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A solemn anniversary observed

Derek J. Hale, a decorated Marine who served two tours in Iraq, was shot to death by a Wilmington police officer in November 2006. He was unarmed, and his wife was later paid an $875,000 settlement by the city.
Pagans Motorcycle Club Honors Member five years after death ( MURDER !) with short ceremony
About 60 members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club roared into Wilmington's Hilltop neighborhood Sunday -- each carrying a single rose.
The members delivered the flowers to the steps of a home in the 1400 block of W. Sixth St., where five years ago Sunday one of their members, Derek J. Hale, was shot to death by a Wilmington police officer during an investigation of the motorcycle club. The officer, Lt. William Browne, was cleared of any wrongdoing.
"We're here. We come in peace," said Paul Fitzwater, a member of the Pagans' Delaware chapter who stood on the steps and addressed the others who gathered. "We come and pay our respects to our brother that was executed."
"We're going to pay our respects, lay our flowers down, leave here and just remember him."

Skitzo, a Pagans Motorcycle Club member, drops off a rose during Sunday's event. / THE NEWS JOURNAL/ESTEBAN PARRA 

After a couple of other Pagans spoke, club members left a rose on the steps where the club had placed two signs, one which read "In memory of our brother Road Runner 'Junior' Executed in Delaware by a cop. 11-06-06."

Hale, a 25-year-old former Marine and member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club from Virginia, was sitting on the steps of the Wilmington home of another Pagan when police surrounded him and stunned him with stun guns before shooting him.

A witness told investigators that Hale said "in a low raspy voice" that he was trying to comply with the officers' demands to remove his hands from his hooded sweatshirt pockets. Witnesses also said Hale did not appear to pose a threat and had just vomited and was shaking violently from the stun-gun blasts when Browne shot him in the chest with three .40-caliber rounds. Hale was a decorated Marine who had served two tours in Iraq.

Browne, who was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2007 by the state Attorney General's Office, has since been promoted to captain.

Late last year, Wilmington settled a lawsuit filed by Hale's widow. She received $875,000 from the city and agreed to drop the federal lawsuit against Wilmington.

Fitzwater, who said the settlement was little compensation for Hale's family, said the club will continue to help Hale's family in any way they can. He said the settlement had little to do with Sunday's event.

"This was nothing more than to show respect for our brother," Fitzwater said. "It's been five years today and we just came to pay our respects in a peaceful celebration."

Their show of respect lasted less than 10 minutes. After the last rose was left on the steps, the men climbed on their bikes and drove off.

Less than two minutes after they left, two city police cars rode down the street. One car briefly stopped in front of the home with the flowers before continuing.

Contact Esteban Parra at 324-2299 or eparra©

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