Delaware family demands answers after police shoot man in wheelchair

A woman who claims to be his cousin says she heard five gunshots before she rushed outside. 

Randall Chase/AP
The scene of where Delaware police officers fatally shot an armed man Wednesday, in wheelchair after responding to a call that he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound, is seen Thursday, in Wilmington, Del. Authorities say a shooting occurred and the man died at the scene.

Delaware police officers fatally shot an armed man in a wheelchair after responding to a call that he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities say.

When Wilmington officers arrived on the scene on Wednesday afternoon, the man was armed with a handgun. Shots were fired and the man died at the scene. Sgt. Andrea Janvier told The News Journal that circumstances of the shooting are under investigation.

According to Delaware paper, a woman named Alexis Anthony identified the man as her cousin, Jeremy "Bam" McDowell. She said he was shot by officers five times. They told her he was attempting to commit suicide and refused to drop his weapon, she continued. She ran outside when she heard the gunshots.

"They couldn't [use a Taser on] him?" Ms. Anthony asked. "Instead, they killed him instead. They could have knocked him out of his wheelchair."

She also said Mr. McDowell had been in a wheelchair since being shot and paralyzed when he was 18.

Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings, who was on the scene, said family members of the victim came to the place of the shooting and angrily confronted the police.

Further details are expected to be released Thursday.

In April, a man in Indianapolis was shot and killed by police officers responding to a call. Police found Alexander Myers sitting on his front porch armed with a rifle. They later described him as suicidal. As many as 24 officers arrived to the scene, asking him to drop his weapon. It’s unclear who fired the first shot, but Mr. Myers ended up with multiple wounds to the head, chest, and limbs.

As The Christian Science Monitor previously reported, about 12 percent of the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies employ some form of crisis intervention training to help officers respond compassionately to those afflicted by mental illness, but ultimately, training can only go so far.

Memphis Police Department Major Sam Cochran, whose crisis intervention training program has been adopted by hundreds of departments nationwide, told the Indy Star that regardless of learned protocol, mental illness is complicated and it takes a unique officer to handle such situations.

"Because of the complexities, because of the dynamics, CIT is beyond training, it's more than training,” he said.

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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