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Delaware DOJ finds Pennsylvania state troopers justified in shooting teen during car chase

Courtesy of the Delaware Department of Justice

The state Department of Justice concluded two Pennsylvania state troopers did not commit a criminal offense under Delaware law when they shot a 17-year-old during a December car chase. 

According to DOJ, the troopers fired multiple shots at the moving vehicle carrying the 17-year-old and several younger teens after it crossed into Delaware on I-95. The 17-year-old suffered a graze wound to his leg and a concussion or hematoma. He was treated at St. Francis Healthcare, then released. 

DOJ says the car the teens were travelling in was stolen in a carjacking in Delaware. DOJ says the car travelled at a high speed during the chase, and that it tried to push a police car into a guardrail and a median. 

A criminal case against the 17-year-old is pending in Delaware’s Family Court. He’s accused of reckless endangering, possessing a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and receiving stolen property. 

Police also claim they recovered a revolver from a 13-year-old in the car. It did not appear to be fired during the chase. 

In Delaware, whether law enforcement is justified in using deadly force depends largely on the officers’ state of mind. 

In a report released this week alongside video evidence, DOJ concluded the two troopers believed their actions were necessary to protect themselves from serious physical injury—and they were not reckless or negligent in their belief deadly force was immediately necessary.

DOJ has not found any police officer criminally liable for shooting a civilian in Delaware since at least 2005.

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.