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Update: Couple who were gunned down in cemetery shooting had no connection to suspect

Police say the suspect, 29 year old Sheldon C. Francis of Middletown, had no connection to the victims he gunned down in a Bear Cemetery.

Bear (DE)/Update (Monday May 22, 2020): Delaware State Police have provided an update to the shooting death of Paul and Lidia Marino, both of Elkton, Md.

Police say, “at approximately 12:08 p.m., Troopers on the Delaware State Police Special Operations Response Team (SORT) responded to the wooded area where Francis was located in the Delaware State Police BearCat Armored Vehicle.

Upon arriving to the location, the BearCat began immediately taking on a significant amount of gunshot rounds from Francis, resulting in an exchange of gunfire taking place between members of SORT and Francis. During the exchange of gunfire, Francis sustained a gunshot wound by the Delaware State Police, which resulted in his death.

Francis was pronounced deceased at the scene. No Troopers involved in the shooting incident were not injured and have been placed on administrative leave as per Divisional Policy .

As this investigation remains ongoing, there has been no motive determined at this time or evidence indicating Francis had any connection to the Marino’s.

Bear (DE)/Update (Monday May 11, 2020)Police have identified the couple who were gunned down Friday morning at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear. The motive still remains a mystery but Delaware State Police say the 86 year old male victim has been identified as Paul C. Marino of Elkton, MD. He was initially admitted to an area hospital in critical condition. On Saturday, May 9, 2020, Mr. Marino succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the hospital. His wife, 85-year old Lidia Marino, of Elkton, MD, was pronounced deceased on scene at the time of the original incident.

Bear (DE)/Update (Saturday May 10, 2020): Police have announced this morning that the 86-year-old man who was the only surviving victim of Friday morning’s shooting at the Veterans Cemetery has died from his injuries. His 85-year-old wife died at the scene. He was subsequently transported to a local hospital where he remained until his death.

According to police spokesman Michael Austin, Identification of both victims is pending notification of next of kin.

Friday evening, police confirmed to media outlets that the suspect who had shot two people inside the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, and opened fire on arriving officers, was found dead in a wooded area near the cemetery where they have been exchanging gunfire with him.

Photo: Delaware State Police

“The suspect responsible for the initial shooting of two subjects on the cemetery property, and who also had an exchange of gunfire with officers, was located deceased adjacent to the wooded area where the exchange of gunfire took place.”, said police spokeswoman, Heather Pepper.

“At this time the area is secure and there is no threat to public safety. The investigation is ongoing therefore a significant police presence will remain in and around the area for several hours.”, Pepper said.

Police have identified the suspect as 29 year old Sheldon C. Francis of Middletown. It is not clear what his motive was or if there was a connection between the three people.

Officials say that The Delaware Division of Forensic Science will perform autopsies to determine the cause and manner of the deaths.

The first arriving officers on scene located the victims and confirmed that they both had sustained gunshot wounds. The female victim was pronounced at the scene, the male was transported to an area hospital in critical condition. Initial reports from the scene also advised that a subject had been seen running into an adjacent wooded area immediately after the gunshots were heard.

“At approximately 4:00 p.m., officers made entry in to the wooded area where they located the suspect who was confirmed to be deceased. They also observed that the suspect, a 29 year old Middletown man, had sustained an apparent gunshot wound. It is undetermined at this time if the gunshot wound was self-inflicted or as a result of the earlier exchange of gunfire.”, said Police spokeswoman Heather Pepper.

“During the course of the incident, communication had been made with area residents via a reverse 911 call, and advised to shelter in place. Some residents who were in closer proximity to the incident were temporarily evacuated. Multiple area roadways were also closed during the operation.”, Pepper said. “Upon locating the suspect the area was deemed secure at which time the evacuees were able to return home and roadways were re-opened. Based on the nature of the incident a large police presence remained in the area as part of the ongoing investigation.”

While the Delaware State Police are the primary investigating agency, during today’s operation they received assistance from multiple allied agencies from the federal, state and local levels, who provided manpower and resources, to include the ATF, FBI, U.S. Marshals, DNREC, New Castle County P.D., Wilmington P.D., Dover P.D., Newark P.D., N.C.C. EMS and DELDOT.

The investigation is active and ongoing and will be furthered by the Delaware State Police Homicide Unit. Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact Det. M. Ryde by calling 302-698-8557.

Late Friday evening a news release from the Department of State said, “Twelve employees were working at the cemetery at the time of the incident, all of whom sheltered in a building on site and were unharmed.”

“Police safely released all employees from the cemetery at approximately 3:30 p.m.”, said Doug Denison, Director of communications at the Department of State. “A memorial service had taken place at the cemetery chapel just prior to the time of the incident. All participants in the service had left the cemetery and there were no other visitors on the cemetery grounds.”

“Today, a moment of tragedy shattered the peaceful atmosphere of the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery. We are deeply sorry for the families and loved ones of the victims,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “We are thankful for the quick thinking and actions of our cemetery staff and the Delaware State Police, and grateful that no one else was hurt in this dangerous situation.”

During Gov. John Carney’s bi-weekly COVID-19 update, he took a moment to reflect on the shooting that was unfolding in real-time. “Really sad news to think of that kind of event in what is really a sacred ground, the final resting place of the men and women who have served our country,” Carney said.

Original Story (Friday May 9, 2020): Police were searching for a gunman who shot two people at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear. Police were dispatched to the Veterans Memorial Cemetery to investigate the shooting shortly after 10:00 Am this morning and began taking fire from the gunman as he fled into a wooded area behind the cemetery.

The Veterans Memorial Cemetery is located in Bear on Chesapeake City Rd near Rte 896.

New Castle County Paramedics stage at a nearby shooting scene where police have engaged the suspect on Summit Bridge Road. Photo: George Shea | Delaware Newsline

Dozens of shots could be heard from Rte 896 as police escorted two ambulances to retrieve the two shooting victims, and quickly escorted them back out.

At a late afternoon press conference, police spokeswoman Heather Pepper said a man and a woman suffered gunshot wounds at the cemetery but would not provide any details on their condition, or if they were transported to a local hospital.

Police also say that no officers have been shot or injured at this time.

A shelter in place for the Brennan Estates neighborhood was issued earlier in the incident. Some of the homes were evacuated while others were told to stay inside as the search for the gunman continues.

The search for the suspect was being conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies.

New Castle County Paramedics and other EMT’s were being staged on Summit Bridge Road at Bethel Church Road.

Police seem to be concentrated along the woodline on Rte 896 and have been taken shots.

Troopers could be seen crouching behind concrete barricades along Rte 896 where they have been focusing in on a specific area within the wooded area.

Due to a heavy police presence, drivers should expect delays in the area as the following roads have been closed: Summit Bridge Rd. Rt. 896) northbound at Bethel Church Rd. is closed as well as Red Lion Rd. (Rt.71) at Howell School Rd., Fraser Rd. at Chesapeake City Rd., and Summit Bridge Rd. (Rt. 896) southbound at County Rd.

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