WILMINGTON, Del.—Overlooked in the long shadows of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor is the January death of Lamond Moses, 30, at the hands of the New Castle County Police Department. Mr. Moses nodded off while warming his car after visiting his mother when the fatal encounter began.
In the early morning hours of a frigid January 13, police bodycam video released in March show Mr. Moses holding his cell phone while sitting behind the wheel of his Nissan Altima as three officers approach.
One officer uses his baton to turn the vehicle off through the lowered driver side window. The officer tells Mr. Moses they are New Castle police investigating reports of stolen cars. A startled Mr. Moses says his vehicle is not stolen, and that he is parked in front of his mother’s home.
The officers inform him they see marijuana in his car but not to worry; they are there to help him. When they ask him to step out of the vehicle, a clearly upset Mr. Moses puts the car in drive and slowly moves away.
At this point the scene turns deadly. The police can be heard hurling profanities at Mr. Moses, telling him, ‘”don’t do it.” Mr. Moses turns his car around as the street is a dead-end and proceeds to evade the police as two of the officer’s open fire. As he passes, one officer can be seen firing into the driver’s side window. Mr. Moses is fatally struck in the side of the head.
The question the family wants answered is, if the police are in no danger and Mr. Moses was trying to avoid the police encounter, does that warrant use of deadly force?
The initial police report, however, tells a different and contradictory story. The report says the vehicle took off as officers approached and fled down a dead-end road, made a U-turn and drove at a high rate of speed directly at the officers. The officers subsequently discharged their firearms and struck the driver.
The Final Call reached out to the New County Police Department, the city government, and the state attorney general for clarity of the reports. The police department referred this reporter to county officials who never returned phone calls or emails. There was no response from the state’s attorney general or city officials.
The Final Call discussed the case with Amanda Spence, widow of Mr. Moses; Terence Jones, founder of the Total Justice Program which performs independent investigations into police shootings; Mosque No. 35 Student Minister Robert Muhammad; and NOI community liaison John Muhammad.
Mr. Jones, a former Philadelphia police officer, explained there was no probable cause in the Moses case. Ms. Spence added the police initially told her there was a 911 call which led to the police encounter, but no evidence has been produced that such a call was made.
“There have been so many inconsistencies and changes in the story by the police. No one called 911,” she said. Ms. Spence is also frustrated that the names of the three officers have not been released.
“What is suspicious to me is how the three—and I hate saying it’s a White and Black thing—how the three White officers come to a Black man sleeping and chase him down into a dead end. The video that I saw was not the same that was put out to the public,” she said.
For the New Castle Police to even be in the Riverside section of Wilmington is questionable, according to Mr. Jones. For them to call Mr. Moses sitting in his car suspicious, which is the guise they used, goes beyond the pale of probable cause, he said.
Mr. Jones described police interactions with the Moses family as “cold and calculating.” From the outset, county police chief Vaughn Bond “put out false information, false statements, false reports, and a false narrative after the murder,” said Mr. Jones.
Ms. Spence said she received “not one word” of condolence or “sorry for your loss” when initially contacted by police.
“That’s the first thing that you should say, because you’re talking to his wife, the mother, his two children, the first thing you should say is, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ ” Mr. Jones said. “The police detective did not have the humanity to address her with the respect of saying, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ And I brought this to the police chief’s attention, and he seemed like he could care less.”
The family has filed a lawsuit alleging violation of Mr. Moses’ constitutional “right to be free from the use of excessive force” and the “unconstitutional policies, customs and/or practices” by police that led to Mr. Moses’ death. The family is demanding a trial by jury and the release of names of police officers responsible for the death of Mr. Moses.
According to John Muhammad, Mosque No. 35 has tried to fill the void created from a lack of involvement by the faith communities in the city. “I was appalled that the community was not backing her. When I saw the hijab, that she was a sister, I reached out to Student Minister Robert. I said we got to get involved,” said John Muhammad.
“And the local minister gave me the green light to get involved. It’s eerie that we have not responded to this brother’s murder as a community. It just shows you the apathy.”
Student Minister Robert Muhammad said Mosque No. 35 would do all it can to advocate for the family.
One impediment to community support has been the tactic used by police of denigrating Mr. Moses’ character stating he has outstanding warrants and that a cache of drugs was found in his car in addition to marijuana.
Ms. Spence described her husband as a caring man who only wanted to take care of his family.
“He would extend his arms like an octopus in helping anybody. He was a genuine person,” she said. “He introduced me to the Muslim faith. Before the pandemic, he was working two jobs. He was a hard worker. It’s unfortunate that he did have a record and things in his background that was held against him when it came to him finding a job during these times; it did get tough.”
Mr. Jones cited several critical factors in the Moses case. First, Mr. Moses was legally parked in a rented vehicle that was in his name. Second, when the police entered his car through the window with their baton, that’s an illegal search.
“You have to have probable cause to do that. Then when they opened both of his doors, that’s the second illegal search because they did it without permission. After all, he was asleep,” he pointed out.
Mr. Jones said if you are looking for stolen vehicles, policy and procedures dictate you run the plates first to determine what you are getting into before approaching the car. Furthermore, the police use of profanity by officers points to animus in the final analysis, Mr. Jones said.
The former officer said there was no imminent danger as Mr. Moses goes out of his way to avoid hitting the officers and that he is shot out of anger by the police. He dared not to follow their illegal directives and believe they have a license to kill, especially Black men, Mr. Jones said.
Ms. Spence credits New Castle County Executive Mathew Myers for release of the police bodycam footage. “I was told that [police chief] Colonel Vaughn Bond did not want it released and he especially received clap back from the Fraternal Order of Police for his move,” she said.
Mr. Jones said he believes there was a fourth officer on the scene. After being shot, evidence shows Mr. Moses hit a police vehicle that then backed up 120 feet. “That’s impossible for a car to do that if it’s in park at the slow rate of speed Mr. Moses was going.
There must have been someone in the car that backed it up,” he said. “What you gotta understand is this is bigger than the officers, the four officers. They said there are only three. You look at that video and you’ll know for a fact, there’s a fourth. What I’m saying is now you got a conspiracy.
“The crime scene has been staged,” he continued. “Shell casings have been moved to make the scene more congruent with the police story. And they’re taking all that information and giving it to the attorney general’s office, who will just rubberstamp it to make it appear as though Mr. Moses was trying to run them over. There have been close to 60 shootings by police in Delaware since 2005, and no officer has ever been criminally charged.”
Given the gravity of the situation and the fact it has been five months with the police and government stonewalling, Ms. Spence is calling for federal involvement.
“President Biden’s reached out to the Floyd family, and this travesty happened in his home state. He should at a minimum acknowledge it,” a distraught Ms. Spence said.