School custodian testifies about alleged harassment leading up to fatal shooting

DOVER — A 54-year-old school custodian on trial for murder testified Monday that he told family and co-workers he was being harassed by 39-year-old Derrick Combs in the weeks before a confrontation between the two ended in a fatal shootng outside Towne Point Elementary last year.

Rodney West showed text messages he had received and told of other threatening behavior he said had come from Combs, who died from gunshot wounds during the confrontation on Aug. 28, 2018.

In weeks before, Mr. West had traded sexually suggestive text messages with Mr. Combs’ wife, who also worked at the school. That allegedly triggered the confrontation when the custodian finished his work shift at around 10 p.m. the night of the shooting, the prosecution has maintained.

The defendant said Mr. Combs had regularly showed up at the school after learning of the communications with this wife.

Mr. West also referenced his tires being slashed as another example of the harassment from Combs.

He claimed to feel like he was constantly being followed and at the time said “everywhere I look he’s there.”

During morning testimony, Mr. Combs’ wife said the trio met at Mr. West’s home for about an hour near the end of June.

There were no physical threats or action and the wife claimed the men shook hands, “so I thought everything was taken care of that day.”
Mr. Combs’ wife said that while her husband was wearing a holster there was no firearm present during the meeting.

When communicating with a friend later, the wife indicated that Mr. Combs hadn’t let go of the issue, according to the message shown by defense attorney Joseph A. Hurley.

Mr. Combs was shot four times and pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, according to earlier testimony.

Besides first-degree murder, Mr. West is also charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Before the trial began he declined to accept a plea deal to manslaughter and has maintained self defense and a fear for his safety when approached.

The trial, which began its second week, was scheduled to resume this morning.

Deputy Attorneys General Gregory R. Babowal and Sean A. Motoyoshi are prosecuting for the state. Superior Court Judge Noel Eason Primos is overseeing the case.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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