A Rehoboth Beach man remains in critical but stable condition in the hospital after he led police on a chase and was shot in the chest by a pursuing officer.
Since then, his mother said she has tried to see and talk to her son, but has been denied access. A Department of Correction spokesman says the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 limits the amount of information that can be released.
"I've been extremely worried," said Martie Owers of Rehoboth Beach. "The whole family is."
Keith Schueller, 42, was shot in the chest Feb. 19 by Trooper First Class Brett Cordrey, a three-year officer on the force. According to police, a trooper recognized Schueller – wanted on theft charges – as Schueller drove westbound on Postal Lane. A car chase ensued through Sandy Brae neighborhood until Schueller crashed into a vehicle at the intersection of Postal Lane and Plantation Road. Schueller fled on foot through a cornfield as police chased him through one farm and cornered him near a barn on a second farm. Police said Schueller picked up a five-foot shovel and threatened police when Cordrey shot him.
Schueller was taken to Beebe Medical Center and later transported to Christiana Hospital. Owers said police told her Schueller had surgery that day to remove the bullet, but surgeons could not remove it. She said the last update she received from a detective was Friday.
"The detective told me Keith asked, "Does my mom know I'm in the hospital?" she said. "Then I was told I would hear from police if he died."
Owers said she went to Christiana Hospital to try and see her son. She said she also has called a DOC warden's office for information on Keith's condition – all to no avail.
Christiana Hospital officials said they did not have a record of someone named Keith Schueller when contacted seeking information.
Department of Correction spokesman John Painter said HIPAA restrictions prevent hospitals from releasing medical information on a patient without signed consent. This includes family members, he said.
"It's a federal law and as an adult, 42, we can't share his medical information without his consent," Painter said. "He hasn't signed the paperwork."
Painter said DOC is gathering the necessary paperwork for consent, and Schueller should receive them Monday to sign.
Jason Miller, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said all visitors to a person in DOC custody must call a visitation line.
Owers said Schueller had lived with her and her husband for about a year and a half – about since he had been released from prison for felony assault of a police officer and burglary convictions. The conviction came after Schueller's 2005 arrest for a series of burglaries at Route 1 businesses.
"He was a personal trainer for years, but then the drugs got a hold of him, and his wife put him out of the house," Owers said. Before that, he grew up and lived in Gaithersburg, Md., with his wife and twin children.
Owers said crack cocaine has been at the root of Schueller's problems for years.
"He was doing great. He had a wonderful job, was active in NA (narcotics anonymous," she said.
Then about a week ago he relapsed.
Owers said he had recently been granted supervised visitation with his children, now 11, who had not seen him for eight years.
"I think it was too overwhelming for him," she said.
He never showed up for the scheduled visitation. His family did not know where he was until they heard about the shooting.
Now they are waiting to hear what happens next.
"None of us understands it," Owers said.
To date, Schueller has been charged with theft greater than $1,500 of a victim 62 or older in connection with taking $2,000 cash from his stepfather kept in the home for emergencies. Court documents state Schueller "had relapsed on drugs and was very upset." Schueller also faces theft of less than $1,500 in connection with a Rehoboth Beach incident Feb. 16. Schueller filled up his Grand Cherokee with $82.53 worth of gas and drove off after his debit card was denied for payment, according to court records.
Sgt. Paul Shavack of the Delaware State Police said Schueller will face additional charges related to the chase and subsequent traffic stop.