Report: Salisbury Officer Fatal Shot "Justified", No Charges Fil - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Report: Salisbury Officer Fatal Shot "Justified", No Charges Filed

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James Norris James Norris

SALISBURY, Md. - A new report from investigators determines that a Salisbury police officer fatally shot a wanted man during a February traffic stop.

The report put together by Wicomico County state's attorney Matt Maciarello states that Pfc. Milton Rodriguez fired a fatal round into James Norris. Reports show that both Rodriguez and Norris fired their guns.

Norris was the passenger in the vehicle wanted by Delaware officials for three warrants related to drug and gun offenses. Maciarello states in the write up that the question 'who fired the fatal round?' "will never be conclusively established."

"The ballistics were inconclusive; however, Rodriguez's bullet was found in the vehicle relatively clean and intact," states Maciarello. "There was another fragment found that may very likely have been part of the projectile fired from Norris' revolver, but the forensics on this item were inconclusive.

"The conclusion herein is that there is definitely some doubt about who fired the fatal shot, however, in the opinion of the writer of this report, who spent hours with interviews, video and evidence, that Pfc. Rodriguez fired that fatal shot."

No charges are being filed against the officer.

The incident occurred back on February 3rd when Maryland State Police trooper Stephen Hallman stopped a burgundy Chevy Impala at Philadelphia Avenue around 4:30 PM for a probable cause search.  Hallman told the female driver and passenger it was for a "crack in their windshield".  In the report, Rodriguez stopped in the Clear Channel parking lot before making his way to the stopped car after reportedly noticing "Norris marking Hallman," which Maciarello explains as "taking exceptional notice of Hallman's position.

In the video obtained from Hallman's trooper vehicle and released to 47 ABC, Rodriguez walks up to the passenger side window where Norris was sitting. Rodriguez reportedly asked the passenger for his name and Norris replied, "James."

That's when, it appears in the video that Rodriguez pulls out his gun aiming it towards Norris. The report states that Rodriguez watched as Norris' hands began to rotate in his pocket. In his right hand, Norris reportedly took out a handgun. Then, Rodriguez reportedly grabs Norris' wrist, as can be seen in the video.

In a police interview, Rodriguez said that Norris murmured some words.

"I can't catch the first words that he said because I was, I just realized it was him, but the words that I did catch at the end was 'die.' Something 'die.' And that's when I drew my weapon at him and pointed it at him and pointed it at him.

"I said, 'hey man, put your hands up in the air. Don't move. Don't move.' And he said, 'kill me or I'm killing you.' And after he said those words, he was reaching for his pockets, his hands in his pockets."

Seconds later in the video, Hallman pulls out his weapon, then proceeds to open the driver side door, pulling out the passenger, known in the report as T.L. In that instance, Rodriguez moves away from the window and in that second, his body leans back in, where it appears that he fired his weapon.  

Voices of a frantic officers are overheard in newly-released radio feeds provided to 47 ABC before and after the incident. In one feed, an officer asks for immediate medical attention.

"I'm going to need an ambulance here now. Gun shot," said the man.

In a subsequent clip, a conversation between two men ensues.

"Ok, Salisbury. What's 20th location?" asked the first unidentified man.

The second unidentified mans answers back, "13 and Philadelphia. A gun shot wound to the head and we need EMS here. ASAP."

Hallman stated that Rodriguez said that "oh (expletive), he shot himself."

Other officers on scene heard a similar phrase. "It's seems that the suspect, uh, discharged a firearm," another unidentified officer said on the radio transmissions.

On February 5th, MSP confirmed that Norris died of a single gunshot wound to the head fired by Rodriguez.

47 ABC spoke with Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan after the report was released.  Duncan insists Rodriguez saved lives on that day.

"Our officer responded professionally," the chief said. "He responded according to years of training. All of his institutional knowledge engaged and this particular event had a successful outcome. Not only did he save the lives of the other troopers involved, but also the life of a young lady."

"I believe he's saved other folks, because, you know, those bullets are indiscriminate. They do not stop, they just go," said Maciarello. Had Norris fired on Hallman, the direction of fire would have been towards traffic."

To see the full Wicomico County State's Attorney Report On Pfc. Milton Rodriguez-James Norris Shooting, see below:

SA Report

Exhibits A-J

Exhibits K-T

Exhibits U-W


Timeline of events from Maryland State Police Video: 

0:00 MSP Tpr. Stephen Hallman walks up to stopped Impala.

0:32 SPD Pfc. Milton Rodriguez walks to the passenger side door, knocks on the window.

0:42 Pfc. Rodriguez pulls out his gun.

0:49 Ofc. Hallman pulls out his gun.

0:53 Ofc. Hallman opens driver side door and immediately pulls female driver out of the door.

0:54 In that instant, Pfc. Rodriguez appears to fire his weapon at Norris.  

0:55-2:41 Pfc. Rodriguez still gripping Norris' wrists after shot fired. Officers tend to driver seated on sidewalk nearest video cameras, as well as react to event, checking on Norris.

2:41 Pfc. Rodriguez releases Norris after another officer appears to tap him on the back.

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