Warford 2020

"Unarmed” is not synonymous with “benign,” “harmless” or “angelic.”

Unarmed simply means one is not in possession of a weapon. Unarmed persons can still be dangerous. Lethally so.

In Delaware the other day, a police officer named Keith Heacook, 54, responded to a call of a fight in a home.

Then his radio calls stopped, and dispatchers sent more officers rushing to the scene.

From the Salisbury (Del.) Times:

“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.”

The officer was declared clinically dead, and his organs went to save the lives of others.

Delmar Police Chief Ivan Barkley said, “I need you to know that even with his sacrifice, he’s still a hero for someone.”

Heacook’s sister noted that he went into law enforcement because he wanted “to help people.”

This story did not go national. I heard about it from a friend who is a retired police officer, and I went online to find the local newspaper story.

You won’t be hearing about this on the news for the next year, and the trial of Randon Wilkerson will not be carried live by all the TV stations.

If things had gone the other way — if Heacook had shot Wilkerson before Wilkerson was able to attack him — then I suspect you would have heard about it:

“Cop kills unarmed man.”

But the unarmed man, who was beating up two elderly people, killed the cop instead, so nothing to see here.

Anyone is free to criticize law enforcement — thank God we still have the First Amendment. But the people who paint all cops with a broad brush of racism and bullying are not in touch with reality.

This national demonization of cops is dangerous, obviously to the cop themselves who are just trying to do their jobs and go home to their families at the end of the shift, but also to citizens.

If someone has bought the hype that cops are evil monsters who long to kill Black people, they are likely to engage in just the sort of behavior — reaching for a weapon, resisting arrest — that endangers their lives.

Yes, anyone is free to criticize cops, but they really ought to do a ride-along with an officer and see the sort of challenges they face every day.

Listen to the local scanner or read the AV Scanner Community site on Facebook. Hardly a day goes by that deputies aren’t faced with uncooperative suspects — situations that could go very badly for either the deputy or the suspect.

And that is just here in our valley. Multiply that by all the cities and towns in the country and it’s clear that thousands of times a day there are dicey situations, and the vast, vast majority end with nobody dead.

When they go wrong, you hear about them on the national news.

Well, only some of them.

But now you know about Officer Keith Heacook, killed by an unarmed man.

William P. Warford’s column appears every Friday and Sunday.

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