BREAKING NEWS: Suspects in custody in shooting death of Georgetown police officer

A 20-year-old Lincoln, Del., man turned himself in to authorities at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, after police spent more than two days trying to locate him. Christopher Reeves is the third suspect in a Tuesday-night shooting that left one Georgetown police officer dead and another injured.

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Police said Reeves had been sought for questioning related to the homicide investigation of Georgetown Patrolman Chad Spicer, who was fatally wounded Tuesday, Sept. 1. According to the Delaware State Police, Reeves turned himself into probation and parole agents at their Georgetown office on Friday morning. They said Reeves was with his mother and a pastor when he arrived at the Probation and Parole Office, and he surrendered without incident.

Reeves was charged with Dsregarding a Police Officer’s Signal, bail amount $50,000 cash; Rsisting Arrest, bail amount $25,000 cash; and two counts of Violation of Probation, bail amount $18,000 cash. He was remanded to the Department of Correction.

According to police documents, Spicer and Cpl. Shawn Brittingham of the Georgetown Police Department were both shot by at least one suspect after responding to a reported shooting at the Georgetown McDonald’s, located on Route 113.

Spicer, 29, of Georgetown, sustained a fatal gunshot wound to his upper extremity, while Brittingham, 31, of Millsboro, suffered a non-life threatening injury to the neck caused by a projectile fragment. He was listed in good condition late Wednesday morning. Both officers were transported to Beebe Medical Center in Lewes.

According to the DSP, the two officers were patrolling as a two-person unit when they located a Chrysler Sebring described by witnesses as the vehicle involved in the McDonald’s altercation. They made an attempt to stop the vehicle, but the driver eluded the officers. Shots were fired upon Brittingham, who was exiting their patrol car, and Spicer, who was still inside.

Near the intersection of Kimmey and Rosa streets in Georgetown, the officers became involved in a foot pursuit with the suspects, at which time a suspect opened fire again, striking the officers. DSP troopers and local police departments cooperated in the arrest of two suspects involved in the incident, while Reeves remained at large as of Wednesday morning.

The Delaware State Police Homicide Unit on Wednesday formally charged one of the two suspects in custody, 22-year-old Derrick J. Powell of Cumberland, Md. According to Public Information Officer Cpl. Bruce Harris with the Delaware State Police, Powell was identified as the shooter. Powell was charged with Murder 1st degree, three counts of Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony, Burglary 2nd degree, Reckless Endangering 1st degree and Resisting Arrest. He was held in lieu of $97,000 cash-only bail at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

The second suspect apprehended during the incident had not been charged as of Wednesday, as police said their preliminary investigation suggested he was not directly involved with the killing of Spicer.

Local agencies pitch in during time of tragedy

Many Sussex County law enforcement agencies helped with the ongoing investigation, from search and apprehension of the suspects to aiding the Georgetown police department.

Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said he had been assisting the Georgetown Police Department and Delaware State Police since Tuesday evening.

“We’ve got our guys here in Georgetown helping to cover calls,” said an emotional McLaughlin. “I don’t know what to say. Ocean View, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island officers have all responded. Obviously, the whole county is out here. I was friends with both of the officers involved.”

He added that, despite the area’s close-knit departments and friendly communities, officers constantly face life-threatening situations in the line of duty.

“This is a dangerous job,” said McLaughlin. “You never know when something like this will happen. Working in small municipalities comes with responsibility, and every now and then, you might let your guard down. There’s a perception that we’re small-town departments and we don’t see the threats that larger municipalities deal with. That theory was proven wrong today.” According to McLaughlin, this was the first felonious homicide of a Delaware police officer in the line of duty since the early 1970’s, and the first Georgetown officer ever killed in the line of duty.
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“I was overwhelmed with pride last night,” he said Wednesday morning, “at the sheer number of officers from every department who came in. There were officers from as far north as Smyrna. Everyone came together quickly, and this morning, just a couple hours later, they’re still working at this. Most of these officers are going on no sleep.”

McLaughlin noted that his department is covering calls that come into Georgetown to let Georgetown officers mourn the death of a comrade and to be with their families. The OVPD, as well as other local departments, plan on assisting Georgetown PD through the weekend.

“It makes me proud to see what these officers did,” he said, “but, hopefully, it’s the one and only time I ever experience anything like this.”

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Jack Markell ordered that United States and Delaware flags be flown at half-staff in honor of fallen officer, Chad Spicer. The flags will fly at half-staff until the morning after his funeral. Markell released a statement honoring Spicer and Brittingham.

“The officers’ commitment to protect and serve their community was absolute. Their courage was clear,” said Markell, who shared with officers’ families Tuesday night at the hospital the state’s debt of gratitude. “Officer Spicer’s tragic death should remind us all that the men and women who serve our state in law enforcement put themselves at risk to protect our families each day.”

Trust fund established for officer’s daughter

Spicer joined the Georgetown Police Department on Sept. 2, 2008. Prior to joining the GPD, he had worked for the Laurel Police Department for two months and the Bridgeville Police Department for more than four years. He had worked at the Delaware Department of Corrections from 2000 to 2004.

Spicer was a native of Georgetown, having graduated from Sussex Central High School and from Delaware Technical and Community College in 1999. He is survived by his parents Norman and Ruth Ann Spicer of Georgetown, and a 3-year-old daughter, Aubrey. A trust fund has been established for his daughter and contributions can be directed to: Aubrey Spicer Trust, c/o Norman E. Spicer, Wilmington Trust Bank, 139 S. State Street, Dover, DE 19901, or any Wilmington Trust Branch.

Cpl. Shawn Brittingham has been employed with the Georgetown Police Department since February of 2003. Brittingham is currently assigned to patrol, where he is responsible, along with other patrol officers, for a long list of duties including, but not limited to, responding to emergency calls for service and enforcing the criminal and traffic laws of the State of Delaware.

Brittingham is the Georgetown Police Department’s K-9 officer, a position that he has held since July of 2005. In addition to being a K-9 officer, Brittingham is a member of the Georgetown Police Department’s Emergency Response Team and is a shift supervisor. Brittingham, his wife, Melissa, and 1-year-old daughter, Olivia, reside in Millsboro.

Delaware State Police on Wednesday were continuing their search for Christpher Reeves, who was identified as the driver in Tuesday night’s incident. Information about the firearm used by Powell, including the type and retrieval, was unavailable Wednesday morning, according to Harris.

According to police documents, Reeves was apprehended two years ago for a separate incident involving a shooting. Reeves was 18 at the time. An arrest warrant has been issued for Reeves, who was described as a black man, 20 years old, 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing 140 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. Reeves is considered armed and dangerous.

Anyone having contact with Reeves or knows any additional information is being asked to call Delaware Police Troop 4 at (302) 856-5850 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333. For immediate assistance, call 911.

La Esperanza plans to hold a Candlelight Vigil in memory of Spicer. The ceremony will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, at The Circle in Georgetown. All are welcome to attend. Streets within 1 block of the circle will be closed from 5 to 8 p.m. Parking is available at the Georgetown Little League and Dollar General parking lots. The ceremony will be held rain or shine. Candles will be provided.

For additional information, contact La Esperanza at (302) 854-9262.

Services for Spicer are scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8, at the Crossroads Community Church located at 20684 State Forest Road, Georgetown. Visitation will be held between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Services will begin at 2 p.m. Internment will immediately follow at Cokesbury Cemetery, located at Seashore Highway and Cokesbury Road. The Indian River School District has postponed the first day of the 2009-2010 school year until Wednesday, Sept. 9, because of the funeral events for Spicer. Georgetown officials warned of traffic disruptions due to the funeral procession.