Elderly Couple Die After Being Shot At Delaware Veterans Cemetery

On Friday morning at roughly 10 a.m., a 29-year-old man reportedly shot an elderly couple from Elkton at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear, with the 85-year-old woman dying at the scene and her 86-year-old husband dying at a local hospital on Saturday.

The shooter, later identified as Sheldon C. Francis of Middletown by Delaware State Police, as The New York Daily News reported, got into a gun battle with police which triggered him to run into the nearby woods; he was later found dead there from a gunshot wound. When Francis was allegedly running from police, he reportedly emerged from the woods into an area near the residence of Manny Vivar, who told ABC6 he could hear the sounds of the firefight, recalling, “It was real rapid like ‘pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.’” The windshield of a police armored truck was shattered; no officers were injured.

The gunfight between Francis and the police lasted roughly six hours, according to DelawareOnline. CBS Philadelphia added, “Officials say a memorial service took place at the cemetery just prior to the shooting, but everyone had left the grounds by the time gunfire erupted. Twelve employees were working at the cemetery at the time of the shooting and sheltered in a building.”

“The shooting prompted scores of officers to speed into the cemetery along the 2000 block of Chesapeake City Road … Images of the scene from SkyForce10 showed police responding with guns drawn, including a group of troopers crouched behind a divider on a highway,” NBC Philadelphia reported.

Gov. John Carney commented, “Really sad news to think of that kind of event in really what is a sacred ground, the final resting place of the men and women who have served our country.” Secretary of State Jeff Bullock echoed, “Today, a moment of tragedy shattered the peaceful atmosphere of the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery. We are deeply sorry for the families and loved ones of the victims. We are thankful for the quick thinking and actions of our cemetery staff and the Delaware State Police, and grateful that no one else was hurt in this dangerous situation.”

In 2018, the staff of the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery received the Operational Excellence Award from Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves of the VA’s National Cemetery Administration. “The award places the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery among the top five percent of state veterans’ cemeteries in the nation,” Delaware.gov noted. Governor Carney asserted:

The Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery truly is hallowed ground for those Delawareans who served their country in our armed forces, and for the loved ones who carry on the legacy of their deeds. I’ve always been extremely proud of the dedicated team that works every day to ensure that this resting place is maintained to the highest standards of excellence, and I congratulate them on earning the recognition they deserve.

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