‘Take guns and drugs off the streets’

Dover Police Sgt. Jordan Miller returns to his police cruiser after assisting another officer on a traffic violation on U.S. 13 and College Road on Friday night. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Update: An earlier version of this story included a photograph of a man being taken into custody. Ultimately he was not charged.

DOVER — About 50 police officers stormed two blocks of South New Street late Friday afternoon, seizing firearms and drugs and taking at least 20 people in for questioning.

Officers lobbed three flash bang grenades at the area, designed to confuse and disorient those nearby with their loud percussion. One man dropped to his knees almost immediately.

Folks in the downtown Dover vicinity scattered and fled around 4:42 p.m., city police said, when a multi-agency law enforcement team with search warrants raided the area and apprehended persons of interest without firing a shot.

The operation came in the wake of continued violence around Dover; since just before Christmas, 12 shootings have left one dead, eight injured and many homes damaged.

The latest incident was a fatal shooting on Paul Street, where 15-year-old Kainami Grant was killed. He called 911 before succumbing to multiple gunshot wounds at Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus.

Of the nearly two dozen people questioned Friday, nine were charged.

Besides Dover Police, Delaware State Police and Delaware Probation and Parole officers joined the raid. A Special Operations Response Team was among the responders, along with uniformed and undercover officers. No injuries were reported.

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen looks at drugs and weapons and ammo that were seized during a Friday afternoon raid on South New Street in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, who pledged Dec. 31 to devise a plan to curtail the gun violence, rode with a patrol shift supervisor from about 7:15 p.m. to midnight Friday. During that time, he viewed the evidence seized from the South New Street raid. (As mayor, he oversees the police department.)

“This should give the public a sense of security in that the police department is doing an excellent job in making a concerted effort to take guns and drugs off the streets in order to increase safety within the city,” Mayor Christiansen said, while surveying the haul.

“The men and women of Dover PD do an excellent job — it shows through responses such as this.”

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, left,  rides along with Dover Police Sgt. Jordan Miller on Friday night. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The initial police surge Friday was recorded on downtown surveillance cameras.

According to authorities, many of the recent violent incidents may be connected and Friday night’s response on South New Street may bring leads on them. Potential gang activity and regular drug dealing remain under investigation, spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

Some of the people questioned when rounded up on South New Street were believed to reside in other areas, police said.

Two residences were targeted in Friday’s multi-agency search:

• A 100 block home, the site of two arrests, yielding a gram of heroin, 2.5 grams of crack, two oxycodone pills and $635 cash. Drug charges were filed, along with a probation violation.

• A unit block home, where seven people were arrested on drug offenses and one on firearms charges.

Evidence included two .40 caliber handguns, two Airsoft guns (one modeled after an AK-47 assault rifle, police said), and a firearm connected to a federal investigation. Also confiscated were 250 grams of marijuana, digital scales and packaging materials, police said.

Officers remained at the scene until just after 6 p.m.

Back at the station, police officers said the cell block there was reportedly filled as interviews with the detainees commenced and some were charged.

At one point, a defendant in an unrelated case was held in a vehicle in the parking lot as those in custody from South New Street were interviewed, booked and/or released. Video arraignment through Justice of the Peace Court was part of the process.

Police said more arrest information will be released early next week.

Earlier this week, Delaware State Police conducted a two-day operation in Capital Park following four shootings there in late December. More than 60 law enforcement officers responded to the neighborhood, where Delaware State Police said drugs, weapons and contraband were found hidden behind residences. No arrests were immediately made in that initiative.

Night on patrol

A Delaware State News reporter and photographer joined Mayor Christiansen and Sgt. Jordan Miller for the first couple hours or so of Friday night’s ridealong. The mayor has participated in five of them since he joined city council in 1983.

During that time, Sgt. Miller responded as a backup to traffic violations, a DUI arrest and a domestic situation that resulted in two persons taken into custody. About two hours into the shift, he and another officer checked on a flashing light inside a building where a daycare used to be.

The patrol vehicle also traveled near Dover Air Force Base as part of a recent initiative to increase monitoring of military-related locations.

Dover Police had 12 officers on patrol for a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, joined by three dispatchers to coordinate efforts in four districts.

“This reinforced my belief that our officers do an excellent job in dealing with a whole lot of folks in all types of scenarios from DUIs, domestic incidents, traffic violations to weapon and drug cases,” the mayor said late Saturday morning after returning home.

Indeed, just after 10 p.m. Friday, Sgt. Miller sped away from an apparently routine traffic stop with the mayor in tow for a report of shots fired in Persimmon Park Place apartments. Six police vehicles responded to the incident that proved to be unfounded.

“You really don’t know what’s you’ll face from one shift to another,” Sgt. Miller said. “In Dover I would say that our interactions with citizens are mostly positive, but some not so positive issues may come up as well, especially on overnight shifts.”

Earlier this week, the mayor said he spent several hours meeting with community leaders and residents discussing the ongoing violence issues.

“They share the same concerns we do,” he said. “They are very supportive of what we do and offered suggestions as well.”

A big week ahead awaits for the police department. On Monday night, the mayor will present for public consideration and full council vote the committee’s choice for police chief.

The candidate’s qualifications —his or her name won’t be disclosed, the mayor said — will be presented and at least five council members must approve the hire.

On Saturday morning, the mayor said if the candidate is approved, he or she will be publicly introduced at a news conference Tuesday.

“We’re not trying to be evasive about the identity, but that person will first need to finalize some things at his or her current location first,” he said.

Capt. Tim Stump has served as acting police chief since May 17, 2019, following the retirement of Marvin Mailey. Capt. Stump indicated he would not apply for the permanent position.

Recent area shootings

The Dover-area shootings include the following incidents:

In Dover PD jurisdiction

Jan. 6, 9:49 p.m., 1 death, alley on Paul Street

Jan. 6, 6:58 p.m., 2 homes struck, unit block of S. Governors Ave.

Jan. 1, 1:20 a.m., 2 injuries, 400 block Collins Drive

Dec. 31, 1:32 a.m., 1 injury, 100 block Haman Drive

Dec. 30, 10:52 p.m., 1 injury, 400 block Barrister Place

Dec. 30, 2:47 a.m., 2 injuries, 100 block S. New Street

Dec. 27, 9:12 p.m., home struck, unit block S. New Street

Dec. 24, 7:39 p.m., 2 homes struck, S. New and Reed streets

Dec. 23, 9:10 p.m., Rite Aid struck twice, U.S. 13 at Webbs Lane

In Delaware State Police jurisdiction

Dec. 28, 6:52 p.m., residence, 2 vehicles struck, State Circle in Capital Park

Dec. 27, 9:12 p.m., 1 injured, 200 block S. Governors Boulevard, Capital Park

Dec. 23, 1:15 a.m., 1 injured, N. Governors Boulevard, Capital Park