The mother of a man shot by a Dewey Beach Police officer in 2022 filed a wrongful death suit March 20 in federal court against the Town of Dewey Beach and the officer involved in the shooting.
Sheena Robinson, the mother of Rodney Keith Robinson II, who died after he was shot by Patrolman Dylan Ebke, is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, damages for mental anguish under state law, pre- and post-judgment interest, and any other relief the court deems proper.
The five-count lawsuit filed by attorney Patrick Gallagher is mostly aimed at Ebke in connection with excessive force, wanton negligence, assault and battery. The Town of Dewey Beach faces a Monell claim in connection with practices that led to Robinson’s death.
Dewey Beach Town Manager Bill Zolper and Chief of Police Constance Speake referred questions to the town attorney, Emily Silverstein of Balaguer, Milewski & Imbrogno, based in Wilmington. Reached by email March 23, Silverstein said she had no comment at this time.
The lawsuit states Robinson’s rights were violated under the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unlawful searches or seizures, and the 14th Amendment, which provides equal protection under the law, when police approached Robinson at the Starboard Restaurant and Bar after someone told them he had a gun.
“The officers approached Keith. No doubt well aware that confrontations between young black men and police do not typically end well for young black men, Keith was presumably scared and therefore fled,” the lawsuit states.
Robinson left but came back after an hour, and was again approached by Ebke and another officer, who chased Robinson into a nearby alley. One officer used a Taser on Robinson, and Ebke shot him. Robinson left the area and was found dead behind the Starboard, the lawsuit states.
Earlier this year, the Delaware Attorney General’s Office released a report on the deadly shooting that included security footage showing Robinson displaying a handgun to a group of people while at the Starboard. The report also said Ebke was justified in the later shooting of Robinson, and his use of deadly force was not a criminal offense. To view the full report, go to https://tinyurl.com/y3ykj4de.
The 16-page civil suit refers to a case where a man was beaten by former Dewey Beach Police Officer Gregory Lynch while the man was on a stretcher. Gallagher represented the man on the stretcher in a 2021 lawsuit, resulting in Lynch pleading guilty to perjury and his removal from the department.
The lawsuit connects Ebke to Lynch because it says Lynch trained Ebke.
Some details of the latest lawsuit are similar to the 2021 case, such as a list of past examples of excessive force used by the Dewey police, and a 2019 study of the Dewey Beach Police Department that determined the department was understaffed, had low morale, and trained officers to be overly aggressive regardless of the circumstances.
Example of this aggressiveness, the suit states, include an officer writing a citation for someone carrying an open container of alcohol instead of having them empty the container, and situations when officers would “aggressively pursue visitors/residents who urinated in public. If the visitor/resident ran when confronted by the police, seasonal officers were encouraged by the Town and DBPD to charge the person with resisting arrest.”
The lawsuit states that Dewey police did not have body-worn cameras even though Delaware law required them. It notes one officer was wearing a GoPro body camera the night of the shooting, but it was not activated prior to the shooting.