WILMINGTON, Del. » Court records show a Delaware man who reportedly shot himself and refused commands to drop his weapon before being killed by police while in his wheelchair had previously expressed suicidal thoughts and had a history of being combative with police.
Some people who saw Jeremy McDole, 28, in the days before he was killed Wednesday said he did not appear to be sad or to be acting strangely.
"When I saw him, he was happy," said Bishop Anthony Slaughter, a community evangelist who talked to McDole last Monday. Eugene Smith, an uncle who said he spoke with McDole about 15 minutes before the shooting, also said he did not sense anything unusual.
Court records reviewed by The Associated Press show McDole, who had at least 16 arrests, expressed suicidal behavior in 2010 and was accused of being combative with law enforcement. In pleading guilty in 2011 to a drug charge, McDole was given a form asking him several questions, including whether he had ever been a mental hospital patient. His public defender responded affirmatively, adding in parentheses: "2010 Suicidal." Public defender Kester Crosse also indicated McDole was taking the antidepressants Cymbalta and Zoloft at the time of the plea.
A criminal history form included in another of McDole’s case files noted that he "will resist police." The file shows that McDole had a juvenile adjudication for resisting arrest and other crimes in 2004, and that he was charged with resisting arrest in connection with a 2009 drug charge. The latter resisting charge was dropped in a plea deal. In that incident, a police officer wrote that McDole repeatedly pulled his arms away from officers trying to take him into custody, and fought with officers after arriving at a police station. "DON’T DISRESPECT ME!" he shouted as officers tried to prevent him from putting his hands in his crotch area, according to the report.
Law enforcement officials also said in court records that McDole, who was shot in the back by an associate in 2005, used his wheelchair to hide things.
"The last three felony arrests indicate that Mr. McDole has used his disability to enhance his opportunities to become a better drug dealer, as since his shooting incident he can hide contraband easier in his wheel chair," a probation and parole officer wrote in October 2014.
Wilmington Police say they encountered McDole, who was black, on Wednesday after receiving a 911 call about man who had shot himself in the parking lot of an auto parts store and was still armed with a handgun. Officials have released a portion of the call, in which a frantic woman repeatedly says the man still has a gun and warns other people to stay back. Cellphone footage taken by a bystander shows police repeatedly telling McDole to drop his weapon and McDole reaching for his waist area before shots erupt. Authorities have said they recovered a .38 caliber handgun near McDole’s body.
Repeated attempts by The Associated Press to talk to the McDole family were unsuccessful. Family members have previously suggested that he did not have a gun, and that police had no reason to kill him.
Wilmington Police chief Bobby Cummings has said he does not know whether McDole was depressed or suicidal, or what might have led him to shoot himself before police arrived.
Slaughter, the community evangelist, said he told McDole on Monday that he would pray for him.
"He said, ‘I’m done doing anything crazy.’ … He wanted to change his life," Slaughter recalled.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Mayor Dennis Williams, who attended a peaceful prayer vigil and spoke with McDole’s family on Thursday, met relatives again Sunday.
"The governor made a brief visit to Jeremy McDole’s grandmother to offer condolences and thank her for working with the NAACP to try to maintain calm," Markell spokeswoman Kelly Bachman said in an email.
The Delaware NAACP is seeking an independent probe of the shooting, which is being investigated by police and the state attorney general’s office.