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A cousin of a Delaware police officer who was fatally beaten by an unarmed suspect last month used his funeral Monday to rail against the media and politicians for underplaying the risks law enforcement face on the job.
Speaking during the funeral at the Emmanuel Wesleyan Church in Salisbury, Maryland, Delmar Police Cpl. Keith Heacook’s cousin, Larry Schwartz, who identified himself as a retired law enforcement officer, challenged that media coverage would have played out differently if the roles were reversed and Heacook had killed the suspect and himself survived. Schwartz argued that lawmakers and the media advocate to “defund the police” and for the removal of qualified immunity, saying “criminals don’t always comply and unarmed criminals can kill you.”
“What if the scenario were different and Cpl. Heacook had to take the actor’s life? What would have happened to his life? It would have been hell. The media would have been here in full force,” he said. “Major newscasts ‘unarmed this, unarmed that’ every night without fail makes a great news bite for ratings. Keith would have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation was conducted.”
“That investigation would have taken weeks, if not months, to complete,” Schwartz continued. “During that time, Keith’s life would have been put under a microscope, as it’s easy for folks who have no idea about police work. His family would be shunned. Even when Keith was cleared, that does not generate enough news … Off the media goes to the next story. The damage you left behind with no consequences. Just fallout for the family. But at least we’d have Keith.”
Heacook, a 22-year veteran of the force and just weeks from retirement, suffered traumatic head injuries when allegedly attacked by 30-year-old Randon D. Wilkerson inside a home in Delmar, Delaware, on April 25 while responding alone to 911 calls about a fight in progress. He was transported to a trauma center in Baltimore but was taken off life support four days later after his organs were donated.
SLAIN DELAWARE POLICE OFFICER HONORED BY FELLOW LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS AT FUNERAL
Describing what happened when Heacook responded to the call that resulted in his death, Schwartz said, “In that home, he met an attacker, an unarmed man. Keith fought hard for his life. He had so much to live for. Was he thinking of his wife Susan? His son Matthew? His mother Anita?”
“Giving everything he had to make sure he could get back to his family, but that didn’t happen because in the real world, criminals don’t always comply and unarmed criminals can kill you,” Schwartz affirmed. “This caused a nightmare these first responders will have for the rest of their lives, but here we are today paying tribute for our hero.”
Schwartz referenced Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings – who promised to prosecute Wilkerson in Heacook’s death – before turning his focus to local, state and federal leaders to enact change for law enforcement with Heacook’s name in mind.
“To the federal and state politicians – what are you saying to the men of law enforcement when you shout, ‘Defund the police’ and ‘Strip them of qualified immunity,’ yet you keep qualified immunity for yourselves,” Schwartz said. “Stop listening to the loudest voices. Listen to the voices that law enforcement protect. … FYI, you know who hates bad officers the most? The good cops out there doing the job every day of the week.”
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Directly addressing Delmar Police Chief Ivan Barkley by name, Schwartz said, “You’re the leader, this is the time for your voice to be heard. I heard your newscast when you said you needed more manpower. Chief, stand up and fight for your officers. Don’t be silenced, they deserve it.”
“Are you going to make changes so this doesn’t happen again, or are you going to let it roll the dice? Because I can assure, this can happen again,” he asked Delmar leaders. “Let his name be a beginning, not an end. Good change can come from this. Let it happen.”
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