Details on Milford police-related shooting expected soon

MILFORD — Mayor Archie Campbell said he expects to release more information about the January police-involved shooting death of Brandon D. Roberts by the end of the month.

“I actually called up the attorney general’s office and spoke to them last week,” the Milford mayor said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Mayor Campbell said Attorney General Kathleen Jennings told him that information would come in three weeks.

“I told them that they’re actually putting the city of Milford at risk between all the problems and the questions in the community,” the mayor said, and “that we need to have an answer. I told her she’s putting us in a bad position, so she agrees in three weeks, she’ll get the information to us.”

On the evening of Jan. 5, Milford police were called to the Silver Lake Estate Apartments to investigate a domestic matter, when they allegedly encountered a knife-wielding Mr. Roberts, who was reportedly suffering a mental health episode. Officers shot and killed the man.

Although the two officers involved were initially placed on administrative leave, they were reportedly reinstated in May. The reinstatements, in conjunction with the fact that 911 calls and police body camera footage from the shooting had not yet been released, led to a wave of anger in the community, culminating with scores protesting against police brutality in Milford in June.

Transcripts of those 911 calls and body camera footage have still not been released.

“I’ve had so much correspondence that I’ve sent to the police … in regard to the police shooting,” Mayor Campbell said. “I’ve probably sent, this month, six or seven, where people are sending in communication saying that the police (officers) should be fired, that the Milford Police Department is hiding information.”

Vice Mayor Jason James stressed that, at this point, decisions about releasing additional information on the case is entirely out of the city’s hands.

“Even other than all these characters that make all these accusations … it gives the police department and council the appearance that we’re withholding information,” he said. “We’re being guided by those that are above us, from the state level, telling us that we can’t release this or release that. It puts us in a bad situation.”

The Delaware Department of Justice confirmed that additional information on the investigation is not yet available to the public.

“Mr. Roberts’ shooting is the subject of an active use-of-force investigation by the DOJ’s Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust,” said Mat Marshall, the communications director at the Delaware Department of Justice. “We cannot comment on it while the matter is active, but will be publishing this report (and all other police use-of-force reports) to de.gov/useofforce when it’s finalized.”

Now, Mr. Roberts’ loved ones are being represented by Lee Merritt, who is also a lawyer for the families of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. He has publicly spoken out against what he deems to be a lack of transparency in the investigation.

Mayor Campbell is just happy that the city would be able to release more information soon.

“I’ll go until the end of the month of July. I’m fine with that,” Mayor Campbell said. “If I get it by the end of the month, I’ll be happy, because this has been going on since January, and the chief and I have met with ministers and groups, and it’s just to the point where now, enough is enough.”

There was also praise for the Milford Police Department during the council meeting.

“Kudos to Milford Police Department (for its) great community policing,” Vice Mayor James said.

“We had some issues with lots of complaints from the 4th Ward, on a particular street, lots of activity including gunshots,” he said.

However, the vice mayor commended the police department’s move to solve the issue via a meeting with the person causing the nuisance.

“The chief went out of his way to have his men steer the person in the right direction to avoid further action and to give peace and quiet to the other surrounding citizens,” he said. “Since then, that particular residence has basically complied.”

Vice Mayor James also referenced an officer who made an effort to connect with a family that had been going through some turmoil with one of their children.

“I actually caught him on video out playing basketball with the other children of that family,” he said of the officer. “I think that probably had a big impact, to see other officers working with them.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, Milford Police Chief Kenneth Brown requested adding unlimited storage for body cameras so every police interaction could be filmed. Mayor Campbell didn’t “really think we have the right to say no,” given the increased scrutiny the department is under. That measure went on to be approved.