Report Clears Salisbury Cop In Fatal Shooting

SALISBURY — The Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office has ruled no charges are warranted against a police officer who shot and killed a man earlier this year.

On Feb. 2, James L. Norris, 25, of Wilmington, Del., was shot and killed by 18-year Salisbury Police veteran and member of the Maryland State Apprehension Team Pfc. Milton Rodriguez during a struggle inside a vehicle parked along Route 13 near Philadelphia Rd. Five months later, in a report released last week, Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello found there was no cause to charge Rodriguez or otherwise find any guilty with the officer’s handling of the incident, instead opining the officer likely saved his own life and the lives of others.

In early February, MSAT investigators developed information that led them to conduct surveillance on a residence in Delmar where Norris, a known violent criminal wanted in Delaware, was known to be residing. A person matching Norris’ description was seen leaving the residence and getting into a vehicle headed into Salisbury. MSAT investigators requested a uniformed Maryland State Police trooper in a marked car to stop the vehicle and identify its occupants.

Shortly before 4:30 p.m., a MSP trooper stopped the vehicle on southbound Route 13 and contacted the female driver. The front seat passenger, later identified as Norris, attempted to hide his identity from the trooper. Meanwhile, Rodriguez, who had responded in a plainclothes capacity as a member of the MSAT to assist, approached the passenger side of the vehicle. Rodriguez knew from information provided by a confidential informer that Norris often carried two loaded .38 caliber revolvers. The informer had also told investigators Norris had said if he ever got caught, he was going to shoot it out with the cops.

Rodriguez approached the passenger side and clearly identified himself as a police officer and ordered Norris to show his hands and identify himself. According to the State’s Attorney’s report, Norris reportedly said to the Rodriguez, “kill me or I’ll kill you” as he reached into his sweatshirt pockets.

Rodriguez continued to command Norris to show his hands, but when Norris refused and reached into his pockets, presumably to draw his two hand guns, Rodriguez reached into the vehicle and grabbed the suspect’s wrist to keep him from pulling out the revolvers, while using his other hand to draw his own service weapon. After an interminable 12 or 13 seconds of struggle, both Norris and Rodriguez fired their weapons, the latter’s fatally wounding Norris.

As a matter of protocol, Maciarello’s office conducted a months-long comprehensive investigation into the officer-involved fatal shooting including testimony from witnesses on the scene and the facts of the case to determine if there was cause to find any guilt with Rodriguez’s actions in the case.

“Contemplating all of these facts along with Norris’ statements during the encounter, ‘either kill me or I’ll kill you,’ the state finds that Rodriguez’s actions are patently justified,” the report reads. “Indeed, the undersigned is quite sure that Rodriguez’s actions may have saved his life, Hallman’s life, Secrist’s life and the safety and well-being of other motorists and citizens at or near the scene on that fateful day.”

Maciarello’s report found Rodriguez’s actions were completely justified and even heroic.

“This office has determined that probable cause does not exist to believe that Pfc. Rodriguez has committed any crime,” the report reads. “As such, no charges against Pfc. Rodriguez will be initiated by this office. Indeed, upon review, Pfc. Rodriguez’s actions seem completely justified ….”