Family Demands Answers, Change in Police Practices

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HONESDALE -- The family of a National Guardsman who was shot and killed by state police in Wayne County two weeks ago demonstrated on Monday, hoping to get from authorities as to why they had to use deadly force.

The results of an autopsy done last month still have not been released, including information as to how many times the 21-year-old man was shot.

The Wayne County district attorney will only say the investigation is continuing and she's not releasing information until it's done.

Derek DeGroat's father, his girlfriend, and some others marched in front of the Wayne County Courthouse on Monday, demanding answers and a change in police practices.

On the coldest day of the winter so far, Michael DeGroat and Lindsey Erk were joined by friends, holding signs and marching in front of the Wayne County Courthouse in Honesdale.

The father and girlfriend of Derek DeGroat spent the last two weeks, the holidays, wondering exactly what happened when troopers shot and killed the National Guardsman.

"I don't think I'll ever celebrate another holiday. I don't think I can," said Derek's father Michael DeGroat. "I don't think they've even opened the Christmas presents yet. My family is completely distraught."

"Derek was an amazing person and he didn't deserve what happened to him, and it breaks my heart along with everyone else that he was taken from us. He was ripped away from us," said Derek's girlfriend Lindsey Erk.

What they do know about that night near Waymart is that a family member called 911 to report Derek was suicidal after a fight with his girlfriend.

A search warrant indicates troopers told him to drop his weapons. He spun towards them. They fired. Two rifles and a shotgun were found near his body.

The family's big question is why.

"I watched them shoot him. And I watched everything happen and I watched him laying on the ground," said Erk.

We took the family's concerns to the district attorney who says she understands they want answers, she just doesn't have them all yet.

"I can certainly understand why the family and the loved ones of Derek want answers, and I do as well, but the investigation is going to take its time and be full and complete, and when it's done, I promise to report as soon as I know something," said Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards.

But the family wants more than answers. Their signs call for a change in how police respond to a call about someone who is suicidal.

They want Derek's Law, requiring a trained counselor to be on scene and for law enforcement to put saving other lives above saving their own.

"They used excessive force to take him down," said Michael DeGroat. "It doesn't take more than one bullet to silence someone and they used excessive force to silence a cry for help that night."

The Wayne County D.A. says she hasn't received an autopsy report yet. She plans to meet this week with the forensic pathologist who did it.

The D.A. has told us she already reviewed dashcam video of the shooting, but she won't be releasing any more details until the investigation is done.

10 comments

  • George Brandon Stivers

    This proposed law will wind up with a lot more innocent dead then it will save the life of a crazy person with a gun. You simply DO NOT try to talk down a deadly threat. You hesitate, you die. Anyone who has ever took an oath for this country knows this saying. A call to 911 regarding someone with a weapon is NOT a simple 302 call. If I have to call PD for a 302 with a man with a gun who is pointing it around town, they might as well send the coroner, because I am firing my weapon. I dare you to charge me with a crime while protecting myself from serious bodily injury.

  • What a Joke

    If you are commanded to drop your weapons, and you dont, it does not help your position if you want to stay alive. A Guardsman should know this.

  • don justice

    If I were this man’s parents I would not rest until the 3 troopers were brought up on murder or voluntary manslaughter charges! They had NO right to Kill this individual! They are getting way out of hand and these 3 need to pay the piper!

    • George Brandon Stivers

      No right to kill a man with a gun who wouldn’t put down his weapons? LOL. Uh huh. You deserve to die when someone points a gun at you sir. GO ahead, try to talk that person out of shooting you. Let me know how well that works out for you. We have the right to protect ourselves from serious bodily injury or death. That right isn’t going anywhere buddy. Anyone who has put a uniform on for this country has fought for that right and we WILL NOT violate our oaths and let people like you remove that right.

      • Maybe...

        I’ll give this to Donald Trump..we can take the PC gloves off. I am so sick of the “I wore a uniform” “I toke and oath” rah-rah blah nonsense, as though no person can comment unless they have a body count. Of course we should defend ourselves from bodily harm…what a new idea! The point is for everyone to leave alive, including the gunman, to investigate to see if that could have been done, and if so make improvements and if not give some closure to the family and LEO who had to make that call. It’s always on and on and on with the quick-draw Mcgraws who will swing into action but have signs in their yards asking us to be considerate with our 4th of July fireworks because it gives them flashbacks (and of course they are armed.)

  • really?

    Lackawanna county has Crisis Intervention Team…of course it wasn’t formed until after Scranton cops shot a woman during a mental health call in 2009 or 2010. But they’re not asking for anything new, maybe new to Wayne County. A law named after him? Meh. People grieve differently.

  • MisterPL

    “Trained counselor.”

    How about a law that says if you need meds for any kind of mental illness – including depression – then you don’t get to have a gun?

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