Wilmington man killed protecting woman from knife attack

Wilmington Police say a man stabbed to death in Rodney Square was trying to protect a woman and her child from a man with a knife.

He was trying to help. That’s how Wilmington Police say 27-year-old Thomas Cottingham got involved in a struggle with the man who killed him.

Police say Calvin Hooker confronted a 21-year-old woman in the area of 10th and Walnut St. around 9:30 Monday night. The woman, who was pushing infant daughter in a stroller, ignored Hooker’s questions about a stolen cell phone and kept walking. Police say Hooker continued following her and eventually pulled a large knife when she got to the area of the 1000 block of King St. 

With knife in hand, Hooker allegedly started chasing the woman around the bus stop located at Rodney Square. As the woman tried to get away from Hooker and board a bus that was stopped in the block, Cottingham intervened.

That’s when Hooker turned his attention from the woman to Cottingham who was stabbed in the back. Cottingham ran about 30 feet away and collapsed. Police say Hooker followed him and continued to stab him before fleeing.

With the help of witnesses, police were able to track down Hooker who had retreated into another DART bus waiting at a bus stop at 9th and N. Market St. As police entered the bus, Hooker fled. He was eventually captured after being cornered and tasered in the 800 block of King St. 

Hooker is facing charges including murder and aggravated menacing.

Police say the attack was completely random with no relationship between anyone involved. A Wilmington PD statement said Cottingham, “…unselfishly placed himself in harms way, protecting a young woman and her child from imminent danger.”

Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams issued a statement Tuesday afternoon expressing condolences to the family of Cottingham. “I…pray they find solace and strength in knowing he was a hero, as he bravely risked his life to protect a fellow citizen.”

Williams went on to say, “I, like the entire City, am outraged by this senseless act of violence. Through the increased presence of uniformed police officers with the department’s downtown deployment and Downtown Visions security, the City works diligently to ensure the safety of Wilmington’s downtown community. However, we must work even harder to make certain that tragedies, such as this, never happen again.”

In 2010, Cottingham who had gone by the street name “Cannibal” was accused in a hatchet attack. That incident happened in the parking lot of Claymont Elementary School during a sale of some jewelry. Cottingham faced first-degree assault, second-degree conspiracy and criminal mischief charges as a result. 

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