Maciarello clears Wicomico deputy in fatal shooting

Following a detailed investigation, the deputy who shot and killed a young Salisbury man in March was found to be completely justified.

“This case is closed,” Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matthew Maciarello said at a news conference Tuesday morning, where he released details about the shooting of 25-year-old Fednel Rhinvil, who was killed by Deputy Benjamin Matthew Jones in March.

“Taking of life is tragic, but Deputy Jones was absolutely justified,” Maciarello said.

When the incident occurred, around 1:30 a.m. March 3, Jones approached Rhinvil and his friend Christopher Carter in the Dennis Street area.

He had every right to stop them because the two were walking in the middle of the street even though sidewalks were provided on both sides, disobeying the Transportation Article. Also, he thought one of them might be a drug offender wanted on a police warrant, Maciarello said.

Carter stopped, but Rhinvil — a felon in possession of a revolver – refused,  despite orders from Jones. Carter, too, urged Rhinvil to stop, speaking in Creole to the native Haitian native, saying, “You don’t have to do this, dog.”

Carter told investigators he saw Jones and Rhinvil “run around the house at least three times.”

Maciarello said Rhinvil jumped over one, then another, fence, but Jones was able to grab his jacket. Rhinvil wriggled free of the garment, fell, and Jones got on top of Rhinvil’s back, ordering him to stop moving.

Rhinvil, who stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 165 pounds, did not comply and hit Jones on the side of his head with his fist and got away.

He jumped another fence, fell and the struggle between the men continued.

Rhinvil put his hand into his pants, where he had a gun, and Jones removed his issued Glock .45 from his holster.

“Deputy Jones’ firearm has a light on it, so once he pulls it out, it illuminates the subject. Rhinvil does not have a shirt on,” Maciarello said.

Jones repeatedly told Rhinvil to stop or he would shoot. Rhinvil did not, and Jones fired four shots into his body, killing him. He later discovered the hammer on Rhinvil’s gun was cocked back.

Rhinvil was prohibited from possessing a firearm because he had been convicted of crimes of violence several times  in Florida. His crimes included battery, affray, possession of drugs, resisting an officer with violence and aggravated battery with firearm.

His death was ruled homicide, meaning “death at the hands of another.”

Jones suffered a broken finger.

During police interviews after the shooting, Carter told investigators he heard Jones order Rhinvil, whose street name was Zoe, to halt. Carter first testified the “cop beat Rhinvil with a Taser,” which Maciarello said Jones did not have. Later, Carter admitted he didn’t see a beating or a Taser, but thought that was what he heard.

Carter said if he had seen Jones strike Rhinvil, he would have fought for Rhinvil, a statement Maciarello called “troubling.”

“Taking of any life is tragic, of course. It calls upon this office to be very thorough, very precise and to be very transparent with the public. The bad guys are getting the weapons. They are so ubiquitous. Bad guys are getting their hands on guns,” Maciarello said.

“Deputy Jones is completely lucky he got to go home after a short visit to Peninsula Regional Medical Center. This is a man we are lucky to have … he served his country as a soldier. I feel this community is very fortunate he got to go home,” Maciarello said.

He said Jones has been with the sheriff’s office 14 years on road patrol, K-9 duty, the PACE Team and SWAT Team. He also serves as master sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard.

Jones was patrolling the Dennis Street area that morning, following a threat to “shoot up” a house on Shiloh Street, but Maciarello wouldn’t say if Rhinvil’s death could have prevented that crime.

“I don’t want to put that on Rhinvil,” he said.

The body was sent to the medical examiner’s office and an autopsy performed. The report states one gunshot wound was on the left parietal region of the head. A second and third gunshots penetrated Rhinvil’s chest and the fourth was to his right hand.

Maciarello said it’s unfortunate the body was sent for an autopsy before the family was able to see it, a move that upset Rhinvil’s sister. Maciarello said he and Sheriff Mike Lewis will work to be sure that doesn’t happen again, even though family members aren’t allowed to get close to bodies that might contain important evidence.

“That’s always tough. Mike (Lewis) and I, we are at the hospital a lot to be with the family members. We definitely try to treat the families with respect,” he said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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