Dover Police probe officer-related shooting

Yellow police tape marks an area, and the scene of the officer-involved shooting, near a day care center in Dover Friday. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Yellow police tape marks an area, and the scene of the officer-involved shooting, near a day care center in Dover Friday. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — A 21-year-old man was shot in the upper thigh by a police officer and suffered a non-life threatening injury early Friday afternoon while authorities said he was fleeing in the downtown area.

According to Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat, the sequence began shortly after 1 p.m. when authorities received a tip from an undisclosed source claiming that a suspect was in possession of a handgun near the 100 block of South New Street.

Police arrived and located a suspect, later identified as Terrance Fletcher, who matched the reported description; the man fled down a nearby alleyway toward South Governors Avenue, police said.

Mr. Fletcher was shot as he emerged from the alley, heading in the officer’s direction, Chief Bernat said. Police said a loaded handgun of undisclosed make and model was recovered in the near vicinity.

According to Dover police, officers immediately provided first aid and radioed for medical assistance.

Terrance Fletcher

Terrance Fletcher

Mr. Fletcher was transported to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover with what was believed to be a flesh wound and Chief Bernat said he was “doing well.” He was listed in stable condition, police said.

Police were positioned on both streets as Mr. Fletcher moved through the alley, authorities said.

Mr. Fletcher, an African-American, was shot by a Caucasian officer who was a Street Crimes Unit member with three years on the force. He was placed on standard administrative leave as investigation into the incident began.

Mr. Fletcher has been charged with Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon and Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited and is being held on $20,000 cash bond.

While many in the crowd expressed their frustrations on how police handle interactions with the community, Chief Bernat said he did not believe anything was related to race.

“The Dover Police Department is very sympathetic and understanding of the (area and community members),”

Police and passers-by gather outside a house in the 100 block of New Street Friday afternoon.(Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Police and passers-by gather outside a house in the 100 block of New Street Friday afternoon.(Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Chief Bernat said. “ … None of our officers would do anything (for) racially motivated (reasons).”

Police said the officer used a department-issued Glock 22 .40 caliber firearm in the shooting.

Yellow police tape was placed around a parking lot at the Kent County Community Action Agency Inc. daycare on South Governors Avenue and two helicopters were hovering overhead at one point at approximately 2 p.m.

In addition to Dover police, law agencies present included Delaware State, Capitol, Smyrna and Milford police.

A crowd gathers

A large number of police officers gathered in an alley at 113 and 115 S. New St. along with a crowd of people that formed around them and lingered within shouting distance.

At around 2 p.m., dozens of people had gathered on the street and sidewalks next to two residences and an alley in the 100 block of New Street as a wall of police officers stood gathered. Several onlookers hurled insults and expressed frustrations at the police, who remained mostly stoic.

In a news release, Dover Police Department described some members of the crowd as hostile.

At one point, two unidentified men were taken into custody and placed in Dover police vehicles as the situation grew more heated. Disorderly conduct charges resulted, police said, along with other alleged offenses.

By 3 p.m. the crowd had thinned, but more than two dozen people remained in the vicinity. Police said the majority of the crowd dispersed peacefully.

Within a few minutes law enforcement from Smyrna, Capitol, Milford and the Delaware State Police arrived at the scene to provide support. At approximately 3:30 p.m., a wave of officers departed the area in routine fashion, though many remained near a crowd that had dwindled significantly from 90 minutes before.

Mr. Fletcher fell in the parking lot just feet from a playground used by the Kent Community Action Agency Inc. daycare, where 65 children were inside at the time, police said. Later, school-age children were dropped off by a bus and walked into the daycare with several staff members and a police officer accompanying them.

Children ask questions

Kemmeisha Burris, the daycare’s assistant director, said it was nap time inside the center when the incident unfolded and none of them knew what had happened.

When police descended on the area from all directions, however, the children began to ask questions.

“When they asked ‘Why are the police here?’ I told them ‘To keep us safe,’ ” Ms. Burris said.

“It’s sad. I don’t want the kids to grow up seeing this. Our main focus is to keep the kids in a safe environment.”

When parent Kristin Morse received a call from the daycare reporting an emergency situation, “I thought of a change of clothes.

“They said ‘shooting’ and it didn’t register with me right away.”

Gathering herself, Ms. Morse made a quick three-minute trip in her car to pick up twin 5-year-olds and a 2-year-old.

“I had no doubts they were being taken well care of by the center,” she said. “It’s a great center, but the neighborhood isn’t taken care of. It’s not the first time I’ve pulled up here and seen police cars parked here and involved in something.”

Standing on South New Street, Nyraina Walker, from Philadelphia, said the downtown area is a danger zone at all times.

“This is way worse than Philly,” she said. “This is crazy.”

After hearing of the incident from her sister, Michele Whaley ran down the street and saw a person laying in the parking lot.

Constant stress evident

Living in Dover for “all my life,” 74-year-old Roce Barlow said he’s devoted to staying here despite what he described as constant stress between police and neighbors.

“I’ve (always) loved this area and I still love it,” he said. “I’m home here. I don’t like to see any of my colleagues, my people (in this situation) but I don’t know what happened.”

Living in the area for three years, Derrick Wilcox said he was concerned about the coming hours ahead.

“At the end of the night there are going to be police going up and down the street,” he said.

Dover PD Lt. Jason Pires said more officers would be available for patrol on Friday night throughout the city as a safety precaution “not just for us but for the rest of the people in the area.”

Brian Hicks, a Dover resident for 25 years, said of relations with police, “It’s getting worse.”

Four-year city resident Wanda Clark said she was just getting off work when she drove to the area and “saw cops everywhere.’ I said ‘Oh my God, what is going on?’

“My thing is that this is not the best area, but it doesn’t help when you see the police constantly harassing the people who live here. Every day there’s some sort of drama here.”

Also arriving were Martin Luther King Educational Center founders Bobby Wilson and Alex Cropper, who made attempts to calm the crowd by “letting them know that these officers here are on the post to serve and protect, and had nothing to do with what went on.”

However, Mr. Wilson did say that the shooting heated up simmering tension from area residents, many of whom claimed they have regularly been harassed by city police.

“They feel like it’s been an ongoing situation between themselves and the police,” Mr. Wilson said. “I’m trying to send the message that violence and destruction of property aren’t ways to make things better around here.”

Mr. Wilson and Mr. Cropper said they planned to visit the area today in an attempt to organize and gather concerns from residents regarding law enforcement relationships.

Community leaders said a public meeting to discuss ongoing issues in the area will be held at 6 p.m. tonight at the Center of Faith Church of God and Christ in the 100 block of South Governors Avenue.

“We’re trying to let them know this is not the right way to discuss the ongoing situation and what they’re venting about now has been building up for months and years,” Mr. Wilson said.

Evoking a hopeful attitude, Mr. Wilson said he hoped interactions could turn positive, or at least improve with community input.

“One thing we know is that right doesn’t have to look for wrong, but wrong has to look for right,” he said.

Added Mr. Cropper, who said his organization formed after a Simon Circle homicide last year, “We came here to

Dover to address issues and find solutions. Seeing a scene like this a year later and realizing it’s gotten worse means we have a lot of work to do.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, who had been on the scene as well, was asked about the tense atmosphere in the aftermath of the shooting.

“They’re certainly not happy,” he said, “but will understand why it happened when the facts come out.

“I assured them there will be a thorough investigation.”

Also, the mayor said while noting his push to hire an additional 10 city police officers, “This is just a sign of the times and people continue to behave badly.”

State Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, said the incident occurred in the “heart of the district” he represents and urged the community not to draw any premature conclusions until all the facts of the incident were made public.

“Anytime you have a police-involved shooting there’s going to be an angry sentiment from (within the local African-American community),” he said.

“I don’t think Dover is going to be omitted from the problems of eroding trust between the police and the African-American community in many places across the nation.

“My hope is to let all the facts be presented and then begin to figure out the avenues to take in a search for answers (that benefit all persons in the community).”

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