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Widow Sues Delaware Law Enforcement Over Wrongful Death of Decorated Marine Corps Veteran Who Was Tasered & Shot 3 Times

Contact: Nisha N. Mohammed, Rutherford Institute, 434-978-3888, ext. 604, 800-946-4646, Pin #: 1478257, pager,


WILMINGTON, Del., Mar. 23 /Standard Newswire/ -- Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a civil rights lawsuit against Delaware law enforcement officials on behalf of a decorated Marine Corps veteran who was shot and killed in Wilmington, Del., in November 2006. Sgt. Derek J. Hale was tasered and shot three times while sitting on the front steps of a residence in the city after numerous Delaware State Police (DSP) and Wilmington Police Department (WPD) officers conducted what attorneys allege was a warrantless raid at the residence. The complaint, filed on behalf of Sgt. Hale’s widow, father and mother by attorneys with The Rutherford Institute and the Neuberger Firm, along with other affiliated attorneys, alleges that the police officers acted without any cause and with excessive force in violation of national and local law enforcement standards and practices, thereby violating Sgt. Hale’s constitutional rights and the law of the State of Delaware. A copy of the complaint is available here.


“We’re greatly concerned about some police tactics that lead to overreaction,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “In this particular case, it is clear that there were egregious constitutional violations that resulted in the death of this decorated war veteran.”


On November 6, 2006, Sgt. Hale, a 25-year-old Virginia resident who served two tours of duty in Iraq and was honorably discharged the previous January with a service-related injury, was in Wilmington to participate in a “Toys for Tots” event and housesit for a friend. At approximately 4:00 p.m., three unmarked law enforcement vehicles with DSP and WPD officers pulled up to the house and numerous officers stormed the porch where Sgt. Hale was sitting with a mother and her two children. The complaint alleges that even though Sgt. Hale was unarmed, offered no resistance and made no threatening motions, he was tasered three separate times by the officers, rendering him immobile. While paralyzed from the electric shock, Sgt. Hale was allegedly ordered to put his hands in the air; when he failed to do so, he was subsequently shot three times in the chest. The lawsuit alleges that Sgt. Hale was targeted by DSP solely because of his association with a motorcycle club that was sponsoring the “Toys for Tots” event.


However, law enforcement agencies had no evidence that Sgt. Hale was violating the law or was wanted on any outstanding warrants. According to the complaint, an earlier DSP investigation into Hale’s background revealed him to be a model citizen with no criminal record, no history of substance abuse and no history of violence or mental illness. Institute attorneys allege that DSP officers falsely represented that Sgt. Hale had a history of assaults, homicides and bombings in order to enlist the aid of the WPD for the raid at the residence. Charging that officers violated Sgt. Hale’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Sgt. Hale’s estate and family against the law enforcement officers involved in the raid and the City of Wilmington for causing Derek’s death through the unconstitutional use of excessive force. Institute attorneys are also asking the court to force the WPD and DSP to properly train their officers in the use of tasers and deadly force.


Founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.