After man shot and killed by Wilmington Police, friends struggle to understand

Those who knew the man shot and killed by Wilmington Police Friday night describe him as a devoted father with an upbeat spirit who never hesitated to help a friend.

Ricardo Hylton worked two jobs where he boasted to co-workers and friends about the recent birth of his son, now 5 months old.

For the past six days, his loved ones in Wilmington have struggled to understand the final moments of his life. 

Ricardo Hylton worked as a forklift operator at the Port of Wilmington

“Nobody could have ever foreseen this happening,” said Shardae White, a friend. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Hylton grew up in Jamaica, and friends said he arrived in the U.S. in his late teens. His nickname, Floater, was also the name of his home remodeling business.

Hylton had lived in New Castle and recently moved to an apartment on the 2700 block of Washington Street where the shooting occurred.

Aisha Jones, Hylton’s fiancee, described him as a hard-working man who adored their infant son more than anything else. She said she didn’t know how it could have happened.

“He would have never done anything crazy to jeopardize losing his son,” Jones said Saturday.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Man's fiancee says 'he would have never pointed a gun at police'

For the past eight years, Hylton worked as a forklift operator at the Port of Wilmington, where a tight-knit group of longshoremen said they were stunned to learn of the circumstances of his death.

“He’s not that person,” said Andrew Higgin, a forklift operator. “He wasn’t a violent person.”

Gene Pennewell, another forklift operator, said just months ago, Hylton had been “excited, telling everybody he was about to have a son.”

Hylton’s supervisor, Michael Phillips, called the man his “go-to guy,” a diligent worker who motivated others.

“We’re still trying to find out what happened,” Phillips said.

Ricardo Hylton

'Actively firing'

Two police officers responded to a call of shots fired at 28th and Washington streets around 7:30 p.m. Friday. When they arrived Hylton was “actively firing,” police said.

The officers “engaged with the suspect” and both shot at Hylton, police said.

Stanley E. Shabazz, a Wilmington resident, heard gunshots Friday night while working on a rowhome up the block between 28th and 29th streets. 

He peered outside the home and heard someone yell, “He’s walking down the street with a gun,” then spotted a tall man crouched in the middle of the street reaching toward the ground. 

“He was bent down,” Shabazz said. “When he came up that’s when it all happened.”

Police opened fire from near People’s Pharmacy on West 27th Street, Shabazz said, hitting Hylton at least a half dozen times. Officers performed CPR on Hylton in the street near Rainbow Cleaners at the corner of 28th and Washington streets. He died at the hospital.

Shabazz, who did not know Hylton, said he didn’t see the man firing a gun. 

Evidence markers Friday night were clustered in two separate areas on opposite ends of the block. Many cars parked along Washington Street on Saturday morning had bullet holes.

NEXT STEPS: What happens after someone is killed by the police?

Wilmington Police spokesman David Karas said Tuesday both officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, consistent with department policy. 

Wilmington Police have declined multiple times to release further details, including what happened between the officers’ arrival and the shooting, and in what direction Hylton was allegedly firing.

A friend of Hylton's, Venus Cherry of New Castle, said he couldn't imagine someone like Hylton being uncooperative with police.

Jones said her fiancee owned a gun and was licensed to carry, but she said she never saw him being "reckless or irresponsible" with his gun. 

"He would have never pointed a gun at police or went up against police," she said Saturday. "That's a straight suicide mission."

Hylton's friends and co-workers echoed the sentiment.

“Was he irresponsible with the gun? No,” White said. “Was he out flashing his gun? No ... Some people respond to life in anger, in confusion, in disbelief. He didn't respond to life like this.”

White said among their friends, Hylton was the one to turn to for help moving or jumping a car. 

When Cherry needed his three-bedroom house repainted, Hylton came over every day after work and did the job with him for free.

He was active in northern Delaware's Jamaican and Caribbean immigrant communities, Cherry said, and liked to play dominoes at Top Choice, a Jamaican restaurant.

"He was a law-abiding, community person," Cherry said. 

Dozens gathered on Washington Street on Saturday night for a candlelight vigil.

“People who know him, they knew this wasn’t him,” White said. “This wasn’t supposed to be his story.”

Contact Jeanne Kuang at jkuang@delawareonline.com or (302) 324-2476. Follow her on Twitter at @JeanneKuang. Contact Brandon Holveck at bholveck@delawareonline.com or at (302) 324-2267. Follow on Twitter @holveck_brandon

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