Rodney Robinson

DEWEY BEACH, Del. - The family of Rodney Robinson, who died last year after being shot by a Dewey Beach police officer, is suing both the officer and the town itself. 

Patrolman Dylan Ebke is named as a defendant along with the Town of Dewey Beach in the wrongful death lawsuit filed this week. In March of 2022, 21-year-old Robinson reportedly attended an event at the Starboard Restaurant and Bar. According to the lawsuit, an employee of the Starboard contacted the Dewey Beach Police Department claiming Robinson had a gun. Robinson is said to have fled from the venue but returned around 2:30 a.m. Police were once again contacted and responded. 

Two officers, one of them Ebke, arrived and reportedly pursued Robinson into an alleyway. Ebke discharged his department-issued firearm at Robinson, fatally striking him, according to the suit. Robinson again fled but succumbed to his wound not far from the scene. A 9mm handgun was found close to Robinson's body, according to police reports. 

The federal suit, with Robinson’s mother listed as plaintiff, accuses Ebke of excessive force, assault, battery, and wanton negligence.  The town of Dewey Beach is also accused of condoning abuse and violations of Constitutional rights by the police department through its established policies. 

“For over a decade, the Defendant Town of Dewey Beach (“Town”) has thumbed its nose at the Constitution’s prohibition against excessive force,” the suit reads. “The Town has allowed its officers to engage in excessive force against visitors to the popular tourist town with impunity.” 

The federal complaint goes on to claim “a death at the hands of a DBPD officer was inevitable” and cites a study of the Department in 2019 in its claims. The study describes alleged issues with the Dewey Beach Police Department including understaffing, low morale, and inadequate training.

“Like an ostrich, however,” the lawsuit filing says, “the Town ostensibly disregarded the findings of the study.”

The lawsuit follows an investigation conducted by the Delaware Department of Justice Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust that concluded earlier this year. The results of that investigation were released by the Attorney General’s Office in January and found Ebke and the Dewey Beach Police Department were justified in the use of deadly force.

“We conclude that because Ofc. Ebke reasonably felt in fear for his life and the life of another officer when he used force, such use was justified pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 464,” that report reads. 

Robinson’s mother is seeking damages for deprivation of benefits, lost contribution for support, reasonable funeral expenses, and mental anguish from Ebke and Dewey Beach.