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McDole family, supporters react to new DOJ report on fifth anniversary of his death

Family and supporters of Jeremy McDole gathered at a block party in Wilmington Wednesday to mark the five-year anniversary of his death at the hands of city police. The event came a day after the state updated its investigation into the incident. 

The supplemental report the Department of Justice (DOJ) released Tuesday attempted to put to rest claims by McDole’s family and advocates about a planted gun and a bungled investigation. 

It concluded the same thing as the original investigation four years earlier: none of the four Wilmington police officers who shot and killed wheelchair-user Jeremy McDole in 2015 will be charged. The statute of limitations for most possible charges expired Wednesday. 

Keandra McDole said at the community gathering she has hosted each year since her brother's death that she had expected DOJ to pursue a federal assault charge against one of the officers, Joseph Dellose. DOJ called Dellose out in its 2016 report for “extraordinarily poor police work,” but concluded he could not be charged under the state’s Use of Force standard.

“I actually had faith in them ... that they were actually going to do the job that [former Attorney General] Matt Denn should have did,” said McDole Wednesday. “But the outcome was very disappointing, and I’m angry about it.”

The report released Tuesday includes an interview with a potential new witness, a new ballistics expert and a previously undisclosed analysis that found a DNA profile matching McDole’s on part of the gun police said they found on him. McDole’s family has claimed for years that the gun was planted and that he was robbed just before the incident with Wilmington police.

Wilmington Black Lives Matter leader Mahkieb Booker attended Wednesday’s event. He said the new report does not feel like a conclusion. 

“The struggle continues for me,” he said. “It’s not just Jeremy McDole. It’s my whole race of people that are being unjustly mistreated. So it just continues.”

“But I would never drop Jeremy McDole’s name out my mouth,” he added. “It will never go away.”

Wilmington City Councilwoman-elect Shané Darby also attended the gathering. She noted that the anniversary of McDole’s death coincided with news that a Kentucky grand jury indicted one of the three Louisville police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in March, but not with charges directly related to her death. Darby said she was “tired.”

Keandra McDole says she is working on finding a candidate to run against state Attorney General Kathy Jennings in 2022. She also plans to continue advocating for change to how use of force by law enforcement is justified under state code. 

“My brother is dead, ok?” said McDole. “There’s no bringing him back. But my job and my family’s job is fighting like hell to make sure this doesn’t happen to another person, because if we don’t change this law, there will be another Jeremy McDole.”

Jennings also wants to see the Use of Force statute changed so that it is based on an objective, rather than subjective, standard of necessity. 

“I don't want Kathy Jennings to change it,” said McDole. “I want to have my hands in changing that law. Because this is personal.”

The General Assembly would need to pass any changes to the statute. The Delaware Legislative Black Caucus released a Justice for All Agenda following protests this spring that did not include a change to the statute. The ACLU of Delaware and the grassroots group Delaware for Police Oversight urged the Caucus to go further with its agenda.

A Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force that began meeting last month is tasked with examining possible police reforms and presenting recommendations to the General Assembly by the end of the year. Many of the Task Force members have ties to law enforcement.

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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