Under Delaware law, the objective facts and circumstances must be considered when determining whether the use of force was justifiable against another person, either in self-defense or in the defense of others.
WILMINGTON, DE (DNTV): The Delaware Department of Justice, Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust (“DCRPT”) has determined that the January officer-involved shpoting in Wilmington Manor was justified.
The officer-involved shooting involved three New Castle County Police officers, Officer First Class Sean Sweeney-Jones, who has been with the NCCPD for approximately nine years., Officer First Class Ryan Archangelo has been with the NCCPD for just over a year and half, and Officer First Class Alejandro Guillen who has been a NCCPD officer for four years.
According to the report, the State must determine whether the use of deadly force by the NCCPD officers constitutes a criminal act. Title 11 Section 464 of the Delaware Code defines the legal use of force in self-protection. It provides, in pertinent part, that “[t]he use of deadly force is justifiable under this section if the [officer] believes that such force is necessary to protect the [officer] against death or serious physical injury.” In a criminal case, the State must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an officer’s use of deadly force was not justified under Title 11 Section 465, use of force for the protection of other persons.
Under Delaware law, the objective facts and circumstances must be considered when determining whether the use of force was justifiable against another person, either in self-defense or in the defense of others. The specific factual inquiry is two-pronged. The first question is whether the Officers reasonably believed, at the time they intentionally fired their weapons, that such action was necessary to protect themselves or others from death or serious physical injury. The second question is whether the officers were reckless or negligent in having such belief, or in acquiring or failing to acquire any knowledge or belief, which is material to the justifiability of the use of force. If such force is determined to have been justified, the law requires an examination into whether such force negligently or recklessly created injury or risk of injury to innocent third parties pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 470(b).
In this case, the use of force by police was justified as a matter of law in both self-defense and in the defense of others. The police were not reckless or negligent in forming the belief that deadly force was immediately necessary. On January 22, 2023, a home invasion occurred at 21 West Minuit Drive. Two of the subjects were armed with firearms, including a HK MP-5 .22 caliber firearm and an unbranded handgun. As Officer Sweeney-Jones approached the residence, two subjects exited the front door. Officer Sweeney-Jones saw that one subject was armed with a HK MP-5 rifle. Officer Sweeney-Jones shouted commands at the subjects, but when a subject turned, he was fearful they were trying to engage him. Based upon the evidence available, Officer Sweeney-Jones was reasonable when he feared for his own life, and the lives of nearby officers and residents.
Officer Archangelo also observed two subjects exit the residence, one holding the HK MP-5 rifle. Officer Archangelo stated that he fired at the subject holding the MP-5. He reasonably feared for his own life and the lives of Officers Sweeney-Jones and Guillen who were in close proximity to the subjects.
Officer Guillen ran to the side yard after he heard movement from the back of the property. He encountered a subject and observed something in his hands. Officer Guillen stated that after yelling commands at the subject, the subject turned around and “squared up against” him with his hand in front of him “sort of” pointed. Officer Guillen feared the subject was going to shoot him and fired one shot at the subject. Officer Guillen reasonably feared for his life.
Because the police were justified to use force pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 464, we further determine that they were not negligent or reckless in injuring or creating a risk of injury to third persons under 11 Del. C. § 470(b). The police were confronting armed subjects who had just committed a home invasion. The incident occurred on residential property in the early morning hours, when it is reasonable to believe that most people are inside their homes. No third persons were injured by the police and the police took reasonable measures to only use force when necessary.
Finally, 29 Del C. § 2553(a)(3)b now requires as a matter of law that, if DCRPT issues a public report on the use of force, the report must include the race of the law enforcement officer who used force, the race of the individual on whom force was used, and whether race was a relevant or motivating factor. The race of the subjects is as follows: Chandler is a Black male; DiPasquale is a white male, Edgerton is a white male; Salasky is a white male. The officers who used deadly force (Officers Sweeney-Jones, Archangelo, and Guillen) are all white males. Race was not a relevant or motivating factor in the use of force. The relevant and motivating factors in the use of force by police were the reasonable belief that force was necessary due to the imminent danger and substantial risk of death to officers and nearby residents.
Upon careful consideration of the available evidence and the application of expert opinion to that evidence, Officers Sweeney-Jones, Archangelo, and Guillen all reasonably believed that the use of deadly force against Chandler, DiPasquale, Edgerton, and Salasky was immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting another – and themselves. As a result, the Department of Justice concludes the use of deadly force in this case does not constitute a criminal offense under the laws of the State of Delaware.
Police say at approximately 1:48 a.m. on Sunday, January 22, 2023, a resident of 21 West Minuit Drive in New Castle called 911 and reported a break-in. The caller reported that armed subjects were in the living room of his residence and attacking his roommates. The caller advised he was in his bedroom and could hear commotion and yelling from the living room.
New Castle County Police officers arrived on scene and encountered several suspects exiting or attempting to exit the residence via the front door. One of the suspects, later identified as DiPasquale, was carrying a black HK MP-5 .22 caliber firearm. Officer Sean Sweeney-Jones (“Officer Sweeney-Jones”) gave verbal commands to the suspects, who failed to comply with his commands. Officers Sweeney-Jones and Ryan Archangelo (“Officer Archangelo”) fired their service weapons, striking two of the suspects (DiPasquale and Chandler) and causing non-life-threatening injuries. As Officers Sweeney-Jones and Archangelo confronted DiPasquale and Chandler; two other suspects, Salasky and Edgerton, retreated inside the residence and fled out the rear of the residence.
Salasky was confronted by Officer Alejandro Guillen (“Officer Guillen”) near the rear of the property as Salasky had scaled over an approximately six-foot wooden fence. Officer Guillen confronted Salasky, who was armed with a reddish-orange unbranded 9mm handgun. Officer Guillen discharged his firearm one time after Salasky turned toward him with his handgun in hand. Salasky was not hit by Guillen’s gunfire but did drop his handgun and surrendered without further incident. Edgerton and DiPasquale were able to flee the area but were apprehended at a later date. DiPasquale dropped his firearm as he fled the property.
Chandler was apprehended at the scene and transported to Christiana Hospital for medical treatment. Chandler was treated for gunshot wounds to his left upper arm; a gunshot wound to his left thigh; and a gunshot wound to his right thigh. Salasky was also apprehended at the scene and transported to Christiana Hospital for a leg injury he received after jumping over the wooden fence. The injury was determined to be a leg bruise. Salasky was then transported to NCCPD Headquarters and invoked his right to not make a statement. No officers were injured during the incident.
NCCPD continued their investigation and learned that Alistair DiPasquale was involved in the burglary at 21 West Minuit Drive. On January 24, 2023, NCCPD was able to locate DiPasquale and place him under arrest without incident at an address in the City of Wilmington. DiPasquale had suffered a gunshot injury from the January 22, 2023 incident. DiPasquale was transported to Christiana Care Hospital and treated for a left biceps/triceps wound. DiPasquale was later transported to NCCPD. DiPasquale provided a partial statement to detectives. During his interview, DiPasquale admitted to being involved with the burglary on West Minuit Drive. He stated the police never said anything and just started shooting. DiPasquale stopped the interview and did not provide any additional statements.
NCCPD was able to determine that a fourth subject, Edgerton, was involved in the January 22, 2023 burglary. On February 2, 2023, Edgerton was located at his residence and provided an initial statement to detectives. On February 7, 2023, Edgerton responded to NCCPD Headquarters and provided a full confession to the home invasion and the actions of four suspects.