County police: Suspect shot to death by officer tried to run him over with stolen van

 New Castle County police a man killed March 29 by one of their officers tried to run him down with a minivan. The suspect, Leroy Brown, was shot by Philadelphia police about two hours earlier. (File/WHYY)

New Castle County police a man killed March 29 by one of their officers tried to run him down with a minivan. The suspect, Leroy Brown, was shot by Philadelphia police about two hours earlier. (File/WHYY)

The suspect shot to death by New Castle County police March 29 after being shot two hours earlier by a Philadelphia officer rammed a police cruiser and another vehicle, then tried to run over the officer who fired the fatal shots.

Monday’s release by Sr. Cpl. Tracey Duffy, the county police spokeswoman, provided the first detailed account of the fatal shooting nearly two weeks ago near New Castle.

The account Duffy provided Monday revealed for the first time that the officer was injured, and that he was treated at Christiana Hospital for unspecified minor injuries. The morning after the shooting, Duffy only reported that the officer shot 28-year-old Leroy Brown after a “struggle.”

According to Duffy’s updated account:

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Police had tracked Brown to the Coachman’s Manor apartments off Del. 9. Outside, they spotted blood on a Dodge Avenger that Brown reportedly stole in Philadelphia after being shot by police there and abandoning the Dodge Caravan he had been driving.

Police knocked on the door of a third-floor apartment door but Brown jumped out a window. The officer who later shot him was stationed outside and chased Brown on foot, Duffy wrote.

Brown entered the Dodge Avenger through the front passenger door, leaving it open. The officer reached the open door but Brown slammed the minivan into reverse, pinning the officer between the vehicle’s body and the door, Duffy wrote.

The van struck an unoccupied marked patrol car parked behind it, ejecting the officer into the side of the police car, Duffy wrote. Brown drove forward, striking another parked car. Then he reversed the van again and drove toward the officer, who fired his handgun.

After being shot, Brown drove the car across Moores Lane before striking a park bench and coming to a stop in Rogers Manor Park, Duffy wrote. Officers gave him medical aid and he was taken by ambulance to Christiana Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In a phone interview, Duffy said she did not know the officer’s injuries, but said he did not have any broken bones and was released within hours.

Also Monday, the county’s new police chief, Col. Vaughn M. Bond, issued a statement calling the shooting ” a tragic situation that has undoubtedly altered the lives of all involved,” including the county officer who killed Brown. The officer’s response “saved him from serious injury or death.”

Philadelphia police said Brown had a woman and four children ages 2 to 6 in the two vans he drove before and after being shot there. Duffy has said, Brown had dropped off the five passengers at a home before his fatal altercation with county police.

The string of events that led to Brown’s death began about 5:40 p.m. when two officers responded to a report of a “person with a gun” by someone known to carry firearms at 56th Street and Whitby Avenue in southwest Philadelphia, city police have said.

Officers saw the man enter the driver’s side of the Dodge Caravan, where a 26-year-old woman was sitting in the front passenger seat. Police said they tried to stop the man from driving off, but he accelerated in reverse, striking an officer standing by his door.

That officer saw the man reach under his seat, police said, and fired his service weapon, hitting the man in his left side.

At the time, Philadelphia police said, they did not know four young children were in the minivan. Nor would they say when officers discovered children were inside.

Brown drove off and soon crashed into a 2003 Dodge Neon driven by a 23-year-old man who suffered minor injuries. He kept driving toward Island Avenue and Lindbergh Boulevard, where the Caravan became disabled, police said.

Brown left the minivan and stole a parked 2011 Dodge Avenger whose engine was running. The woman and four children also got into the Avenger and Brown drove off, police wrote.

Police who responded to that scene found blood inside the Caravan. They checked area hospitals for the man but were unsuccessful. The officer suffered cuts and bruises to his thigh, elbow and forehead, city police said.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal