Lewes shooting: File charges or tell us why not

January 2, 2018

On Dec. 1, a shooting occurred in a home on Lewes Beach.

Lewes Police Department reported a man called 911 about 7 p.m. to report he had shot his son. Police responded; the son was taken to Beebe Healthcare and treated for a gunshot wound. The father was taken into custody.

A week later, Lewes Police had filed no charges. Instead, police turned the case over to the Attorney General's Office for review. Lewes Police Chief Thomas Spell says his department wants to hold the responsible person accountable, but citing department policy, he said no names would be released until charges were filed.

Now, a month later, no charges have been filed; no names have been released. The Attorney General's Office says only that the matter is under investigation.

Domestic incidents are nearly always complex, and it is possible the attorney general is waiting for reports or other information about father and son.

But in the meantime, the public is left with serious concerns. Do any guns or other weapons remain in the home? Are father and son free to get into fights that could endanger others? Where is the line between shooting an intruder and committing domestic violence? When law enforcement stalls, citing its investigation and refusing to explain, the public invariably fills that vacuum with rumors and half-truths nearly always far worse than any version of the facts. Official silence also leaves a cloud hanging over the guilty – and over the innocent as well.

Some also wonder how long it would take to file charges if the shooting had occurred anywhere other than a street in one of our wealthiest neighborhoods.

It's been a month. It's time for the attorney general to make a decision and explain it. Does this case merit charges? If not, why not? Was this shooting justified? What are the criteria by which this decision is made?

The public deserves an explanation.

Continued silence only raises more questions – and those questions erode public confidence in the judicial system.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.