Bail reduced in murder case involving Dover school custodian

Rodney G. West

DOVER — Secured bail was reduced to $500,000 for a Dover man charged with first-degree murder following a post-work shooting death at Towne Pointe Elementary School last summer during a Thursday morning Kent County Superior Court hearing.

Rodney G. West, who claimed self defense during a confrontation with the late Derrick Combs on Aug. 28 and pleaded not guilty, has been held in custody since extradition to Delaware on Sept. 4 following an arrest by U.S. Marshals in Montgomery County, Maryland. The 53-year-old had just completed his school custodial work shift shortly before 10 p.m. when Mr. Combs arrived at the school in a vehicle, Dover Police said earlier.

A 911 call brought officers to the scene at 629 Buckson Drive and Mr. Combs was pronounced dead in the parking lot at 10:25 p.m., according to documents. An autopsy found that he suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

In describing a half a million dollar bail as “appropriate” for serious charges during the 15-minute hearing, Deputy Attorney General Gregory R. Babowal told Commissioner Andrea M. Freud that the defendant initially opted not to turn himself in after communicating with Dover Police and a school principal, chose to flee and was later found with a firearm allegedly used in the shooting.

Mr. West traveled toward his brother’s home in Maryland following the incident, his attorney Joe Hurley explained to the Court, and did not want to upset his wife by going home.

Other charges include possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a weapon in a safe school zone.

Commissioner Freud found the charge to be “very serious and community safety is involved …” and “clearly there has to be some security on this matter.”

Bail had been set at $700,000, and Mr. Hurley asked for $400,000, asserting Mr. West was not a threat to the community or flight risk. Defense counsel also described his client as facing a situation in August that “would cause anyone to be concerned for their safety.”

If bond is met, the commissioner ordered home confinement, a GPS monitor, adherence to pre-trial supervision conditions and no travel out of state. Mr. West’s next court appearance was to be determined.

Approximately 25 of Mr. West’s friends and family members packed the courtroom for the proceeding. He was hired by the Capital School District on Sept. 29, 2014 and officials earlier declined to comment on his employment, categorizing it as a personnel issue.

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