DELMAR — An investigation continued into an incident Sunday that left a 54-year-old Delmar Police Department officer and an elderly couple recovering from significant injuries, while the state also marked the four-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen Ballard.
Early Sunday morning, Delmar Cpl. Keith Heacook was seriously injured during a response at a residence in the Yorkshire Estates community. Delmar Police Chief Ivan Barkley described him as “fighting for his life” afterward.
The elderly couple, who police identified as husband and wife, Steve and Judith Franklin, were injured in a related assault in a home across the street, authorities said.
The Delaware Fraternal Order of Police Lodge recognized both incidents involving the officers on its Facebook page Monday: “Today, while we continue to keep Cpl. Heacook in our thoughts and prayers, we ask you take time to also remember Cpl. Stephen Ballard. Exactly four years ago today, Cpl. Stephen Ballard was killed in the line of duty. Cpl. Ballard was known for his infectious smile, his professionalism, and his drive to improve the community.”
On April 26, 2017, Cpl. Ballard died after being shot multiple times when approaching a suspicious vehicle at a Wawa in Bear.
Following Sunday’s incident, Randon D. Wilkerson, 30, of Delmar, was arrested and charged with first-degree attempted murder, second-degree assault (two counts), possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony (two counts), first-degree burglary, third-degree assault and terroristic threatening.
He was arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 3 and committed to Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, on $451,000 cash bond.
In a letter posted Sunday on Facebook, FOP President Jamie Leonard described initially being filled with emotions such as “anger, confusion, and sadness.”
As he witnessed members of law enforcement and the Delmar community rally behind Cpl. Heacook, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, he said he couldn’t “help but be overwhelmed with some other emotions of pride and joy.”
Mr. Leonard said that when he arrived at the hospital in support of the injured corporal and his fellow officers, “I wasn’t greeted like some stranger from New Castle County. I was welcomed like a brother.”
Meeting officers from both Maryland and Delaware was uplifting, he said, and the gathering centered around helping “one another like a family.”
Mr. Leonard added, “Recently law enforcement has been in the cross hairs of many public figures, politicians, and others, but not today. Instead, I watched as community members came to the station to offer their support though kind words or donations.”
He noted the support received from state Reps. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, and Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, along with social media being “bombarded with messages of encouragement.”
At around 4:30 p.m. Monday, “The Community for Corporal Keith Heacook” Facebook page had nearly 1,700 followers. A posted read, “To the over 1,000 people who came to the police department (Sunday) night we love you!”
A GoFundMe page was established for the Franklins and raised $11,403 of a $10,000 goal in 11 hours. There were 256 persons who donated.
According to the page, an account named “The Community” will be opened at Bank of Delmarva for Cpl. Heacook and his family.
Mr. Leonard said the gathering at the police department Sunday evening added to the outpouring of consolation.
In addition to the injured couple, the FOP offered its “thoughts and prayers to Cpl. Heacook and his family, our fellow officers, and the entire community of Delmar,” he wrote.
“Rest assured that the brothers and sisters of the Delaware FOP are here for you and stand with you in this challenging time.”
Municipal police departments throughout the state offered words of encouragement, as well.
Harrington Police Chief Norman Barlow said via email that “we are sending our thoughts and prayers to the Officer, the family and the Delmar Police Department. We are deeply (saddened) to hear of the tragic incident.”
In Camden, Police Chief Marcus Whitney described the incident as “yet another prime example of how inherently dangerous police work is. We never know when, where, or who an attack may come from. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cpl. Heacook and his family.”
On its Facebook page Sunday, the Georgetown Police Department posted, “We ask that everyone pray for Officer Heacook, his family, and the Delmar Police Department.”
Also on Facebook, the Dover Police Department expressed that “our thoughts are with the Delmar Police Department, their officer who was assaulted, and their family and friends today. Praying for a full and speedy recovery.”
Seaford police spokesman, Master Cpl. Eric Chambers, added, “The Seaford Police Department sends our thoughts and prayers to Cpl. Heacook, his family, the Delmar Police Department and to the civilian victims, as well. What happened in Delmar is extremely tragic. The Seaford Police Department stands ready to assist the Delmar Police Department in any way that we can during this difficult time.
“Unfortunately, this goes to show some of the dangers that police face every day at any time. There is no such thing as a routine call or a routine traffic stop. Every day and every call are different, and you never know what you are going to face or be met with.”
In a statement issued Sunday night, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said, “My heart is heavy tonight for three innocent victims: Cpl. Keith Heacook of the Delmar Police Department, who is being treated for grave injuries he suffered in an attack (Sunday) morning, and an elderly couple who also suffered severe injuries at the hands of the same attacker.”
DOJ personnel responded to the scene and continue to work with DSP and Delmar police “to ensure a successful prosecution,” Ms. Jennings said.
“We will continue to monitor both the investigation itself and — with hope in our hearts — the condition of Cpl. Heacook and both civilian victims,” she said.
“These are the moments we all pray will never come. For the law enforcement community, the Town of Delmar, and the rest of our state, today is a bitter reminder of the daily danger our police officers willingly face so the rest of us don’t have to. We are praying for the victims and their families; tomorrow, and in the coming days, we’ll all work together to ensure that their attacker is brought to justice.”
In the wake of the incident, The Deli at Pecan Square owner Steven Agha pledged $1,000 to provide police officers in uniform one free meal per tab at his Salisbury, Maryland, restaurant. Another local business owner chipped in an additional $500 to support the cause, he said.
Mr. Agha expressed his sympathy for Cpl. Heacook and said he extended the offer in support of all police officers because “they do such a good job.
“I have a lot of respect for these guys, and they deserve better treatment that they get, and we always want to take care of them. They work hard to protect us, and this should never happen. These guys are not the enemy. They are here to protect us.”
The tragedy was a focal point Sunday evening in the latest community chat/prayer session co-hosted by K.C. Conaway and Josh Wharton, founding members of the Good Ole Boy Foundation.
“We all have family and friends that are police officers, first responders,” said Mr. Conaway, youth minister at Dagsboro Church of God. “When they leave the house, your heart has got to go out with them — as far as being a family, a wife or a husband — knowing that your loved (one) is going out in harm’s way.”
Also, Mr. Conaway said, “There are things in times like this where the only thing we have left to do is pray. The Lord has to take care of the work, and this is where he comes in.”
In Mr. Wharton’s view, “These guys go out there, and they don’t know what they are going into, and you have the officer today that went through that. His life was affected, his family. He’s got children. The elderly couple across the street, their lives have been turned upside down.”
Mr. Wharton urged the community to continue to unite in support and prayer.
“Pray hard, guys,” he said.
State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, wrote in a Facebook post: “Let’s all stop for a moment and offer prayers for the Delmar Police Department and their injured officer.”