The latest police shooting controversy centers around a Delaware man already shot and wounded when the Wilmington Police officers arrived on the scene. But the shooting and killing of Jeremy McDole is a slightly different case than most other police-involved shootings. He was in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. And yet, like many recent police shootings, the incident was captured on video from a cellphone.
CNN reported September 25 that Jeremy McDole, 28, was shot and killed outside his home by Wilmington Police when they opened fire on him on the city street. Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings has defended the actions of his officers, stating publicly during a press conference that it was only after McDole had been told to drop his weapon several times, did not comply, and then seemed to be reaching for what officers thought was a weapon, that shots were fired.
Wilmington Police were called to the private residence, Chief Cummings explained, around 3 p.m. Wednesday, informed that a man was wounded, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot, and that he was still armed. After the police confrontation, McDole was found armed with a .38 calibre handgun believed to be the same gun with which he had shot himself.
The video of the police shooting, taken via a citizen’s cellphone, showed officers running toward a man slumped over in a wheelchair. They yell for him to drop his weapon and raise his hands several times. He does neither. However, at one point, his hands seem to move toward his body and a voice is heard yelling, “He’s reaching again.” Several shots ring out then as police began firing.
At the center of the controversy is Jeremy McDole’s mother, who claims that her son did not have a gun on him when he was shot, contradicting Police Chief Cummings’ words that not only were the Wilmington officers told the man was still armed, the firearm was observed by officers prior to the shooting. It is unclear what McDole was doing with his hands that was cause for use of force (Cummings said McDole was removing the weapon from his waist area), but it was this movement that prompted police to open fire. A weapon cannot be seen from the vantage point of the video.
Phyllis McDole maintains that her son did not have a gun on him. She has alluded to the video, saying that her son “didn’t pull a weapon. He had his hands in his lap.” She has called the shooting “unjust.”
The police shooting comes in the wake of a number of police-involved shootings around the country, some caught on video and many involving African Americans as victims, that have brought police organizations under closer scrutiny of the public, the media, and internal investigative units and other policing organizations. Many have prompted outrage and national headlines, like the shooting of an unarmed Texas football player by a rookie police officer that ended in the officer being fired from the Arlington Police force. Some have ended in shocking non-indictments or dismissals of cases against police officers, such as the Cleveland, Ohio shooting where one officer stood on a car and fired through the windshield at least 15 times at an unarmed couple. (The couple were killed but it reportedly could not be determined which bullet killed the decedents.) And some have ended in indictments of police officers, like the murder indictment handed down for the shooting of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back several times while attempting to run from a North Charleston (South Carolina) police officer.