DOJ upholds use of deadly force by police in Milford shooting

WILMINGTON — Police officers had reason to believe deadly force was immediately necessary to protect themselves during a Jan. 5 response in which a man was fatally shot in Milford, the Delaware Department of Justice has determined following an investigation into the incident.

The DOJ announced today its findings on the death of Brandon D. Roberts, 27, of Dover, at Silver Lake Estates apartments. Milford police initially responded to the scene of a reported domestic violence incident, the report said.

According to the DOJ, the use of deadly force by Patrolman Patrick Karpin and Cpl. Nigel Golding “does not constitute a criminal offense under the laws of the state of Delaware.”

Describing the scope of the investigation, the DOJ noted, “The Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust reviewed evidence consisting of interviews of civilian witnesses, interviews of police witnesses, scene photos, 911 recordings, dispatch records, video footage (fixed cameras and police body-worn cameras), police reports, medical records and the ballistics report.

“Attorneys with the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust reviewed this use-of-force incident for the Department of Justice.”

The full report is available at attorneygeneral.delaware.gov.

Mr. Roberts was transported to Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus, in Milford, where he was pronounced deceased, Delaware State Police said at the time.

Regarding the incident, Milford police spokesman Sgt. Robert W. Masten said Wednesday: “We would refer all questions about the report to the Delaware Department of Justice. Due to the potential for litigation in this matter, we are unable to provide any further comment.”

Milford Mayor Archie Campbell was not immediately available for comment.

The Roberts family declined to comment via Krystle Gardner Blackwell, whose nonprofit GGC Inc. — focused on human rights issues — helped the family organize a march honoring Mr. Roberts in June.

Ms. Gardner Blackwell maintained that the officers involved and the state were both at fault. Now, she is working to get laws changed at the state level.

“This should never happen to anyone in the state of Delaware again,” she said. “It was wrong, first and foremost, on the Department of Correction and the Department of Justice to not have feasible plans when it comes to mental illness.”

Ms. Gardner Blackwell said that when the Milford Police Department first got the call describing Mr. Roberts as someone struggling with mental illness, a qualified mental health worker should have been brought to the scene.

According to the report, the facts available to both officers “were that a domestic violence incident was unfolding with a male who was armed with at least a knife (and potentially an automatic rifle), beating a female, and refusing to let her leave.

“The 911 call that was received featured Mr. Roberts saying that there was a man with a gun who was holding people hostage. He also said that he had a machete, an AK-47 and a bomb.”

A police dispatch also “that the subject may be a mental patient.”

A second person got on the phone and reported that she was injured and in need of an ambulance, according to the report. Initially, she “told the operator that Mr. Roberts was not armed with those weapons, but that he did have a knife.”

Also, according to the investigation, the woman told the operator that Mr. Roberts had physically assaulted her, hit their baby and refused to let her use the phone or leave.

The report detailed what the investigation determined about the officers’ arrival at the apartment complex and their confrontation with Mr. Roberts.

Police initially heard shouting inside the department, according to the DOJ.

“Cpl. Golding listened for a moment before knocking on the door and announcing that they were Milford police,” the report said. “Mr. Roberts opened the door slightly but not enough so that his hands were fully visible.”

Following multiple commands for Mr. Roberts to show and raise his hands, according to the report, he left the apartment and moved toward Cpl. Golding while holding a knife.

“Cpl. Golding backed up, but given the confines of the hallway, had little room to maneuver,” the report stated.

“Cpl. Golding reached out to try and grab Mr. Roberts’ arm carrying the knife but was unable to do so. Mr. Roberts continued coming towards Cpl. Golding with the knife, and Mr. Roberts yelled, ‘Shoot me,’” the report said.

“Three seconds elapsed from the moment Mr. Roberts opened the door to the moment shots were fired.”

The DOJ report concluded, “Based upon this information, we determine that both Cpl. Golding and Patrolman Karpin actually believed, at the time they fired, that the use of force was necessary to protect themselves.”

The DOJ’s analysis also determined that the officers did not act recklessly negligently “in forming the belief that force was immediately necessary.”

Cpl. Golding returned to duty on Jan. 27, and Patrolman Karpin returned on Feb. 24.

Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 741-8296 or canderson@newszap.com.

Staff writer Noah Zucker can be reached at nzucker@newszap.com.

The full report is available here.