'This is heartbreaking': Delaware police officer declared clinically dead after responding to fight call, authorities say

WILMINGTON, Del. — Authorities confirmed Wednesday that Delmar police officer Cpl. Keith Heacook, 54, has diedfollowing a brutal assault Sunday morning at the Yorkshire Estates community.

The attack left Heacook, who his sister said wanted to "help people" as an officer, with a significant head injury.

At 12:48 p.m. Wednesday, hospital officials in Baltimore pronounced him clinically deceased, though he is still on life support, Delmar Police Chief Ivan Barkley said in an evening news conference. Heacook's organs will be donated.

"I need you to know that even with his sacrifice, he’s still a hero for someone," Barkley said.

Funeral arrangements for Heacook will be made in the coming days.

The 22-year veteran of the department was found unconscious by a Delaware trooper and Wicomico County Sheriff's Office deputy after he responded to a fight-in-progress call at about 5:12 a.m. Sunday.

Court documents state Heacook was attacked by Randon D. Wilkerson, 30. According to a witness, Wilkerson slammed his foot repeatedly on the officer's head while he lay unconscious, police said.

Corp. Keith Heacook, Delmar Police Department
Corp. Keith Heacook, Delmar Police Department

On Sunday, Heacook was transported to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, part of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. He was on a ventilator and a shunt was inserted in his skull to relieve pressure, Kathy Heacook told Delmarva Now, part of the USA TODAY Network, on Monday.

Wilkerson, who is accused of also assaulting an elderly couple, was charged late Sunday with attempted murder in the first degree, and two counts of first-degree assault, among other charges.

His charges will be upgraded to include murder, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings confirmed during Wednesday's news conference.

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"He will be held accountable for his heinous crimes against Cpl. Heacook, against the elderly couple he viciously attacked, and against Delmar and our entire state," Jennings said.

She described Heacook as "a family man, a public servant and a protector of his community up through his final days."

"We are here to mourn the loss of a man who devoted his entire career to the selfless cause of serving the rest of us," Jennings said. "And we are here to acknowledge law enforcement across this state who willingly face danger each and every day so that all of the rest of us don’t have to.

"Tonight we wrap our arms around a community and a family and hold them in support and prayer," Jennings said.

Keith Heacook, back right, with his siblings and mother. Clockwise from right: the late Beth Heacook, Anita Heacook, Kathy Heacook, Tom Heacook and Anita Feaster.
Keith Heacook, back right, with his siblings and mother. Clockwise from right: the late Beth Heacook, Anita Heacook, Kathy Heacook, Tom Heacook and Anita Feaster.

Heacook was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement when he was in a car wreck nearly 30 years ago. Police pulled him out of a ditch and flew him to Christiana Hospital, where doctors gave him a 50-50 chance of surviving at the time. He had also been placed on a ventilator following that incident.

"He wanted to become a police officer because he wanted to do the same, to help people," Kathy Heacook said.

The officer leaves behind a wife and an 11-year-old son from another relationship. Heacook is the youngest of seven siblings. A sister and brother preceded him in death.

Delaware Gov. John Carney tweeted a short statement Wednesday: "This is heartbreaking. The Delmar community and the entire State of Delaware lost a public servant today. Tracey and I are praying for Cpl. Heacook, his family, and all of his fellow law enforcement officers."

The elderly couple — Steve and Judy Franklin, 73 and 76, respectively — were taken to local hospitals, according to police. Judy was a patient at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional in Salisbury, but has been discharged, and Steve was a patient at TidalHealth Nanticoke, but was transferred, a spokesperson for the hospital system confirmed to Delmarva Now on Tuesday.

The Franklins were resting at home after their release from the hospital, Delaware State Police spokesperson Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said during Wednesday's news conference.

"Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well as we continue to mourn Cpl. Heacook," Fournier said.

On Sunday evening, a prayer vigil was held at the Delmar Police Department. A bank account named "The Community" was opened at Bank of Delmarva to help support Heacook and his family.

This article originally appeared on Salisbury Daily Times: Delaware police officer dead after responding to call, authorities say