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Neighbors ask if shooting was necessary

Maddy Lauria
Delaware News Journal
Milford Beacon

It was a quiet Monday morning at the Milford apartment complex where a man was fatally shot by police, with some neighbors wondering if police really needed to pull the trigger.

“He didn’t have a gun,” said one young man who said he was around during the shooting Sunday night. He asked not to be identified.

“It was wild,” the man said, noting that he heard one shot and then a couple more shots ring out from one of the apartment buildings at Silver Lake Estates. The shooting took place inside one of the buildings, so he didn’t see what happened.

He and another neighbor, both of whom asked not to be identified, said they knew the man who was killed, 27-year-old Dover resident Brandon D. Roberts.

He was “definitely a good guy,” they said.

The men said they found it hard to believe that shooting him was the only option for police to handle the situation since he only had a knife.

Milford Police Department spokesman Robert Masten said the unidentified officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, per department policy.

When asked for clarity on what the call was about, Masten said “domestic” incidents can be wide-ranging and generally refer to a relationship and possible dispute. He referred any further questions to state police.

By Monday morning, there was no evidence that police were investigating a crime in the neighborhood, or that there had been a fatal shooting at all.

The young men who spoke with Delaware Online/The News Journal Monday morning said the apartment complex is like any other, and there are sometimes issues with drugs and crime. But mainly it’s a quiet place to live, neighbors said.

Statistics from the Milford Police Department’s crime mapping tool show there have only been two major police reports at Silver Lake Estates since July 10, 2019: a report of theft in early October and a second for vandalism in late October.

The last fatal officer-involved shooting in Milford happened Dec. 14, 2013, when 58-year-old Roy D. Rhodes was shot by police during a standoff on Del. 14.

The apartments where the shooting happened are nestled at the end of Linstone Lane, not too far away from the Milford fire department and a nearby shopping complex along Route 113. Another large, brick apartment building in the complex largely blocks the view of those smaller buildings, but is mainly housing for the elderly, said resident Hattie Downing.

Downing said she didn’t know that there had been a shooting so close to her apartment home Sunday night.

“Here, it’s pretty quiet,” she said.

Sometimes police come out, but they’re usually heading to the apartment buildings where younger folks live, she said.

Other than a handful of residents walking between their front doors and vehicles on Monday morning, the wooded complex was still and quiet. A longtime mailman went about his usual route.

“I’ve never had any problems with the residents,” said Ray Pink, who has been delivering mail for 33 years. “They all seem friendly to me. But I’m the mailman.”

Throughout his career, Silver Lake Estates was an occasional stop. Now, it’s on Pink’s regular daily route, though he hadn’t heard about Sunday’s shooting when he parked his mail truck outside the brick-and-tan building.

“In today’s society, we’re too quick to shoot,” Pink said.

Updated 10:02 a.m. Jan. 7, 2020

Contact reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608, mlauria@delawareonline.com or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford.

State police press release

Delaware State Police said in a press release Monday morning that two Milford officers were responding to a “domestic incident involving weapons” just before 6:30 p.m. They reported that as police approached, the man came into the hallway, “advancing at police officers while brandishing a large knife.”

The officers stopped him by shooting at him, police said.

They gave him first aid, police said, before the man was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. Delaware State Police’s homicide unit is now investigating.