Officials: Dewey Beach Police Officer Cleared In Fatal Shooting

“On the evening of March 18, 2022, Robinson arrived at the Starboard Restaurant and Bar (“Starboard”) in Dewey Beach.  Robinson was driven to the Starboard by an acquaintance.  Upon arrival, the acquaintance observed that Robinson had a handgun tucked into the right waistband of his blue jeans.  Starboard security video footage shows Robinson later displaying the handgun inside of Starboard.

When Robinson exited through the Starboard front entrance to a sidewalk on Coastal Highway in the early morning of March 19, 2022 at 1:13 AM, a security officer noticed he possessed a gun. The security officer alerted a contingent of Dewey Beach Police officers who were gathered in the area.

Dewey Beach Police attempted to detain Robinson. Robinson then ran southbound along Coastal Highway, and four officers followed in a foot pursuit. At least one of the officers, Ofc. Ebke, observed what he believed was a firearm in Robinson’s waistband as he fled. This foot pursuit was captured on video systems owned by the Town of Dewey Beach, Mama Celeste’s Pizza, and the Starboard.  Robinson eluded the police and was not apprehended.

Approximately one hour later, Robinson returned to the Starboard. Shortly thereafter, Robinson appears on the Starboard surveillance video system, walking northbound on the sidewalk in front of the business.   At this time, a Starboard manager placed a 911 call to notify police that the same subject from earlier had returned to the business.

The Dewey Beach Police again tried to stop Robinson.  Robinson refused commands to stop and ran into an alley behind Izzy Plaza.  Robinson reached a fence that blocked egress through the alley, and he was unable to continue his flight.  The police gave commands for Robinson to stop and show his hands.  Robinson turned toward Dewey Beach Officers John Rhodes (“Ofc. Rhodes” or “Rhodes”) and Ebke. Officer Rhodes deployed a Taser toward Robinson that neither officer observed to have any effect on Robinson.  Ofc. Ebke stated that Robinson then used his left hand to lift his sweatshirt and began reaching with his right hand toward a bulge in his right waistband.  Ofc. Ebke further stated he believed the bulge was a firearm.  Subsequently, Ofc. Ebke fired one round from his departmental firearm toward Robinson.  Both officers then sought cover by running through a breezeway to Coastal Highway.  Robinson continued his attempt to flee by running out of the same end of the alley he had entered.  Robinson collapsed in the rear yard of a residence behind the Starboard.  Robinson had been struck by the single shot that Ebke fired.

Upon locating Robinson, officers attempted lifesaving measures by administering CPR and connecting an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) retrieved from the Starboard. Sussex Co. EMS personnel assumed lifesaving measures and transported Robinson to Beebe Hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.  Police later learned that Robinson had pending criminal charges related to his fleeing the Delaware State Police in a vehicle in March of 2021.”

Based upon the evidence available, we conclude that, Ofc. Ebke reasonably felt in fear for his own life, and the life of Ofc. Rhoades when Robinson reached a fence line, was unaffected by the Taser, turned towards Ofc. Ebke, pulled up his sweatshirt, and put his hand in his waistband where Ebke saw a bulge near where he previously saw the handle of a handgun.  Further, the officers were aware from both their observations and the observations of several others (relayed to them) that Robinson was armed.  We conclude that because Ofc. Ebke reasonably felt in fear for his life and the life of another officer when he used force, such use was justified pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 464.

Additionally, Ofc. Ebke was neither negligent nor reckless in forming his belief that force was necessary for the protection of self or others.  Ofc. Ebke saw the handle of a handgun in Robinson’s waistband during an earlier foot chase.  He observed Robinson turn towards him, pull up his sweatshirt and put his hand in his waistband, where Ebke saw a bulge, immediately prior to Ebke pulling the trigger of his weapon one time. This decision to use force by firing one shot in these circumstances was neither reckless nor negligent.

Because Ofc. Ebke was justified to use force pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 464, we further determine that he was not negligent or reckless in injuring or creating a risk of injury to third persons under 11 Del. C. § 470(b).  Given the early morning hour, no third person was in Ofc. Ebke’s line of fire and no third persons were injured nor at risk of injury from the single gunshot.            Finally, the law now requires that a DCRPT public report on the use of force 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.  Ofc. Ebke is a white male.  Robinson was a black male.  There is no evidence to suggest that race was a relevant or motivating factor in the use of force in this case.3

Upon careful consideration of the available evidence and the application of expert opinion to that evidence, DCRPT determines that Ofc. Ebke reasonably believed that the use of deadly force upon Robinson was immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself and others.   For these reasons, 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.

Full Report can be found here

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