DOVER — Use of force was justified when a 52-year-old Dover man was shot and killed by police officers entering a barricaded apartment in late 2014, the Delaware Department of Justice determined in a report released Thursday.
Dover Police Department Patrolman First Class John Willson and Cpl. Kevin Streadwick reasonably believed their lives were in danger when they discharged weapons at James R. Long on Dec. 21, 2014, after a standoff at his Country Club Apartment complex residence.
Thus, no criminal prosecution was warranted, the DOJ said.
According to the DOJ’s conclusion, “Mr. Long contacted a suicide hot line indicating that he planned to involve officers in his suicide and alluded to the fact that he planned to commit suicide by cop.”
Mr. Long confronted officers in the apartment and pointed “what appeared to be a black semi-automatic handgun directly at them” before he was shot just after midnight, the DOJ said.
Pfc. Willson discharged a Glock handgun and Cpl. Streadwick used a Smith and Wesson rifle, the report said. Both weapons were department issued.
Further investigation found that Mr. Long was holding a black Colt Defender pellet gun, a replica of a Colt 1911 model .45 caliber handgun.
Also located in Mr. Long’s apartment was a bucket containing a potentially lethal chemical mix, officials said.
“The placement of the bucket of chemicals (near the apartment door) appeared to have been intended to ... create a cloud of chlorine gas that would cause injury to anyone entering the apartment,” the report read.
A screwdriver and vice were attached to the door lock “that Mr. Long had tried to use to prevent police from entering the apartment” according to the DOJ.
Mr. Long’s manner of death was listed as “suicide” by a medical examiner, the report said; toxicology reports indicated he had alcohol and marijuana in his system.
Entering the apartment
The report said Mr. Long was shot twice before falling to the floor. Officers reportedly saw Pfc. Willson “kicking what appeared to be a black semiautomatic handgun away from Mr. Long’s hand in the area where Mr. Long fell.”
No other occupants were found in the apartment and officers gave first aid until EMS arrived, the report said. Mr. Long was transported to the Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital Emergency Department and was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m.
The report said Lt. David Spicer, commander of the Special Investigations Unit and Dover Police SORT team approved entry into Mr. Long’s apartment at approximately 12:11 a.m. after multiple attempts to coax him out through phone contact, ringing a door bell, knocking on the door and shouting commands.
Police said they heard sounds of Mr. Long adjusting door locks or barricading himself inside the apartment “to prevent (police) from entering.”
SORT team members dressed in tactical gear identifying themselves as police positioned themselves to enter the apartment, the report said, and an attempt to enter with a door key provided by the apartment manager was unsuccessful.
A metal ram was then used to enter, and Cpl. Streadwick “deployed a noise flash diversionary device into (the) hallway that filled the hallway with a flash of light and heavy smoke that activated a smoke alarm” according to the report.
Officers on the perimeter said they saw Mr. Long moving toward the front door and one said he could see him in silhouette through the smoke as the SORT team entered the hallway.
“ ... Mr. Long was facing the entry team with both arms extended in front of his body with his hands together in front of his body,” the report stated.
Shouts of ‘gun’
Also, several officers inside and outside the building reportedly heard “shouts of ‘gun’ several times” before officers discharged their weapons.
According to the report, Dover Police officers were first called to the scene at approximately 10:38 p.m. after “receiving information that Mr. Long
called a suicide hotline stating that he was planning to kill himself on Dec. 25, 2014.”
An initial call had been called to a suicide hot-line worker, who contacted the Colorado Police Department due to the phone number from a Colorado area code.
Colorado Police contacted Mr. Long, who refused to give his identity or location, the report said.
While in contact with Colorado, Mr. Long reported a plan of “inspiring someone to help him” commit suicide and mentioned involving police, the DOJ concluded.
A Dover Police negotiator made phone contact with Mr. Long in an attempt to persuade him to open the door as officers waited outside in the hallway, the report said.
The negotiator determined that he appeared to be intoxicated.
Mr. Long refused to exit, and would talk to the negotiator for a couple minutes and then hang up during repeated calls, the report said.
At one point, the report said, officers saw “Mr. Long rocking back and forth in what appeared to be an agitated or excited state” as they watched through a partial opening in blinds on a sliding glass door on the balcony.
After about an hour of negotiation and attempts to get Mr. Long to exit the apartment, the SORT team was activated, the report said.
History of issues
The Dover department was familiar with Mr. Long “who had a history of mental health issues and arrests related to driving under the influence” according to the report.
During a June 2014 barricade situation, Mr. Long was taken into custody after a SORT team entered his apartment and found him passed out, officials said.
Mr. Long was treated voluntarily and involuntarily at several “facilities” following interaction with police, the report said.
“Mr. Long’s treatment records contain multiple references to his suicidal ideation and desire to involve law enforcement in his plan, sometimes referred to as ‘suicide by cop,’ ” according to the report.
After a February 2014 vehicle pursuit and apprehension in an alleged driving while intoxicated investigation, Mr. Long allegedly asked police to shoot him, the report said.
Mr. Long made suicidal statements while being taken into custody after a May 2014 vehicle pursuit with Dover Police, according to officials.