The Interdenominational Ministers Action Council is asking political and civic leaders in Wilmington to respond appropriately to the fatal shooting of Jeremy McDole.
Religious leaders stood together in the Mother African Union Church in Wilmington on Thursday, and bowed their heads to mourn the loss of Jeremy McDole, a 28-year-old who was fatally shot by police last week.
The community has expressed outrage over the incident, and now the Interdenominational Ministers Action Council is asking for a state and federal investigation into the incident.
The group of religious leaders is also asking government and civic leaders to be transparent and to address concerns about violence in Wilmington.
We must acknowledge our deep regret and sorrow at the loss of another human life,” said Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, president of IMAC.
“Every life is precious, yet in our nation we continue to revisit the debate about African Americans losing lives over hands of police officers.”
Authorities say McDole was fatally shot in Wilmington Sept. 23 after police responded to a 911 call about a man who shot himself and was still armed.
Cell phone video shows officers telling McDole to drop his weapon and McDole reaching for his waist area before shots erupt. Authorities say they found a gun near his body.
Family members say McDole wasn’t armed during the incident, and others also argue there is no visible gun in video footage. McDole, who was in a wheelchair at the time, was paralyzed from the waist down after a shooting about 10 years ago.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Wilmington Police Department. It will also include the Delaware Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which is standard protocol whenever an officer discharges a firearm that results in injury or death of a person.
New Castle County Councilman Jea Street also has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident.
On Thursday Beaman said public officials must be held responsible for making sure the investigation is fair and transparent.
“(The family is) entitled to ask and get answers to questions and queries they have about this disturbing event in their lives,” he said.
“There is a need for us to seek justice in the shooting of Mr. McDole. We will not rush to judgement, but we must hold our law enforcement officials and civic leaders to a high standard of justice.”
Since the incident, Mayor Dennis Williams, D-Wilmington, has promised to be communicative and honest with the community.
“I do believe since the administration took office we started rebuilding community and police relations. Wilmington is a different city,” he said. “We have an open investigation here, and the family will be notified, and the clergy will be notified. We want everyone to know we are open and transparent. “
Beaman also encourages political and community leaders to address social issues in the city that contribute to violence.
“Violence is connected to the cycle of poverty that breeds hopelessness, anger, frustration, desperation and mental and emotional trauma,” he said.
Beaman said he also urges the community to remain calm and seek justice in a peaceful manner.
“We are here to tell our community that (violence) will not bring honor and respect to the death of Jeremy McDole or to his family,” he said.
Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz, D-Wilmington, echoed the reverend’s message. She said while an investigation is important to provide comfort to the community, leaders also need to focus on addressing the root causes of violence.
“We have mental trauma resulting in violence in the community. If we don’t get a handle on it and resolve those issues, which are being fed thorough a lack of opportunity, through poverty, a lack of quality education, there will be more incidents like this and they will spring up on us simultaneously and the response will be to act with violence,” Shabazz said.
“I’m pleading for us to focus on root causes of mental illness and post traumatic syndrome that our community is plagued with right now. We don’t make any guns, we don’t make the drugs, but we are always the victims of the end of the gun.”