Condolences and tributes continued to be shared Thursday as the mid-Delmarva community mourned the passing of Delmar Police Cpl. Keith Heacook, who was fatally injured in the line of duty in a brutal attack Sunday.
Doctors at the Shock-Trauma Center at University Hospital in Baltimore successfully removed lifesaving organs from the 54-year-old officer that will be used by as many as eight people in medical need.
A 22-year veteran of law enforcement, Cpl. Heacook was pronounced clinically dead Wednesday afternoon of massive head injuries he sustained in a weekend ambush during a domestic police call on the Delaware side of Delmar.
Also seriously injured in the early-morning attack was an elderly couple who lived across the street from where Cpl. Heacook was first confronted. Both have since been released from the hospital and are recovering at home, authorities said.
Randon D. Wilkerson, 30, of Salisbury, was arrested shortly after the attacks and was initially charged with attempted murder, assault, burglary, possession of a deadly weapon while committing a felony and terroristic threatening.
Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings said the charges against Wilkerson will be upgraded to include murder.
"He will be held accountable for his heinous crimes against Cpl. Heacook, against the elderly couple he viciously assaulted, and against Delmar and our state," Ms. Jennings said.
The officer was responding to a house in northeast Delmar shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday. A witness told police that Mr. Wilkerson slammed his foot repeatedly on Cpl. Heacook's head while he lay unconscious.
The community, which rallied to hold a prayer vigil on Sunday in Delmar, is now organizing other events intended to both honor Cpl. Heacook and raise money to aid his survivors.
Cpl. Heacook, whose wife was Susan Heacook, also had a 12-year-old son, Matthew.
Delmar Police Chief Ivan Barkley said funeral plans for the slain officer will be announced.
On Saturday at 2 p.m., a car and motorcycle cruise for Cpl. Keith Heacook will be held to raise money for the family’s expected medical bills and expenses.
Participants are asked to meet in the Roses department store parking lot in Seaford and will then ride as a group south to Delmar, ending at the town’s police station just off West State Street.
On Saturday night at the Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, a special Delmar Night event will be held as part of the scheduled lineup, with donations going to the Heacook family. Entry is free to Delmar residents with proper ID. Gates open at 5 p.m., with Hot Laps starting at 6.
Governors in Delaware and Maryland each announced on Thursday that flags will be flown at half-staff in honor of Cpl. Heacook.
Delaware Gov. John Carney ordered both the U.S. and state flags to be lowered.
“Cpl. Heacook lost his life after performing a duty on behalf of the people of Delaware,” Mr. Carney said. “The Delmar community and the entire state of Delaware lost a public servant. My heart is with Cpl. Heacook’s family and Cpl. Heacook’s fellow law enforcement officers across Delaware, who put their own lives on the line to protect the rest of us.”
In Annapolis, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan made a similar announcement.
“On behalf of all Marylanders, I extend my sincerest condolences to the Delmar Police Department, and to the loved ones of Cpl. Keith Heacook. We owe so much to the brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities.”
Acting Wicomico County Executive John Psota, a retired Maryland State Police member, said the Maryland county’s flags will also be lowered.
“Cpl. Heacook’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,” Mr. Psota said.
“We pray for the strength of his family and friends and the continued healing of the other victims in this incomprehensible tragedy,” he said.
Tracie West-Ney, the mother of Cpl. Heacook’s son, Matthew, relayed on Facebook the scene in which she informed the young man of his father’s sacrifice.
“I just had to tell my 12-year-old son that he will never see his father again ... he crumpled up into a ball on the floor crying his eyes out,” she wrote.
“This violence in our country has to stop ... we can’t let this continue to happen,” Ms. West-Ney wrote. “I will fight with all I have to do my part to make sure another officer’s family doesn’t have to go through this.
“Keith was one of the good ones, he didn’t deserve this,” she wrote. “He was simply doing the job he so loved to do -- to protect and serve.”
Political and law enforcement leaders also continued to comment Thursday.
“Police Cpl. Keith Heacook was deeply dedicated to helping people in his community, and my heart breaks for his family, friends, and fellow law enforcement officers following the tragic news of his death,” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said in a statement. “The Delmar Police Department was fortunate to have a hero and 22-year veteran among its ranks, and Annie and I have Keith's family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Said Delaware’s senior Sen. Thomas Carper: “Martha and I are heartbroken to hear the news that Delmar lost a true public servant with the passing of Cpl. Keith Heacook, who gave his life protecting his community. Our prayers go out to his wife, son, family and fellow officers as we mourn his life and honor his heroic efforts that day.”
Delmar, Md., Mayor Karen Wells called for the community to remain united through its mourning.
“The Mayors, Council and Commission and the Town Hall staff are devastated,” she wrote. “We are hurt and angry that such a horrible act has been committed against one of our finest.
“Now is a time for unity, not division. It is a time for healing -- for Corporal Heacook, and for our community,” Ms. Wells wrote. “It is a time that we need to stand together, support each other, and support our Police Department. We will weather this storm together, because that’s what we do. We are Delmar.”
Delmar Realtor and business leader Holly Campbell heralded the officer’s organ donation, as well as his service.
“My strongest pleas are that our remaining officers and those supporting them can find it in their hearts to keep going, but that they can find rest and recovery somehow. We appreciate and need you. We are grateful for all you do.”
Ms. Campbell added: “I heard from a friend that Keith, in his departure from this life, will be giving a new life to up to eight people with his organ donations. That today those people could get the life-changing call they have desperately waited and prayed for. He has made an incredible sacrifice and will live on through others in so many ways.”