Cape Gazette

Report: Trooper justified in shooting

Man threatened with shovel before shot in the back
By Melissa Steele | Dec 06, 2013
Photo by: Melissa Steele A Department of Justice report clears a trooper of criminal charges after he shot a suspect in the back.

A Department of Justice report found a trooper was justified when he shot a Rehoboth Beach man in the back, clearing him of criminal prosecution.

In February, Trooper First Class Brett Cordrey shot suspect Keith Schueller after police said Schueller led police on a chase, crashed his SUV and fled on foot. The trooper chased Schueller who police said picked up a shovel and threatened Cordrey.

During the foot chase, police said Cordrey tried to Taser Schueller, but the Taser was ineffective. The Justice Department's Nov. 1 report said that Cordrey was trying to adjust his Taser to fire a second charge when Schueller stopped running, turned and held the shovel over his head in a threatening manner. At that time, the report states, Cordrey felt threatened and discharged his police-issued gun to shoot Schueller.

“He was in fear of his life and had never been so scared,” the report states. “TFC Cordrey advised that he had no option but to fire his departmental weapon, which he did one time.”

Upon review of the case and an investigation, the Department of Justice determined Cordrey's use of deadly force was justified and not a criminal act.

“The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the [officer] believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting the [officer] against the use of unlawful force by the other person,” states the report.

Cordrey returned to work on April 30.

Schueller faces aggravated menacing, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, disregarding a police officer signal, leaving the scene of property collision accident, reckless driving, malicious mischief by motor vehicle and traffic charges in connection with the police chase and shooting.

In a previous interview, Schueller said he did not pick up the shovel, and he was running away when Cordrey shot him in the back. Schueller insists his fingerprints will not be found on the shovel. Documents obtained by the Cape Gazette indicate the Attorney General's Office did not test the shovel for fingerprints, but agreed to make it available to Schueller's attorney, Joseph Hurley, for testing. Hurley could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the above charges, Schueller faces a battery of charges in connection with crimes at several Route 1 businesses committed Feb. 18, the day before the police shooting: Theft less than $1,500 when Schueller entered Auto Equity Loans on Coastal Highway at noon Feb. 18 and fled with a bank bag containing an undisclosed amount of money; shoplifting of less than $1,500 when he entered Famous Footwear in the Seaside Outlets at 5:17 p.m. Feb. 18 and fled with two boxes of Nikes; shoplifting of less than $1,500 when he entered Uncle Willies Texaco on Coastal Highway at 6:12 p.m., took lottery tickets and fled; and third-degree burglary, wearing a disguise during the commission of a felony, possession of burglar tools, theft less than $1,500 when he broke the front door glass of the Safeway Gas Station at 7:56 p.m. on Route 1. Once inside, police said, Schueller took lottery tickets and drove away in his Jeep. A surveillance camera caught the Jeep on tape.

Schueller also faces a shoplifting charge for less than $1,500 when police said he entered Rehoboth Cigarette Outlet on Miller Road at 9:18 a.m. Feb. 19 and fled with lottery tickets.

He faces theft of services, criminal mischief and second-degree criminal trespass when he went to Blue Hen Towing on New Road at 12:45 p.m. Feb. 19 and drove away with his Jeep, police said.

Schueller's trial is scheduled for March 24, 2014, in Sussex County Superior Court. He is currently out on $56,000 secured bond.

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