WILMINGTON, Del. — A Wilmington police officer was in serious but stable condition Sunday, awaiting surgery, after someone shot him in the face following a traffic stop and chase in Southbridge, police said.
Patrolman Justin W. Wilkers, 34, a three-year veteran of the force, was rushed to Christiana Hospital about 3:50 p.m. for injuries that police said did not appear to be life-threatening.
“He’s OK,” said Wilmington police Capt. William R. Browne, who added that the bullet hit the patrolman’s jaw and fragments may have lodged in his neck. “He’s got a lot of swelling.”
It is believed to have been at least two decades since a Wilmington police officer was shot in the line of duty.
The shooting took place in the 1200 block of Peach St., and police said the incident began when Wilkers and another unidentified officer attempted to pull over a white Chevrolet SUV for an unspecified traffic violation.
But the SUV, which contained at least three males, sped off and officers gave chase, following it to Peach Street, where the vehicle stopped, according to police.
As the two officers approached the vehicle, the occupants exited and at least one fired at the officers, hitting Wilkers. The other officer escaped unharmed, Browne said.
The three males then fled on foot and police said at least two occupants of the SUV were in custody. Browne did not know if the suspected shooter was among those captured.
Police also recovered two guns and other evidence at the scene. Browne said.
“No one has been charged,” he said late Sunday. “It is too early to tell.”
Several others were also being held for questioning as witnesses.
Mayor Dennis Williams was not available for comment but issued a brief statement Sunday night, asking for prayers for the officer and his family. He went to the hospital shortly after the shooting.
“As mayor I am committed to ridding our city of anyone that threatens the safety of our neighborhoods. I’ve said that ‘I’m not in the business of hugging thugs!’ and that is exactly what I mean. Heinous acts such as this will not be tolerated. Our citizens will live in peace,” Williams said in the statement.