Delaware police shoot man in wheelchair; his relatives ask why

Story highlights

  • Officers circled the man, who was in a wheelchair, telling him to put his hands up
  • The chief says the man reached for the gun; his mother disputes this claim

(CNN)Police officers, their guns raised, approach the man in the wheelchair and yell out loudly and repeatedly: "Drop the gun" and "hands up."

His hands don't rise. Shots are fired. And the man keels over out of his wheelchair and onto the ground.
    The police chief in Wilmington, Delaware, defended his officers Thursday. The handicapped man, Jeremy McDole, was armed with a .38-caliber gun -- the same one he'd apparently used on himself earlier, Chief Bobby Cummings said. And he never complied with the officers' requests.
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    Instead, "when Mr. McDole began to remove the weapon from his waist, the officers engaged him," Cummings said. In other words, the officers opened fire because they were concerned McDole might fire his weapon at them.
    But the man's mother saw it differently.
    Phyllis McDole alluded to a video -- which Cummings acknowledged but said he hasn't authenticated -- which she said shows that her son "didn't pull a weapon. He had his hands in his lap."
    In the footage, a witness can be heard saying "put your hands up" and "he's reaching again." But it's not obvious what exactly the man was doing with his hands just before the shots rang out.
    Phyllis McDole -- who spoke at the same news conference as Cummings, despite their obvious differences of opinion -- doesn't understand why her son died. He was 28-years-old and paralyzed from the waist down, she points out.
    The mother said, "This is unjust."

    Mayor: 'We want answers'

    The call came in at about 3 p.m. Wednesday that there was a man suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound who was still armed, Cummings explained.
    A number of officers arrived and approached McDole. Their guns were pointed toward his stationary wheelchair as they circled, shouting their demands that he let go of the weapon. It wasn't evident from the video if the gun was ever in his hands as police approached.
    This took place before a few moments of relative silence.
    That's when, the Wilmington police chief said, McDole "began to remove the weapon from his waist, the officers engaged him and -- as a result of the injuries Mr. McDole sustained -- he lost his life."
    Hours after the shooting, the loss of life seemed about the only thing that police and McDole's mother agreed on.
    Mayor Dennis Williams promised at Thursday's news conference that the family "will be notified step-by-step throughout the investigation.
    And he concurred with Phyllis McDole in at least one respect: "We want answers."