Was Jeremy McDole armed? Did he shoot himself first? And where is the gun police claim the African-American man in a wheelchair was wielding when they fired several rounds into the suspect, killing him instantly?
These are three of the most important questions investigators need to answer Monday when they’re expected to announce details of the fatal shooting of the 28-year-old man in Wilmington, Delaware, Wednesday afternoon. The shooting came as police nationwide are still under scrutiny over the excessive use of force against African-American suspects.
Late Friday, police released a recording of a portion of an emergency call made by a witness that allegedly backs their claim McDole was armed and shot himself before refusing to hold up his hands at the behest of four police officers with their guns drawn. “A man just shot himself in the AutoZone parking lot!” a woman is heard yelling at a 911 operator. “And he’s fallen out of a wheelchair, and he’s laying there on the ground!”
But the unfolding of events in a graphic video of the shooting uploaded to YouTube Thursday doesn’t align with the claim McDole first shot himself and then fell to the ground. The video shows a police officer advancing on McDole with a gun drawn and demanding the suspect in the distance drop his weapon. No gun in McDole’s hands is visible in the video.
— Heather ♿ (@MissJupiter1957) September 25, 2015
About 30 seconds into the video, an officer appears to fire a round at McDole. The witness who captured the video is heard saying the suspect was bleeding. Two more officers are seen in the video demanding McDole hold up his hands. Instead, he’s seen fidgeting and trying to lift himself out of the wheelchair. About a minute after the first shot is fired, three officers fire 10 rounds at McDole, who drops dead out of his wheelchair.
Watching #JeremyMcDole's lifeless body fall from his wheelchair is something that my soul wasn't prepared for.
— LEFT (@LeftSentThis) September 26, 2015
After meeting with McDole’s family Friday, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement that the video footage “deeply troubling to watch.” The shooting is being investigated this weekend by officials of the Delaware Justice Department’s office of civil rights and public trust and by the Wilmington Police Department. Officers claim they found a gun at McDole’s side, but family members maintain he was unarmed. And some locals are criticizing the police response regardless of whether McDole was armed and possibly suicidal.
Yes, be upset about #JeremyMcDole's death. Please don't be ableist while you're doing it. Disabled ppl are not objects of pity.
— Eb (@erabrand) September 25, 2015
“The issue is the actions of police as clearly displayed on the video,” Joshua Harvest Church Pastor Derrick Johnson told the News Journal in Wilmington. “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?”
The state’s Justice Department and the local police are expected to address the public about the findings of their probe Monday.