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4 Mar, 2016 19:10

Family of paralyzed black man killed by cops sues Delaware city

Family of paralyzed black man killed by cops sues Delaware city

Family members of a man gunned down by Wilmington, Delaware, police in September have sued the city, claiming racial discrimination. The wheelchair-bound Jeremy McDole was shot multiple times by four police officers.

McDole, 28, was killed after Wilmington police received a call that an African-American man in a wheelchair was suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on September 23. The family's lawsuit says that McDole was robbed of his wallet and shot, and that the thief or an accomplice called police claiming a self-inflicted gunshot was to blame for McDole's condition.

Witnesses shot cellphone video of the police encounter with McDole. Three white police officers and one Hispanic officer approached McDole; one officer pointed a shotgun or rifle at him, yelling at McDole to "drop the gun" and to put his "hands up." The video shows McDole rubbing his knees with both hands. As he moves his hand toward his waist, the officers shoot him several times, as he falls sideways to the ground.

McDole's family gathered on Thursday to announce the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware.

"As shown by a contemporaneous video, he was unarmed, his hands were on his lap, sitting in broad daylight out in the open with plenty of nearby cover for the police," the lawsuit said. "He was not combative or physically aggressive, and he did not say anything threatening or verbally taunt the police. Nor was he fleeing from the scene of a felonious crime which involved serious physical injury, or a threat of imminent harm to anyone."

The family said they filed the lawsuit because of the official silence on the case, according to The News Journal. Wilmington police and state Attorney General Matt Denn have said that investigations of the shooting are ongoing.

“It has been five months,” said attorney Thomas C. Crumplar, who is representing McDole's mother and grandmother in the suit. “The family just cannot wait. We still don’t even know the names" of the police officers involved.

A Wilmington police spokesperson said the department is continuing to review the incident, The News Journal reported. Meanwhile, the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust is actively investigating the shooting to determine whether potential criminal charges should be filed against the officers. An autopsy report was completed on January 28, according to state Justice Department spokesman Carl Kanefsky.

"The investigation has also included review of forensic evidence gathered at the scene by scientific experts, enhancement of video evidence of the incident, consultation with outside experts on the use of force by law enforcement officers, and subpoenaing and reviewing hundreds of pages of documents," Kanefsky said.

The civil rights lawsuit is aimed at defendants Bobby L. Cummings, Wilmington's chief of police, and the four unnamed police officers. Thomas S. Neuberger, attorney for the family, said officers never identified themselves to McDole as police and did not attempt to use non-lethal means of force.

Chief Cummings said a .38-caliber gun was found at McDole's side, yet the lawsuit emphasizes that no gun is visible in the cellphone video. The family's attorneys said they believe the lawsuit will help uncover the truth about the incident.

“We are going to investigate this matter, and we ask every member of the community who witnessed this shooting to come forward,” Neuberger said Thursday.

Some local officials, as well as the state NAACP, have called for an independent review of the shooting by the US Department of Justice.

“The family and the community need to know the facts,” Crumplar said. “Neither the Wilmington Police Department nor the Attorney General can give us the unbiased facts.”