The message came over Sussex County’s fire/EMS radio channel just after 7:53 p.m. Thursday.
“Police action for gunshots, 19540 Coastal Highway, Econo Lodge,” the dispatcher said urgently. “Medics requested.”
Responding paramedics rushed to the motel near Rehoboth Beach, but they were too late.
Police were already on their way to Beebe Healthcare with a Milford police officer who had been shot multiple times by a fugitive he was trying to apprehend. And the suspect, a 37-year-old wanted for attempted murder in Pennsylvania, was dead.
A day later, it remains unclear exactly how the incident outside the Econo Lodge Inn and Suites Resort unfolded. But witnesses said it happened quickly – and chaotically.
Yvonne Turner, who had been staying at the motel for about three weeks, was by her hotel room when, around 7:45 p.m., a vehicle occupied by law enforcement pulled up behind a truck that was parked in the lot near the motel’s office.
As police boxed in the truck, Turner said, a man jumped out of his vehicle and started shooting.
“He ran across the parking lot and was firing back at the officer, and the officer was chasing him. Then he was on the ground,” she said. “I don’t know if the gun was still in his hand or what, but the officer was telling him to get on the ground when he was on the ground. Then he shot (the suspect).”
Turner didn’t know at the time that the barrage of bullets had struck a 38-year-old Milford officer assigned to the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force in Delaware. The agents had tracked the fugitive to the Econo Lodge and were attempting to arrest him.
Econo Lodge said Friday the suspect “was not a registered guest at the hotel.” Police have not yet released his name.
Little additional information about the incident is known, but Turner, teary and anxious Friday morning as she described the scene, called it “very traumatic.” She was one of a handful of people who saw the events unfold, but was the only one who would speak about it.
Delaware State Police, the lead agency in the investigation, said Friday a trooper shot the suspect. The trooper has been placed on administrative leave as an investigation into the shooting is conducted, per department policy.
The Milford officer, who has not been identified, is in critical condition but stable. He underwent surgery at Christiana Hospital, where he was flown Thursday evening from Beebe.