Delaware man charged in murder prosecutors say ignited Wilmington gang war

Wilmington police cruiser

File photo: A Wilmington police car stationed at the site of a shooting. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Jordan Ellerbe was gunned down in January 2015 as he sat on a porch listening to music in Wilmington’s Hilltop neighborhood. Gun fire would hit the same home a few days later, hurting three people mourning the 16-year-old’s death.

The murder launched a gang war between two groups, Shoot to Kill and Only My Brothers. The multiple shootings in the following months and years included the murder of 15-year-old Brandon Wingo. The Howard High freshman was shot and killed in May 2016 as he was on his way home from school.

The shootings continued in the following years. In 2017, an Associated Press and USA TODAY Network analysis of Gun Violence Archive data showed Wilmington had the highest rate of shootings among young people age 12 to 17 in the entire country.

Now, more than eight years after Ellerbe was killed, Wilmington police arrested the man accused in his murder, 24-year-old Oliver “Butter” Henry. Henry was taken into custody Tuesday and is being held in Wilmington’s Howard Young Correctional Institution on $2.5 million cash bail.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“This murder fueled unacceptable levels of gun violence in and around Wilmington, and it also left behind a family that has been waiting for answers, and justice,” said the city’s newly installed police chief Wilfredo Campos. “While we know an arrest cannot heal the wounds left behind by this killing, I do hope it brings the family of Mr. Ellerbe some degree of closure.”

Henry is charged with first degree murder in the Ellerbe case. He’s also charged with three counts of attempted murder for shooting or attempting to shoot two other men.

“It’s senseless. It’s wrong,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, when speaking of the ongoing violence involving young people. “The ease with which it escalated and claimed young lives is the heavy toll we pay so that guns can live in our communities with our kids.”

In 2021, Wilmington saw a record high 39 homicides. At the time, Mayor Mike Purzycki blamed a surge in “street assassinations” for the spike. Last year, 107 people were wounded by gunfire and 18 of them died — fewest in about a decade.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

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