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Use of force report clears New Castle County officers in fatal shooting

Delaware Public Media

New Castle County Police officers who shot and killed Lymond Moses in January will not face criminal charges.

The report from the Delaware Department of Justice Division of Civil Rights Public Trust and the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius clears Patrolman Roberto Ieradi and Corporal Robert Ellis, who shot and killed Moses as he tried to flee in his vehicle in January 2021.

The report found the two officers met the legal standard at the time for firing at Moses because they believed it was necessary to protect themselves or others against death or serious physical injury.

"The law recognizes that police officers often must make decisions quickly based on the information available under the circumstances and that officers are permitted to use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that such force is needed to protect themselves or others against death or serious physical injury, "the report said. "The investigative findings show that Officer Ieradi and Corporal Ellis discharged their weapons at Mr. Moses’s vehicle at a time when they believed that doing so was necessary to protect themselves or others against death or serious physical injury.

The report also notes that while state lawmakers have amended its use of force justification statutes to require that such belief be reasonable, they were not in place until until June 30, 2021, six months after this shooting.

Attorney General Kathy Jennings calls this one of the most extraordinary and exhaustive use of force investigations DOJ has ever conducted.

"My duty as Attorney General – the duty of this entire Department – is not to do what is expedient or popular with one side or another. Nor, for that matter, is it to avoid difficult conclusions. There will be those who believe we should press charges irrespective of our findings; but that asks us to violate our ethical, statutory, and constitutional obligations to prosecute only when there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial. The law in place at the time is what controls our decision," said Jennings in a statement accompanying the use of force report.

Three officers confronted Moses on January 13 in Wilmington’s Riverside neighborhood. Moses fled in his car before officers cornering him on a fenced off street. He turned around and accelerated forward.

Two officers – Ieradi and Ellis – fired at the vehicle killing Moses.

The report did raise questions about New Castle County Police policy and training around shooting at moving vehicles.

It says Officer Ieradi may not have been in "complete compliance" with department restriction against discharging a weapon at a moving vehicle, but the state "would have difficulty establishing that Officer Ieradi was properly trained on this policy" based on training records.

The report also took New Castle County Police to task for including "significant detail on Mr. Moses’s criminal history and character" in the report submitted to the Delaware Department of Justice and a public incident briefing on March 16, 2021. It noted none of that information was available to officers at the time and served "to undermine an ongoing criminal investigation by prejudicing public opinion" and "detract from the public’s ability to trust the integrity of the Police Department’s investigation of the shooting."

"The Police Department’s attempt to devalue the life of Mr. Moses surely angered and disgusted many in the community and engendered greater skepticism of the good-faith nature of the investigation," the report read.

The final report included several recommendations including advocating for law enforcement policies that restrict shooting at moving vehicles and calling for changes in use of force and firearms training by police as well as vehicular pursuit and traffic stop training.

It also suggests working with an independent agency to conduct use of force training and investigate police-involved shootings and addressing inappropriate department communications regarding pending criminal investigations.