West details actions leading up to fatal shooting of Derrick Combs

DOVER — Rodney West testified Tuesday to fearing for his life as Derrick Combs approached him on Aug. 28, 2018, which prompted four gunshots in a late-night deadly encounter.

The first-degree murder defendant claimed Mr. Combs regularly harassed him for three months, then arrived at Towne Point Elementary School as he was leaving work around 10 p.m.

Mr. West, a custodian at the school, said Mr. Combs had displayed or appeared to have a firearm before in other interactions and “he made a gesture like he was reaching” for a gun “and I shot.”

Mr. Combs was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr. West was later taken into custody at his brother’s home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Mr. West, 54, acknowledged exchanging flirtatious and sexually charged texts with Mr. Combs’ wife, who worked at the same elementary school.
Mr. West testified to possessing a loaded gun that night, fearing for his safety following weeks of alleged harassment from Mr. Combs.

“I didn’t want to hurt Derrick, I didn’t want to kill him,” said Mr. West, who choked up with emotion at times during the afternoon testimony.
When the vehicle pulled into the parking lot with no lights on, Mr. West claimed to have no other choice and believed his life was in danger.

Both men exited their vehicles, and Mr. West said at times he was blocked in and partially blocked in. After the shooting, Mr. West left the scene in his vehicle and was later arrested.

Following the incident Mr. West called Towne Point Elementary Principal Tori Giddens and spoke with Dover Police Detective Dale Boney. He initially agreed to turn himself in to authorities the next morning, but never arrived.

Mr. West said he didn’t immediately go to police because “you see cops shoot people all the time.”He worried that if he arrived with a gun there was “no telling what would have happened.”

The defendant claimed that Mr. Combs had pointed a gun at him during a traffic stop in the weeks leading up to the deadly encounter.
According to Mr. West, Mr. Combs pulled his vehicle next to his own, was blowing his horn, put the gun on his dashboard, threatened him verbally and gave the defendant “the finger.”

“I definitely knew he was serious,” Mr. West said of supposedly having a gun pulled on him during what he considered an unpredictable situation.

During other meetings, Mr. West said he believed Mr. Combs possessed a holstered weapon based on the bulge on his hip under his shirt.

Three school employees testified that Mr. West expressed his concerns previous to the confrontation, and showed them threatening texts supposedly sent from Mr. Combs.

Also, they were made aware that Mr. West was concerned that a vehicle resembling Mr. Combs’ had been regularly traveling near and on school property, according to testimony.

The school’s principal testified that Mr. West seemed to be stressed and worried that the purported situation involving Mr. Combs was getting worse.

On the day before the shooting, Mr. West testified to contacting Dover Police in an attempt to get a protective order regarding Mr. Combs. Protection orders are only family-related and Mr. West said he was told to provide a certified letter instead. Mr. West testified to not be satisfied with the meeting.

Mr. West said he tried to downplay the ongoing incidents with Mr. Combs while trying to shield it from his own wife.

The defendant is also charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He declined a manslaughter plea deal and the matter went to trial beginning last week.

Deputy Attorneys General Gregory R. Babowal and Sean A. Motoyoshi are prosecuting the case and attorney Joseph A. Hurley is representing Mr. West. Judge Noel Eason Primos is overseeing the trial.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. today.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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