A Wicomico County Deputy was shot and killed at an apartment complex in Pittsville on Sunday while attempting to apprehend a fugitive who was wanted on multiple felony warrants in multiple jurisdictions.
Deputy First Class Glenn Hilliard, an 18-year law enforcement veteran, observed a man matching the suspect’s description coming out of the Talbot Apartments complex on Gumboro Road at about 9 p.m. and chased down the suspect.
As he attempted to escape, the suspect fired multiple rounds from a semi-automatic handgun equipped with a laser sight, shooting the deputy “at least once,” Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis said at a news conference Monday. Hilliard never removed his gun from his holster, Lewis said, but did attempt to deploy his taser.
A second deputy responded to the scene “no more than two minutes” after the shooting, but the suspect had already fled into the woods behind the apartment complex, triggering an extensive manhunt by dozens of law enforcement officers from throughout the region, including a Maryland State Police helicopter.
“Despite the heroic efforts of the second deputy, who was on the scene within a minute or so, no more than two minutes he was back on the scene, along with members of the Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department, the deputy would succumb to his injuries,” Lewis said.
The suspect, later identified as Austin Jacob Allen Davidson, 20, of Delmar, was captured late Sunday night. Davidson remains in custody without bond at the Wicomico County Detention Center on charges of murder, assault, reckless endangerment and felony firearm use in a violent crime.
According to Maryland District Court files, Davidson was most recently wanted in connection with an April assault in Ocean City, for which he failed to appear in court.
In 2019, Davidson was convicted in Baltimore City of robbing a McDonald’s restaurant of $1,136 while using a handgun, for which he received a three-year suspended sentence and was placed on probation, Lewis said.
“Keep in mind that (Davidson) got a three-year suspended sentence and then got probation before judgment,” the Sheriff said. “Had he been incarcerated where he belonged, our deputy would still be here with us today.”
Lewis – speaking to reporters with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Wicomico State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes by his side – raised his voice in frustration while describing Davidson’s past charges in Baltimore City.
“When apprehended in Baltimore City after committing an armed robbery, when asked why he did it, do you want to hear his response? Quote, ‘Because I can.’ Those were his words when apprehended for an armed robbery in Baltimore City, and he still somehow got probation before judgement and was on the streets to murder a police officer,” he said.
“This is a revolving door we have in our criminal justice system here in the state of Maryland,” Lewis added. “Things need to change. Until then, we’re going to see more of this.”
Lewis said a Wicomico sheriff’s deputy has not been murdered in the line of duty since Dec. 8, 1968, when then-Sheriff Sam Graham and Deputy Albert Kelly were shot to death during a jail break at the County Courthouse.
Lewis said Hilliard had worked in several areas within the Sheriff’s Office, having most recently transferred back to patrol upon request. He started his career with the Crisfield Police Department in 2004 and the deputy would have turned 42 next week.
“The days ahead will be challenging, but for now, we are mourning the loss of an incredible human being,” Lewis said Sunday night. “Deputy Glenn Hilliard was a son, a husband and a father to three beautiful children, a brother to those he worked with, and an exemplary public servant to the citizens of Wicomico County and to the state of Maryland. Our hearts and prayers go out to Glenn’s family during this difficult time.”
Added Lewis: “As an organization, we are heartbroken over this senseless and tragic murder. Brave men and women like Glenn Hilliard put their lives in danger every day to protect our families, and I am extremely grateful to them for keeping our communities safe.”
Hogan, who has been visiting the Lower Shore in recent days, became visibly emotional at Monday’s news conference as he recounted the message shared with him by Hilliard’s surviving family.
“I had a chance to hug his wife and meet his three children, his two daughters and son, and his wife said he wanted to make sure that we passed onto people that Glenn Hilliard died doing what he loved,” Hogan said. “These are men and women who go out there every single day, and put their lives on the line for the rest of us, to keep us safe, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Hogan pledged to crack down on repeat offenders such as Davidson, who he said “should not have been out on the streets.”
“You’ve heard me talk over and over again for eight years about getting tough on these repeat offenders, especially the judges in Baltimore City letting people out. The fact this guy was out without serving any time for an armed robbery is just unacceptable,” he said.
Acting County Executive John Psota, himself a retired Maryland State Police Trooper, issued a statement on behalf of the county’ executive branch.
“It is with profound sorrow that the Wicomico County Executive’s Office offers our deepest condolences to the family of Deputy First Class Glenn Hilliard and the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office family.”
“DFC Hilliard’s death is a solemn reminder of the risks and sacrifices our law enforcement officers are willing to accept in order to keep us safe and to preserve our way of life,” Psota said.
“As an organization, we are distraught and heartbroken and we pray for the strength of his family and friends and the entire community in this incomprehensible and senseless tragedy.
“To Glenn and all those who have fallen before him, and to the thin blue line, we are and will forever be in your debt.”
Hilliard was described as an “incredible detective” and a “master of electronics,” who frequently worked with the drones owned by the Wicomico Sheriff’s Office.
Psota ordered the Wicomico County flag be lowered in Hilliard’s honor.
Davidson will be brought before a Grand Jury “in the next few weeks,” as a trial awaits to be set in the coming months, Dykes said at the news conference.
Meanwhile, the Wicomico County Council will meet Tuesday at 10 a.m. to vote on a resolution to provide contingency funds to employee death benefits in the amount of $500,000.
A candlelight vigil honoring Hilliard’s life will be held at the Delmarva Shorebirds Stadium at 7 p.m. Monday, including a speech from Pastor Mike Rittenhouse of 3C USA Church in Delmar.
The shooting death remains under investigation by Maryland State Police.