Ex-Marine's Widow Sues Over Shooting

Elaine Hale, widow of former Marine Sgt. Derek J. Hale, made a visit Friday to the scene of her husband's shooting by police in Wilmington, Del.
Elaine Hale, widow of former Marine Sgt. Derek J. Hale, made a visit Friday to the scene of her husband's shooting by police in Wilmington, Del. (By Carla Varisco -- Associated Press)
By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sgt. Derek J. Hale survived two tours of war. But as the 25-year-old Manassas former Marine sat on a porch in Wilmington, Del., last November, a band of police officers tasered him three times before shooting him dead, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

"Derek was ultimately tortured and killed by the (Delaware State Police) and the (Wilmington Police Department), thereby depriving him of his Fourth Amendment guarantee to be free from unreasonable seizures," reads the wrongful death suit.

The lawsuit names more than 30 defendants, including the state and city police departments and individual officers.

Both departments released statements saying they could not comment because of the ongoing court proceedings but expressing confidence in the officers involved in the incident.

According to the suit, the path to Hale's death started when the police departments decided to work together to target the Pagan Motorcycle Club, of which Hale was a member. The club was sponsoring a Toys for Tots biker run in Wilmington that week, which is why Hale was there, according to the suit.

The Monday after the event, on Nov. 6, Hale was house-sitting for a fellow member when that member's ex-wife showed up with two children, ages 11 and 6. They were nearby when "suddenly and without warning" three unmarked police vehicles arrived and officers swarmed the house, which had been under surveillance, according to the suit. From eight to a dozen armed officers were wearing dark clothing that did not indicate they were police, the suit says.

"As they rushed and surrounded Derek, at least eight heavily armed individuals shouted in a loud cacophony of voices, 'Put your hands up or we're going to taser you.' But no one ever said, 'Police! Put your hands up or we're going to taser you,' the suit says.

Hale was soon tasered, not once, but three times.

"As the electrical current rushed through him, his muscles locked up and he began to shake and convulse uncontrollably," the suit reads. "Due to the electrical current passing through his body, it was physically impossible for Derek to comply with any command to raise his hands above his head."

Hale is quoted as saying, "Not in front of the kids, get the kids out of here."

At one point, after the second taser, he vomited into a flower bed next to him, the suit said. A contractor across the street is quoted as yelling, "That's not necessary, that's overkill, that's overkill!"

After the third tasering, Hale is quoted as saying, "I'm trying to get my hands out."


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