Questions remain in Dewey police-involved shooting

DOJ: Investigation could take months, state’s report will be public
March 24, 2022

Nearly a week after a police-involved shooting took the life of 21-year-old Rodney Robinson II in Dewey Beach, little information has been revealed by investigators since a March 19 press conference.

Robinson was shot and killed March 19, Delaware State Police said. A little after 1 a.m., an employee of The Starboard called police to report that a man, later identified as Robinson, exited the restaurant with a gun. Officers attempted to contact Robinson, who fled and was not located. 

About an hour later, a Starboard employee called police to report that Robinson had returned and was in an employee-only area. Robinson fled on Saulsbury Street when officers initiated contact, and a Dewey officer fired a single gunshot, state police said. Officers said they located a handgun where Robinson was found unconscious with a single wound in the torso. Robinson was later pronounced dead at Beebe Healthcare. 

At the press conference, DSP spokesperson Master Cpl. Heather Pepper did not provide details on what led to the shooting, stating that the investigation is in early stages. 

By request of the Dewey Beach Police Department, the DSP homicide unit and the Delaware Department of Justice Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust are conducting the investigation.

Delaware Department of Justice spokesperson Mat Marshall said DCRPT is responsible for determining whether the officer’s use of force was lawful.

“DCRPT’s use-of-force investigations begin immediately following a use-of-force incident, including on-call DCRPT investigators who go directly to the scene of an incident when it occurs,” Marshall said. “In any investigation, DCRPT’s team of prosecutors and investigators review all potentially relevant evidence, including but not limited to forensics, officer and witness statements, and video/audio evidence.”

The investigation typically happens concurrently with the employing agency’s review of the incident, Marshall said, which generally pertain more to internal matters like compliance with training and potential employment decisions as opposed to criminal charges. 

“Upon review of all evidence, DCRPT carries out a legal analysis of whether the officer’s use of force was lawful and whether the state can sustain charges bearing in mind potential defenses under state law and our constitutional obligation only to charge any criminal case – regardless of the defendant – when there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial,” Marshall said. 

At the conclusion of that analysis, DCRPT will either move to secure a grand jury indictment if the evidence and analysis support charging or will release a detailed public report on its findings if the evidence and analysis do not support charging, Marshall said. 

“I will note that issuing a report which names the subjects of an investigation in a case where the state is not pursuing charges is an extraordinary step otherwise unexampled in the DOJ,” Marshall said. “However, in our judgment the public trust is coupled so closely with the resolution of these investigations that the interest of justice is best served by full transparency in the state’s decisions.”

Marshall said DCRPT makes every effort to responsibly expedite such investigations given the tremendous public interest in their resolutions.

“But we have an obligation to prioritize thoroughness over speed,” Marshall said. “In general, DCRPT investigations can continue for several months, but it is impossible to provide a specific, one-size-fits-all timeline given the variability in the kinds of evidence and analysis at play in any given case.” 

The Delaware Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights pertains to officers’ due process rights in disciplinary matters and does not impact criminal investigations into use of force or officer conduct, Marshall said.

Dewey Beach Town Manager Bill Zolper said he could not comment on the homicide investigation, and referred all questions to state police. The Town of Dewey Beach posted a statement on its website and Facebook page extending thoughts and prayers to everyone involved.

“Please know we will continue to work hard to ensure that Dewey Beach is still a safe place for residents and visitors,” the statement read.

In a March 24 email, Pepper said the officer is on routine administrative leave with pay and benefits and that the incident remains an active and ongoing investigation. 

“Unfortunately there is not a set timeframe for these types of investigations,” Pepper wrote. “However, I can tell you the homicide unit is working aggressively through the investigative process.”

Pepper did not answer whether the officer was wearing a body camera or carrying a departmentally issued Taser or BolaWrap, and whether investigators had received any surveillance videos or photos from businesses, residents or witnesses.

DSP posted a message on its Facebook page March 23, thanking the community for its patience as the investigation continues and acknowledging numerous questions remain unanswered. 

“Although these criminal investigations take time, the Delaware State Police remains committed to providing updates and information as soon as it becomes available,” the statement read.

Marshall said he could not answer at this time whether the officer had a body camera, Taser or BolaWrap.

“They are among the details DCRPT will speak to in its public use of force report following the conclusion of the investigation,” Marshall said, noting he wasn’t sure who the officer’s attorney is or whether he had retained counsel at all.

“Officers in these cases are represented individually rather than through their employing agency,” Marshall said. 

DSP has asked potential witnesses of the incident or anyone with video surveillance to call the DSP Homicide Unit at 302-741-2703, send a private Facebook message to the Delaware State Police or contact Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333 or


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