The Attorney General [Kathy Jennings] 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," Marshall said in a statement Tuesday.

 
 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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