Rodney West Acquitted in the Shooting Death of Derrick Combs - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Rodney West Acquitted in the 2018 Shooting Death of Derrick Combs at Dover Elementary School

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DOVER, Del. — Rodney West of Dover on Thursday was acquitted of murder and firearm charges in the shooting death of Derrick Combs.

West, 54, was charged last year with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly firearm during the commission of a felony. Jurors found him not guilty on both charges and opted not to convict him of second degree murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.

The shooting took place at Towne Point Elementary School in Dover on Aug. 28, 2018. West was employed there as a custodian and was confronted by Combs, 39, while attempting to leave work for the evening. The former custodian testified the shooting was justified through self defense.

Teresa Collins, who is married to Rodney West, was grateful for the verdict but also felt bad for Combs' family. 

"It was a loss, somebody is gone. Somebody doesn't have a father. Somebody doesn't have a brother. Somebody doesn't have an uncle. I definitely feel for them," she said.

Although a firearm was recovered from Combs' truck, prosecutors said Combs had intended to fight---but not shoot---West over flirtatious texts between West and Combs’ wife, Leslie, who previously worked as a secretary at the school.

West argued he shot Combs four times in self defense because he feared for his life after months of harassment and threats from Combs.

Von Combs, the brother of Derrick Combs, was dissatisfied with the jurors' verdict.

"Justice wasn't served...my brother didn't deserve to die like this," he said.

The verdict came after roughly eight hours of deliberation between a jury consisting of seven women and five men.

Prosecutors pointed to the fact that West admitted to his boss after the shooting that he "messed up" and then fled to his brother's house in Maryland as signs of guilt. They noted West brought his pistol and two ammunition magazines to work on the day of the shooting after Dover police did not issue a Protection From Abuse order against Combs

Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal said the decision not to convict West on any charges was disappointing.

"We just hope the Combs family can come to terms with this verdict," he said.

Gary West, the older brother of Rodney West, said the verdict remained difficult for relatives of West and the situation marked how people should try to work out disputes without violence --- before they get out of hand.

"It's just about recognizing that life is precious and we have to really recognize that," he said.

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