Delaware DOJ targets victim of ammo theft, while cutting the perp a break

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

A 39-year-old felon in Delaware who admitted to stealing more than a half-million rounds of ammunition over the course of a year and selling the pilfered rounds to gang members in Philadelphia and Dover will likely avoid prison time thanks to a sweetheart deal offered by the state, but the retailer who was the victim of the shoplifter is now in the legal crosshairs of the Delaware Department of Justice.


Danielle M. Brookens entered a guilty plea in state court back in April to one count of possession of ammunition by a person prohibited, and in exchange was handed down an awfully light sentence: report to a drug diversion program. Under Delaware law, Brookens could have received as much as eight years in prison, and if her case had been referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for federal prosecution she could have been looking at a decade behind bars.

Instead, Brookens will get to avoid prison altogether once a judge signs off on the plea deal, and the Delaware Department of Justice has turned its attention on Cabela’s, the store where Brookens received her five-fingered discount.

The state Department of Justice is demanding to see Cabela’s records, specifically its loss prevention policies. The DOJ also wants to see the records of other Cabela’s and its sister store, Bass Pro Shop, within 100 miles of the Christiana Mall location — this would include at least two in Pennsylvania, one in New Jersey and another in Maryland.

The DOJ came out publicly last month saying it is investigating if Cabela’s violated state laws, including Delaware’s firearms industry public nuisance law, through its hands-off approach to the shoplifting of ammunition from its Christiana location.

“Businesses need to be responsible members of our community; that includes gun dealers taking reasonable steps to prevent gun violence,” Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said after announcing her department’s investigation. “Unfortunately, Cabela’s casual storage, and their stonewalling of this investigation, tell us that they still aren’t taking that responsibility seriously.”

Cabela’s has not responded to a request for comment, but in court filings its parent company, the Great American Outdoors Group, objected to the subpoena, calling it “overbroad” and saying the summons seeks documents containing trade secrets, confidential business or other proprietary information.

The group also objected to the DOJ’s refusal to postpone the subpoena’s already-passed March 17 return date pending a decision on the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s federal lawsuit against Jennings that challenges the constitutionality of a public nuisance law.

The Foundation’s lawsuit claims the public nuisance law “is breathtaking in its scope” as it imposes sweeping liability for any firearms marketing that could later be thought to “contribute to a public nuisance” in Delaware.


Basically, the Delaware DOJ is alleging that Cabela’s should have kept its ammunition under lock and key and inaccessible to customers, and created a public nuisance by failing to do so. Now the agency is going on a fishing expedition to comb through all kinds of documents in the hopes of shutting down the store, or at the very least subjecting them to punitive fines. As you can imagine, that’s not sitting well with some 2A advocates in the state.

We’ve been pretty vocal advocates for the enforcement of the laws on the books,” said Erin Chronister, cofounder and president of Women’s Defense Coalition of Delaware. “The criminals who just keep offending are getting plea deal after plea deal.”

This in turn leaves lawful citizens having to accept when lawmakers pass more gun control laws that make it harder for say, a woman fleeing violence, to purchase a weapon, Chronister said.

“I don’t understand why those who are committing the crimes are continuously getting deals and the lawful citizens who just want them for protection or hunting or sporting are just basically being told suck it up,” she said. “We’re being equated with vigilantes of the wild, wild west because we want tools for self-defense.”

In response to questions about Brookens receiving a light deal, a DOJ spokesperson said the defendant pleaded guilty to the highest-level offense she faced.

“She was cooperative and the state recognized her readiness to take responsibility, as well as other mitigating factors, in our sentencing recommendation,” said Mat Marshall, a DOJ spokesperson.


Cooperative or not, Brookens herself claims to have stolen a half-million rounds of ammunition over the course of a year and then selling the rounds to criminals in at least two different cities. This isn’t Brookens first run-in with the law either. Back in 2012 she was convicted of two felonies for stealing and selling prescription pills in Elkton, Maryland, and she’s also currently facing charges related to theft of ammunition from a Bass Pro Shops near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in March of last year, though according to the Delaware Journal she’s scheduled for another plea hearing in that case in August. Will Pennsylvania prosecutors go just as easy on Brookens as their Delaware counterparts? It wouldn’t surprise me a bit, but I guess we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see what kind of deal is on the table.

Having ammo available for customers to pick up and purchase shouldn’t be a criminal or even a civil offense, while stealing ammunition is definitely a crime, but the Delaware Department of Justice has made it clear where its priorities are: cracking down on the retailer that was the victim of Brookens’ criminal actions, while excusing those actions away and offering her a slap on the wrist for what, by her own admission, are serious crimes that helped to fuel the violence in both Philadelphia and Dover.

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