Self Defense or Murder? Opening Arguments in Former Dover School - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Self Defense or Murder? Opening Arguments in Former Dover School Custodian's Trial Outline Fatal Confrontation

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DOVER, Del.- Neither prosecutors or the lawyer representing Rodney West dispute whether the former elementary school custodian opened fire last year on another man in the parking lot of his workplace.

But attorneys on either side of the case differ on whether West should be found guilty of murder for the death of Derrick Combs --- or if West was acting in self defense during a fatal confrontation last year in the parking lot of Towne Point Elementary School in Dover.

Jurors on Tuesday heard opening statements from Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal and defense attorney Joe Hurley in a trial for West, who was charged last year with first-degree murder for Combs' death and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The trial is being held in Superior Court with Judge Noel Primos presiding.

Prosecutors argue West had shot Combs four times, twice while Combs was on the ground. Babowal said West had exchanged text messages of a sexual nature Combs' wife prior to the incident, something that had made Combs unhappy.

Hurley told jurors the "relationship" ended in October 2017, though prosecutors said West had contacted Combs' wife a number of times, including the day before the shooting.

"What started as an inappropriate texting relationship ended in the shooting death of a 39-year-old man," Babowal said.

But Hurley claimed West had been targeted in a harassment campaign that involved text or digital messages and even confrontations from Combs and that West believed Combs may have been armed when he arrived at Towne Point Elementary School's parking lot on the evening of Aug. 28, 2018.
Hurley said West is claiming self defense in the shooting.
"In Delaware, a person has the right to size up a situation and if the person in their heart of heart believes that he is in danger then he has the right to use deadly force," he said in an interview.

Jurors on Tuesday also saw video footage of the confrontation recorded by a security camera at Towne Point Elementary School. The clip showed Combs' vehicle pulling in front of West's vehicle as West was leaving work that evening.

As the confrontation develops, muzzle flashes can be seen in the video shortly before West's vehicle drives away form the scene.

The video also shows a man, identified by lawyers in the case as Combs' cousin, getting out of the passenger seat and running from scene but not after returning to the area of the cars at least once.


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