FOP blasts Delaware attorney general Denn

DOVER — The Fraternal Order of Police is accusing Delaware’s attorney general of “character assassination” and raw political ambition in his criticism of a Wilmington officer involved in the fatal shooting of an armed man in a wheelchair.

The president of FOP Lodge No. 1 in Wilmington issued a statement Wednesday blasting Attorney General Matt Denn for saying Senior Cpl. Joseph Dellose exhibited “extraordinarily poor” police work in the September shooting of Jeremy McDole and suggesting that Dellose should not be allowed to carry a gun in public as a police officer.

The FOP noted that Denn’s office publicly criticized Dellose while admitting there was no basis to bring criminal charges against him.

FOP President Harold Bozeman said the report was “rife with opinion and political pandering.”

Attorney General Matt Denn speaks at a law enforcement memorial service on Legislative Mall in Dover on Wednesday morning. (Special to The Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

Matt Denn

“From the outset, this was clearly politically motivated,” Bozeman added. “The elected attorney general of this state has used this tragedy as a vehicle to cajole voters in his re-election and much-speculated eventual ascendance to the governor’s mansion.”

Through a spokeswoman, Denn declined to address the accusations leveled by Bozeman.

“The Delaware Department of Justice has made its decision, and has issued a detailed, 31-page report along with video, audio and photo evidence clearly explaining what happened on September 23 and the basis for DOJ’s decision and recommendations,” DOJ spokeswoman Nicole Byers said in an email.

Police confronted McDole after receiving a 911 call about a man with a gun.

A bystander’s cellphone footage shows officers repeatedly telling McDole to drop his weapon and raise his hands and McDole reaching into his pants before shots erupt.

In its report, the attorney general’s office, which investigates all incidents involving police use of deadly force, concluded that Senior Cpl. Thomas Silva, Cpl. Thomas Lynch and Cpl. James MacColl were justified in shooting McDole because they believed that deadly force was necessary to protect themselves or others.

But authorities said they considered charging Dellose with felony assault, based upon his decision to immediately confront McDole and fire his shotgun at him instead of communicating with officers already on the scene.

State officials said they hired a former federal prosecutor from Pennsylvania to prepare a possible criminal case against Dellose and consulted with two nationally recognized use-of-force experts who had recommended criminal charges against a Cleveland, Ohio, police officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun. Both of those experts concluded that Dellose’s actions did not amount to criminal conduct under Delaware law.

But DOJ investigators noted that Dellose gave McDole two commands within the space of only about two seconds before firing his shotgun, which further alarmed other officers on the scene about what dangers they were facing.

Bozeman said that after unsuccessfully “shopping the country” for experts who would support his “pre-determined outcome” in a case against Dellose, Denn resorted to “outright character assassination instead.”

“The only thing the attorney general has accomplished with these antics is to further fan the flames of resentment and hatred toward law enforcement,” Bozeman said. “Every police officer in this state should consider Denn directly responsible if it is ever shown that his report is connected in any way with violence against law enforcement.”

Meanwhile, a group of black community leaders in Wilmington sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday calling for a federal investigation into McDole’s shooting, pointing to specific criticisms of Dellose in the attorney general’s report.

Randall Chase writes for the Associated Press

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