A Delmar police officer who responded to a fight in the early hours of April 25 has died from injuries he sustained at the scene.
Cpl. Keith Heacook was pronounced clinically dead at 12:48 p.m. April 28 but was held on life support in order to harvest his organs, said Master Cpl. Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police.
Attorney General Kathleen Jennings said Randon Wilkerson, 30, of Delmar will face murder charges in the attack that has shaken the Delmar community. However, an upcoming grand jury will decide whether to indict Wilkerson on the murder charge.
Heacook, a 22-year veteran of the police force, was responding to a fight at a home on Buckingham Drive in Yorkshire Estates when he was attacked. Dispatchers tried to reach Heacook after he arrived at the home, and when there was no response, more officers were dispatched. Responding officers found Heacook unconscious and pulled him from the home to administer first aid. Heacook eventually was sent to R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died from his injuries.
A resident of the home told police that she saw Wilkerson repeatedly kicking Heacook in the head as he lay face down on the floor in a pool of blood, according to court documents. Further details of what transpired at the home are unavailable.
The same night, Wilkerson attacked an elderly couple who live across the street. He also faces charges of two counts first-degree assault, two counts possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, first-degree burglary, third-degree assault, offensive touching of a medical professional, and terroristic threatening. He was committed to James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in default of $451,000 cash bond.
Local legislators react
Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, and Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, both of whom served with the Delaware State Police, were somber as they spoke about Heacook's death.
“What happened to Keith should never happen to anybody,” Schwartzkopf said. “The manner in which he died is shocking. I've seen a lot, but none of it has bothered me as much as this has. The manner of death – oh my God – is horrible.”
Schwartzkopf said he stands with the Delmar community as they come to grips with the tragedy, and he stands with today's police officers who are faced with greater challenges.
“Steve and I wore the uniform and understood we were in danger all the time, but we never wore the uniform in the trying time we have today,” Schwartzkopf said, alluding to tension that has boiled over this past year with protests over the death of George Floyd and other individuals shot by police. “We need to fix what's going on in our country, but it has to be both sides.”
Smyk said police officers are part of the community, not brought in from another world.
“Delmar is not far. Keith came from here,” he said about Heacook, a 1986 Cape Henlopen High School graduate. “This is a danger that exists every day an officer puts on a uniform.”
Schwartzkopf said this is not a time to second-guess why Heacook responded to the home alone, and people should refrain from voicing their opinions without knowing all the facts from a crime scene.
“It happens quickly and can get out of hand quickly,” he said.
Smyk said police put on a uniform because they value service to others.
“We don't want to create a society in which police step into situations with hesitancy, because that's when someone will die,” Smyk said.
Before Heacook's untimely death, Schwartzkopf said he understood that Heacook was trying to change careers to spend more time with his 11-year-old son.
“Police are targets these days. There is an inherent danger every time they step out the door,” he said.
Community shows support
The Delmar community has rallied together in support of Heacook and the elderly couple hospitalized following the attack.
A Go Fund Me account posted April 26 named Steve and Judy Franklin as the couple who was attacked in the early morning hours while in their home on Buckingham Drive in the Yorkshire Estates development.
Kim Nock, director of the Humane Society of Wicomico County, spoke highly of the couple and said Steve has been a volunteer with the organization for eight years, working three to four days a week helping walk and care for the animals.
She said the Humane Society of Wicomico County created the Go Fund Me account with a goal of raising $20,000. More than $18,000 had been raised as of April 28.
Nock said the couple is home after being hospitalized and she recently visited with them. “They are doing as well as expected,” she said.
The couple was attacked when Randon Wilkerson, 30, went to their home after getting in a fight at a residence across the street. Wilkerson knocked on the rear door of the Franklins' home about 3 a.m., and Steve, 73, let him in. Wilkerson then punched Steve in the face and when Steve fell to the ground, court records state, Wilkerson picked up a glass angel figurine and struck Steve repeatedly on the face and head. Wilkerson threatened to kill Steve before attacking Judy, 76, breaking her eye sockets, records state. The couple was sent to TidalHealth Nanticoke Memorial Hospital; Judy later was sent to R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
The Humane Society of Wicomico County said all proceeds will go to any medical bills, supplies for the couple's dogs, and any other family needs. The only fees charged are the standard credit card processing fees, the site states. “We want to make this fundraiser as simple as possible for those wanting to contribute,” according to the site.
Weekend events honor Heacook
A weekend full of events planned before Heacook passed are still on, says an organizer.
“It got way bigger than I though it would get,” said Will Spence, an organizer of a benefit slow-pitch softball tournament that will be played in Heacook's name Saturday-Sunday, May 1-2 at the Mason-Dixon Sports Complex, 704 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Delmar.
On Saturday, May 1, a Jeep convoy will assemble at 9 a.m. at the Millsboro Lowe's and leave at 10 a.m. to head for the sports complex in Delmar.
Spence said all proceeds will go to the Family of Cpl. Heacook.
In addition, a fundraiser for Heacook has been created by The Community for Keith Heacook at The Bank of Delmarva. Checks and cash are both acceptable, and checks can be made payable to “Community for Cpl. Keith Heacook.” Donations can be made in person or by mail. The mailing address is 2727 N. Salisbury Blvd. Salisbury, MD 21801. For more information, contact the Bank of Delmarva.