The afternoon of Sunday, June 12, before Deputy Glenn Hilliard left for work, his wife was bothered by an odd feeling.
Tashica Hilliard wanted to be especially close to her husband of 16 years that day, and had a vague worry that something might happen to her father.
She made a strawberry shortcake for her sister and her husband admired it and remarked it looked delicious. “I said, ‘You have to go to work’ and he said, ‘You got to save me a piece of that cake,’” she recalled. She sliced it, wrote “Dad” on the wrapper and placed the dessert in the refrigerator, where it is – still.
Later, she sent her husband a text message and he replied, asking how she was feeling, saying he’d call her “as soon as I clear this call.”
That evening, as the sun set over Berlin, where the family lives, a marked Sheriff’s Office car pulled into the driveway of their home. The oldest child, 22-year-old De'Aijah Hobbs, glanced outside, told her mother about the car and wondered if officers were chasing someone who maybe ran through their yard.
When Mrs. Hilliard saw a lieutenant from the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office, where her 41-year-old husband worked, and Chief Deputy Gary Baker, get out and walk toward the front door, she was certain her husband had been killed.
“I just knew. I knew. I told the kids to go to their rooms and they all went into Jersi’s room. I went to the door and they said ‘I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘You can go. You can go. I have children in the house,’” she recalled during a conversation with the Salisbury Independent on Sunday afternoon, on Father’s Day and one week after Hilliard was shot to death while pursuing a 20-year-old who was wanted by the Maryland State Police.
Most likely, as she initially spoke to the deputies that evening, she was in shock.
“I was,” said their son, 12-year-old Trenton, who strongly resembles his father.
The conversation made 16-year-old Jersi start to cry and her big sister stood, pulled two tissues from a box and gently handed them to her. Jersi, named for the state where her father was born, is more quiet than her older sister and younger brother. Asked if she was Daddy’s girl she nodded, her lip trembling.
A student at Stephen Decatur High School and Worcester Technical High School, she is interested in engineering and is in the STEM program. Her father, too, was technologically inclined.
“For a flicker, for a small flicker, I thought maybe Glenn was only injured, maybe, but then I saw the deputies’ faces and I knew,” Mrs. Hilliard said.
“I was hyperventilating. Whenever I think about it I think, ‘I don’t want this to be real,’” De'Aijah said, shaking her head.
Mrs. Hilliard’s brother, who was a state trooper, arrived at their home too, and later told her he heard the call and realized it was his brother-in-law.
“When I saw my brother I knew it was real,” Mrs. Hilliard said, explaining she tried to be strong and immediately called her parents, the Rev. Theophilus and Linda Hobbs, who live a few doors away.
Sunday apprehension attempt
Hilliard was shot to death after the Sheriff’s Office received information that Austin Jacob Allen Davidson, wanted in several counties, had been spotted at the Talbot Apartments complex in Pittsville. Hilliard responded, driving to Gumboro Road, but didn’t immediately see Davidson, Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis explained during a news conference the next day.
A few minutes later, Hilliard noticed him near a stairwell and drove up to the suspect, who ran. Hilliard went after him around the side of the apartment complex toward the woods, where multiple rounds were fired from a semi-automatic handgun, striking Hilliard at least once, Lewis said, adding there was a laser sight directed at the deputy.
Another deputy quickly arrived and tried to save Hilliard’s life, as did personnel from the Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department, but he was pronounced dead at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional.
After a manhunt, Davidson was found, arrested and charged with murder, assault, reckless endangerment and felony firearm use in a violent crime. He remains in the Wicomico County Detention Center, being held without bail.
Family remarkably brave
Most likely, Mrs. Hilliard said, her husband was going to use his Taser to stop the suspect, but he was shot before he could activate it. He didn’t have time to draw his weapon.
The family has been remarkably brave, attending and, with smiles and politeness, speaking at a prayer vigil at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, granting interviews, planning the funeral.
“But we have our moments. We all have our moments. We are strong because of God and because we know Glenn would be pleased by the way the community has taken care of us, by the support we have received from the community,” Mrs. Hilliard said.
“Oh, so much support. It’s been tremendous,” her oldest daughter agreed, adding there has been a multitude of cards, meals and messages from those who know them and others they never met.
A graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where he earned a degree in Criminal Justice, Hilliard met his future wife on Sept. 13, 2005, after she noticed his picture online – not on a dating site, she said, adding she doesn’t remember the exact origin.
“I saw this guy who looked full of himself. I thought, ‘Who does he think he is?’ He said he thought he knew me from UMES,” she said.
He was a police officer in Crisfield at the time, but until she knew for sure she wanted to meet him in a public place, in case he was just someone in uniform misrepresenting himself.
She had De'Aijah, who was 5 then, and there were other children in the family, so she told Hilliard if he wanted to meet her, he could go to Chuck E. Cheese and he did. But he wasn’t full of himself.
“No. Not all. He was the sweetest little boy. He met my whole family. He was the sweetest little guy,” his widow said, smiling and her eyes brightening. He was 25 but looked 17. They were married the next year.
“He was fun to be around,” said Trenton, who absolutely does not want to grow up to be a police officer and who loved challenging his father to video sports games. Hilliard played baseball and probably basketball.
“He was 6 feet, 1 inch tall,” his wife said.
“He said 6 feet 2,” Trenton said with a smile.
Thousands were expected to attend the funeral for the well-respected deputy who was formerly a member of the Berlin Fire Department.
“He was so dedicated to his job. He was on the county’s SWAT team. It was his favorite thing to do. He was a pistol expert. During covid I worked at the Worcester County courthouse in the drug court program. I decided I wanted to quit my job and go to nursing school. I wasn’t working so he picked up a lot of hours to pay the bills,” she said, adding she is grateful for generous community support, especially since she is unemployed as she concentrates on her studies.
‘He loved the adrenaline’
Sometimes she and the children worried about his safety, but it was the normal family routine, said De'Aijah, a student at Wor-Wic Community College interested in social work and an employee at All Paws Doggie Daycare in Ocean City.
“He loved the adrenaline. He was an adrenaline junkie,” his daughter said with a laugh.
When Glenn Hilliard was a toddler, he was taken from his mother, who had problems with drug addiction. He was 2 when police found him in a mall. It wasn’t the first time his mother had let her children wander, unsupervised, and he was placed in foster care until he was adopted in New York when he was 4. He was raised in Newark, N.J., by his adoptive mother and grandmother.
“But he said it wasn’t pronounced ‘New-ark.’ It was ‘Nork,’” his wife said, laughing.
From his earliest years, she said, he wanted to be a police officer.
When his adoptive mother picked him up to take him to his new home, he was ready to go, holding two toy police cars that he pronounced “calice” cars and wearing a junior police uniform.
“Law enforcement was all he ever wanted to do,” his wife said, as his children nodded.
“All he wanted to do was protect the community.”