Monday evening, 26-year-old Joshua Dean Howard of Ocean View was arrested following a four-hour standoff with Delaware State Police.
According to police, Howard was visiting his 25-year-old girlfriend, who lived in a condominium unit in the Bethany Bay community in Millville. The two got into a physical altercation over his possible intoxication, police said, during which Howard allegedly threatened to kill her.
Howard’s girlfriend then called a male coworker to help calm the situation, police reported. However, when the coworker arrived at the condo, Howard allegedly slapped him in the face. Following the altercation, Howard proceeded to lock his girlfriend and her coworker out of the house, police said.
According to police, the girlfriend then called 911 after Howard refused to open the door. When police responded to the scene, they came to suspect that Howard could have weapons in his possession and immediately began to evacuate surrounding buildings as a precaution.
“It was just chaos everywhere,” said Emily Delledonne, a resident of Bethany Bay.
That night, Delledonne had a neighbor visiting, and on their way out, they noticed emergency vehicles in the development.
“He went to leave, and he came right back into the house and said, ‘Oh, my god! There are two state troopers and an ambulance out there. I wonder what’s going on!’ I thought maybe someone had had a heart attack… The next thing we know, the EMTs and state troopers are putting on bulletproof vests.
“Then we’re seeing state troopers with vests and M-16s hiding around corners of the buildings and garages, and the caution tape started going up. We were watching the bomb squad come in with armored things. K-9 units, robots — it was just unreal… something I’ve never seen before.”
The Delaware State Police Conflict Management Team, Delaware State Police Special Operations Response Team and the Delaware State Police Explosive Ordinance Team arrived on scene to assess the situation after Howard barricaded himself in the house.
“We were told by the girlfriend that there were weapons in the house,” explained Delaware State Police Public Information Officer Master Cpl. Gary E. Fournier. “Any indication of any kind of weapons, we’re not going to take any chance going in and being confronted by somebody with a gun. A lot of times, we’ll pull back and wait until we have more people show up before we can actually go in.”
According to Delledonne, throughout the course of the incident, which ran from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., approximately 100 spectators were watching as police were waiting-out Howard.
“People were just coming out of their house to walk their dogs and go, ‘Oh, my gosh! What did I just walk into?’ It just freaked us all out, because we had that shooting at the Baltimore high school earlier in the day. We’re going through this in Bethany now, too?”
Delledonne said that information being circulated by the residents was basic and little else was known.
“At first, there were a couple police officers telling a few of my neighbors just some generic information. We heard it was a man who was drunk and had a gun.”
Police quickly became tight-lipped about the situation when speaking to Bethany Bay residents, which only escalated concern in the development.
“They wouldn’t tell us anything. Every time the police would come in they would say, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry. I just got here,’” she recalled. “We kept asking and we kept getting very irritated because we kept asking, ‘Do we need to leave? Do we need to evacuate? Why is the bomb squad here?’ They kept saying, ‘We think you’re going to be OK. If you’re in an end unit, you’re not allowed back in, because you’re in the direct line of fire.’”
“We did our best to inform people of the situation that was at hand and let them know the reason we were evacuating the buildings and areas,” said Fournier, when asked about how the police informed residents of the situation.
Delledonne, who has a 10-year-old son, said that, at first, the commotion was exciting for the neighborhood kids, but eventually the novelty wore off and the kids started to get scared.
“He was excited at first and wanted to run out there and see everything. And then it got boring after a while to the kids. When the police told the kids they all had to go inside, they got normal-kid irritated, and once 9 o’clock came and he started getting tired, he went from irritation to scared. He said, ‘Mom, are they ever going to get this guy?’” she recalled. “And the next day, as soon as he woke up, ‘He didn’t come back, right?’… It shocked a 10-year-old’s system.”
Fournier said that, although the DSP Explosive Ordinance Team was on the scene, there had been no indication of explosives being involved.
“The reason we send those out is, anytime we send our Special Operations Response Team out, we also send our Conflict Management Team, who does our hostage negotiations, as well as EOD — only because we utilize their robot for a lot of things,” he explained.
“In this case, the robot actually went into the house, located the subject in his bed and, through a video camera, we were able to view where he was and see he was in the bed and didn’t appear to have anything on him. It was a useful tool that we used to go into the house and look around a little bit.”
Delledonne said that, during the incident, the entire development was closed off, with residents unable to enter or leave.
“It was honestly like something out of an action movie, and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of it.”
Delledonne said that after Howard was in custody, troopers quickly left the scene, and the development was a “ghost town.”
“It was a huge ordeal, and the question we kept asking was, ‘Why all of this if it’s nothing?’”
Fournier said, though, that the incident was not overblown, and that police take extra precautions when they are informed of a hostile situation possibly involving weapons.
“Anytime we are called to a possible suspect with a weapon, we are going to utilize our resources to the best that we can to rectify the situation in the safest manner possible.”
Howard was charged with assault in the third degree, terroristic threatening, two counts of offensive touching and criminal mischief. He was committed to Sussex Correctional Institution with bail set at $1,750.