Towne Point murder suspect called school principal to explain action

DOVER — A 53-year-old custodian charged with murder called the Towne Point Elementary School principal shortly after the Aug. 28 shooting to explain himself, according to police in a probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday.

Dover Police in court documents said Rodney G. West apparently informed the principal “Mr. (name redacted), I told him to leave me alone, he blocked me in and I got out of the car, I shot him.”

Police found Derrick Combs lying on on the parking lot pavement outside the school at 629 Buckson Drive.

The victim was unresponsive and suffering from gunshot wounds to his face, upper left chest and lower right abdomen, according to court records. Four 9mm casings were located near his body.

He was pronounced dead at 10:25 p.m.

On Wednesday Dover Police said Mr. West had been taken into custody and then extradited by U.S. Marshals from Montgomery County, Maryland. He was charged with first-degree murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a weapon in a safe school zone.

Rodney G. West

Mr. West was given a $700,000 cash bond by Judge W.G. Edmanson at Justice of the Peace Court 7 in Dover and then held at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 14 at 8:30 a.m.

Last week, defense lawyer Joe Hurley said Mr. West acted in self defense and would plead not guilty to all charges against him.

Called to scene

Officers were initially called to the scene following a 911 call at approximately 9:58 p.m. The caller reported hearing four gunshots in front of the school and said a person was on the ground in front of a white truck and another vehicle fled northbound following the shots.

Mr. West was working a 2 to 10 p.m. shift at the school the day of the shooting, police were told.

The principal said he received a call from Mr. West at 10:02 p.m. that night to report an incident and the administrator asked him his location. Mr. West replied “I’m jetting,” according to the affidavit.

At 11:13 p.m., documents stated, the principal contacted a Dover Police detective and said he was familiar with Mr. Combs since his wife had worked at the school as a secretary.

“He was aware that there was an ongoing argument between (Mr. Combs) and (Mr. West),” the detective wrote in the police document. The principal stated that Mr. West was driving “a gold colored Chevy Cruze that is a loaner car from Chevrolet of Dover with an unknown registration.”

The detective said the principal was still at the Dover Police Department when Mr. West called his cell phone. The call was placed on speaker mode and the detective spoke with Mr. West, according to the affidavit.

“He stated that he needs time to clear his head,” police said. “He also stated that he was blocked in and didn’t know what else to do.”

The detective “advised (Mr. West) to come in and speak about the incident and he stated that he would first thing in the morning.”

Surveillance video at the school captured the sequence, and a detective said it showed Mr. West leaving a small four-door vehicle at 9:57 p.m. Mr. Combs then drove a white Chevrolet truck into the lot and stopped it in front of Mr. West’s vehicle “and still leaving a clear path to exit.” The men both exited their vehicles, police said, and Mr. West was seen “firing several shots from a handgun that struck (Mr. Combs.).

“(Mr. West) then gets back in his vehicle and flees northbound through the parking lot.”

Mr. West was positively identified by his Division of Motor Vehicles photo, police said.

An autopsy performed by the Medical Examiners Office on Mr. Combs on Aug. 29 determined the cause of death was due to multiple gunshot wounds.


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