Philadelphia united in grief over the death of Police Officer Robert Wilson III on Thursday, killed on duty while trying to stop a robbery.
As details of the officer’s death ripple through the community — allegedly at the hands of two brothers attempting to rob a GameStop video game store at 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue — some are offering support, while others attempted to make sense of the killing.
“People should be outraged, they should be upset that they're killing people who are supposed to be serving and protecting,” said Roz Pichardo, head of “Operation Save Our City,” which staged an anti-violence protest Sunday near the site of the shooting.
“What’s gonna happen if all police offices are a target? Who is gonna protect us?” Pichardo asked.
Wilson, 30, leaves behind two sons — one-year-old Robert IV, and Quahmier, who turns 10 on March 9.
Police said Wilson was in the GameStop for a routine security check, but lingered to buy a gift for Quahmier — to celebrate both his son’s birthday and for getting good grades in school.
The last Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty was Officer Moses Walker who died in 2012. Like Wilson, Walker also served in the 22nd police district, which covers Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, much of Temple’s campus, and Swampoodle.
The district has lost three officers in less than a decade. in 2008 Sgt. Patrick McDonald was killed in the line of duty.
“It’s a lot,” said 22nd District Capt. Robert Glenn. “The 22nd district is a district that has its challenges.”
Wilson volunteered for many assignments, said Glenn. "He was one of the first officers to step up. If we noticed a crime pattern, he was one to say, 'Let me and my partner handle that.'"
Commissioner Charles Ramsey said at a press conference Friday that Wilson responded to the robbers by approaching them to avoid the risk of innocent bystanders in the shop being hurt.
“There were civilians there. I counted four behind the counter, a couple in line. He [Wilson] stepped away, so that the shots weren’t going directly at them. They were going toward him,” Ramsey said.
“When you look at the actions of the officer, I think he redefines what a hero is all about.”
Even as Wilson is recognized as a hero for his actions, Pichardo said she was hearing “a lot” of people react with indifference to the death of an police officer.
“I’m hearing it a lot,” she said. “Sometimes you have the community who don't like the police because they talk about the police brutality — but my message is that not all cops are bad, just like not all people are bad.”
One police officer took to Facebook to mourn Wilson, in a post that has received 51,000 likes as of Monday.
“In the next few days … we will get to know a hero, a man who went out in the cold, and the snow, and the misery of a city that doesn't respect him, a man who didn't get to come home, all for doing his job,” Officer Joseph Mason wrote in a post that had 51,000 likes as of Sunday. “And 7000 of us lost a brother. 22nd and Lehigh has now become hallowed ground.”
Plans for Wilson’s funeral service are pending.
Brothers Carlton Hipps, 29 and Ramone Williams, 24, are charged with Wilson’s murder, along with the attempted murder of Wilson’s partner Damien Stevenson, for the shootout inside and outside the GameStop on March 6.
Hipps and Williams, police say, did not realize a police officer was in the GameStop when they entered and announced the robbery. When he told them to stand down, a firefight began. Wilson was shot in the head.
Williams and Hipps fled the store and fired at Stevenenson outside. Stevenson shot Hipps in the leg. Williams fled back into the GameStop but was later arrested.
More than 50 bullets were fired in the two gunfights, which elapsed over a total of 30 to 40 seconds, police said.
Philadelphia in mourning
Saint Martin De Porres Parish, just blocks from where Wilson was killed, held services Sunday morning of remembrance for Wilson, that the parish called “an expression of gratitude for law enforcement officers and an opportunity to pray for an end to violence in our city.”
Trust funds for Wilson’s children have been set up through the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union. Donations can be mailed to: The Robert Wilson III Family Memorial Trust Fund, Police and Fire Federal Credit Union, 901 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA, 19107
Actor Dan Aykroyd (of “Ghostbusters”), who was visiting Philadelphia when Wilson died, vowed to make a donation to the fund.
The Philadelphia 76ers wore PPD shirts emblazoned with “Officer Wilson” during warmups before a Saturday night game to show their support.