New Castle, DE – The Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) ruled on Monday that the two New Castle officers who opened fire on 30-year-old Lymond Moses in January were justified in their deadly use of force even though their training was outdated.
The incident occurred at about 1 a.m. on Jan. 13 when three officers were doing a patrol for stolen vehicles and came upon the 30-year-old Moses asleep in his vehicle with the car in drive on the dead-end street in front of his mother’s house in Wilmington, WPVI reported.
Bodycam video of the incident released by authorities in March showed the officers spotted marijuana in the vehicle and asked Moses to get out of the car.
Police told Moses that if all he had was weed, there wasn’t a problem.
But instead of getting out of the car, the video showed that Moses put the car in drive and slammed on the gas with officers standing in the open doors of both sides of his vehicle.
The officers pursued Moses and blocked him at the dead end, the video showed.
Bodycam video showed officers got out of their vehicles and ordered Moses to get out of his car.
“Stop the f—king car,” one officer yelled.
Moses ignored the officers and backed the car up a little more, the video showed.
“Don’t f-king do it. Don’t do it,” an officer warned Moses.
Then video showed Moses slammed on the gas and started driving toward one of the officers to make his getaway.
Two officers opened fire on Moses’ moving vehicle as it drove at and past them, the video showed.
Moses’ car rammed into one of the police vehicles and then came to a stop when he hit the curb.
He later died from a gunshot wound to the head that he received while attempting to flee the police, WPVI reported.
A toxicology report showed that Moses had lethal amounts of fentanyl in his system when he was shot, an amount a Delaware medical examiner said was “much higher than levels seen in other deaths,” the Delaware News Journal reported.
DOJ issued its report on Dec. 20 following a lengthy investigation that was aided by former U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, his law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius (MLB), and Sean Smoot of 21st Century Policing Solutions, WDEL reported.
“This has been one of the most extraordinary and exhaustive use of force investigations that the DOJ has ever conducted,” the report read.
The review of the incident ultimately concluded that Moses’ death could have been avoided if better policing tactics had been used, WPVI reported.
But the report said DOJ had determined that the officers had followed policy and procedure and the outdated training they had been given, and the decisions they made were lawful, necessary, and just, WDEL reported.
“My duty as Attorney General – the duty of this entire Department – is not to do what is expedient or popular with one side or another. Nor, for that matter, is it to avoid difficult conclusions,” Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said when she released the report.
“There will be those who believe we should press charges irrespective of our findings; but that asks us to violate our ethical, statutory, and constitutional obligations to prosecute only when there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial. The law in place at the time is what controls our decision,” Jennings explained.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer released a statement that said he agreed with the DOJ’s assessment of the incident, WDEL reported.
“We support the Attorney General’s call to standardize police use of force policies across the state,” Meyer said. “New Castle County police policies are updated continually to ensure that they reflect national standards, and County officers receive rigorous training in the classroom and the field. Tragic incidents like this require appropriate reflection on the policing of our communities, and the County remains committed to putting in the hard work to continue to build community trust.”
The report called for the county to update its training, policies, and procedures, WPVI reported.
“Addressing flawed policies and inadequate training, including gaps in use of force measures, will not only prevent incidents like these from continuing to happen, but increase the safety of members of law enforcement officers and the public,” according to the report.
Moses’ family, who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers and the New Castle Police Department in April, expressed disappointment over the DOJ’s ruling in his case, the Delaware News Journal reported.
Attorneys for the family have called for a federal investigation.