The man who was shot by police following a chase Feb. 19 now is in a Smyrna prison on previous theft charges.
Keith Schueller, 42, was moved to Vaughn Correctional Center Feb. 27 from Christiana Hospital, where he had been treated for a gunshot wound to the chest. His mother, Mary Owers, said surgeons were unable to remove the bullet.
Schueller still has not been charged for the incident that led to the shooting. Sgt. Paul Shavack, spokesman for the Delaware State Police, said there are additional charges that will be released after Schueller has been formally charged. Shavack said he did not know when this will occur.
Schueller is in prison on a previous misdemeanor theft charge in connection with driving away from a gas station with about $80 of gas after his bank card was denied and theft of $2,000 from his stepfather – a felony because his stepfather is a senior citizen.
He is held in default of $3,000 secured bond. Under secured bond, a defendant must pay a designated amount of money or provide the court with a security such as a title to property worth at least as much as the ordered bond amount, according to the Delaware Judiciary website.
Owers said Schueller used his weekly two-minute phone call to let his mother know he is in a prison cell, but he cannot walk or get out of bed.
"He called me and said his leg is paralyzed, and he doesn't feel anything in his back," she said.
Department of Corrections Spokesman John Painter said he had no update on Schueller's condition. Schueller was sent to VCC because Sussex Correctional Institution, which normally takes Sussex defendants, cannot handle his medical needs, Painter said.
Owers said Schueller told her he has not seen a doctor since his transfer to prison. He asked her to send money so he can buy some small items in prison, but she's not sure how to assist her son, who has struggled with addiction for years. His recent charges were the result of a relapse; a drug addiction previously landed Schueller in prison for theft and assault on a police officer in 2005. He had been out of jail for a year and a half, Owers said.
"This has been going on for so many years that I don't know if I can do this anymore," she said. "I'm worn out. I'm totally worn out."
Schueller was driving on Postal Lane Feb. 19 when a Delaware State Police officer recognized him and tried to pull him over. Schueller led police on a chase through the Sandy Brae neighborhood before crashing into another vehicle at the intersection of Postal Lane and Cedar Grove Road. The chase continued on foot as Schueller ran through a field and a horse farm and was cornered at a neighboring barn. Trooper First Class Brett Cordrey shot Schueller after Schueller raised a 5-foot shovel in a threatening manner, police said. A police Taser used during the foot chase was not effective for unknown reasons.
When a trooper is in a situation with serious risk of bodily harm or death, a trooper is trained to use force, including deadly force, to respond to the threat, said Sgt. Paul Shavack of the Delaware State Police.
"It's less about 'shooting to kill' and more about shooting to eliminate and neutralize the threat," he said. "We are trained to shoot center mass, meaning the center portion of the body."
After the shooting, Schueller was taken to Beebe Medical Center and then Christiana Hospital. Owers said she tried to see her son at Christiana Hospital, but she was denied access. Repeated calls to a Department of Corrections visitation line also were fruitless, she said.
Painter said he was aware Owers tried to visit her son at the hospital, but she was not cleared for the visit.
"There are issues with contact of an inmate when it's outside a prison facility," he said.
When asked if it is common to deny visitation by a family member for a prisoner facing petty charges who has a serious injury – in this case a gunshot wound inflicted by a police officer – Painter said visitation is not based on the severity of the charges.
Painter did not have further details of Schueller's incarceration at VCC other than he may not be able to physically move to the prison's designated visitation area.
As for Schueller's continued detention on $3,000 secured bond, Painter said, anybody who does not make bail stays in prison until bail is paid or a court adjudicates the case. He said a judge could release him on time served, but he did not know if a court appearance has been scheduled.
So far, Schueller has been in Department of Correction custody for 18 days. It costs about $100 a day to house a prisoner based on a $36,268 per year estimate per person. At that rate, it has cost the state about $1,800 to house Schueller – more than half of the cost of his bond.