Delaware police shoot black man in a wheelchair: 911 call released

Wilmington police officers fatally shot Jeremy McDole on Wednesday. Police said they responded to a 911 call about a man who had shot himself and had a handgun.

(AP Photo/Randall Chase)
Flowers lie near the scene of where Delaware police officers fatally shot an armed man Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in wheelchair after responding to a call that he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound, is seen Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in Wilmington, Del. Authorities say a shooting occurred and the man died at the scene.

As investigators from the Delaware attorney general's office talked to potential witnesses and examined the scene Friday where police fatally shot a black man in a wheelchair, officers released part of a 911 tape in which a caller repeatedly says the man has a gun.

"Back up, back up, he's still got a gun," the caller says, apparently to someone else on the scene of incident Wednesday afternoon.

The call was released as the state NAACP called for a special prosecutor.

Officers shot Jeremy McDole, 28, of Wilmington, on Wednesday. Police said they responded to a 911 call about a man who had shot himself and had a handgun. Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings said Thursday that McDole, who was paralyzed in a shooting 10 years ago, did not obey commands to show his hands and refused to put his weapon down, and that he was shot as he began to remove the gun from his waist.

Police said they recovered a .38 caliber handgun next to McDole's body.

Cummings said he did not know if McDole pointed the gun at any of the four officers, "but when he went to remove the weapon, they engaged him."

On the 911 tape, the caller says, "A man just shot himself, he shot himself."

The woman said the man fell out of the wheelchair. "He's on the ground, moving around, and he has a weapon in his hand."

The caller, who is so frantic she becomes short of breath, repeatedly says the man has a gun. "Please get the police here, he shot himself, he's still got a gun in his hand," she said.

The portion released by police was 2 minutes, 14 seconds long and seems to be of one call.

The shooting is being investigated by the police department's criminal investigation and professional standards units, as well as the Delaware Department of Justice's Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which will determine whether any officers will be charged. The state agency investigates all police shootings that result in injury or death, and it had staff in the neighborhood Friday as part of the probe.

Richard Smith, head of the Delaware chapter of the NAACP, said he did not trust the state Justice Department to conduct a fair and impartial investigation and called for an independent investigation by a special prosecutor.

"We cannot continue having all our folks being shot and nobody held accountable," Smith said Thursday.

City police say Jeremy “Bam” McDole was armed and reaching for a gun when the officers opened fire, but McDole’s family has denied he had a gun, pointing to a cell phone video posted to YouTube where one is not visible.

Video of the shooting posted online, which the chief said appeared to be authentic, shows an officer approaching McDole with a gun drawn, shouting "show me your hands" and "drop the gun." Other officers then appear in the video with guns drawn, yelling similar commands. McDole moves around in his wheelchair and reaches into his jeans, but it's unclear what he is doing. The officers, who are not in the video at this point, fire multiple shots, and McDole falls out of his wheelchair.

McDole's mother, Phyllis McDole, decried the shooting as "unjust" during a police news conference. Relatives declined Friday to be interviewed by The Associated Press.

Pastor Derrick Johnson of Joshua Harvest Church told Delawareonline.com witnesses at the scene prior to the shooting told him McDole had a gun.

The issue is the actions of police as clearly displayed on the video,” he said, referring to a phone video of the police confrontation shot by a bystander.

“If they knew he had a gun and that they were dealing with a person who was suicidal, why wasn’t a psychologist ... or someone like that sent with them to talk him down,” he asked.

Alexandra Coppadge, a spokeswoman for the city of Wilmington, said in an email with the 911 call that it was released "to address the specific question of whether Mr. Jeremy McDole was armed at the time of the incident."

Associated Press writer Kasey Jones contributed to this report from Baltimore.

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