Thousands of people — residents of the city and police officers from around the region — turned out Saturday for an emotional final goodbye to slain police officer Robert F. Wilson III, killed in a March 5 gunbattle with two armed robbers at a Lehigh Avenue GameStop.
“I felt safe around him,” said his partner, Damien Stevenson, “and he felt safe around me.”
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The gunbattle, caught on video, has led many in the department to call Wilson a hero.
“I've been in policing for 46 years,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “I have never witnessed an act of bravery like what I saw that day.”
Wilson was posthumously promoted to Sergeant, Ramsey announced and the city’s Medal of Valor, which is given to police officers for acts of bravery, will be renamed The Robert F. Wilson Medal in the late officer’s honor.
Wilson was remembered by family and friends for his infectious smile, and how he loved to pull pranks on his family and dance during family functions.
“There is a song called Apache.” said cousin Patrice Ward. “He would push his body to every beat in that song.
Wilson leaves behind two sons, a one-year-old and another who turned 10 a few days after his father was killed.
“I had to tell his nine-year-old son that his father was a hero, that he fought valiantly, that he stood for something, but that he just didn't make it. ” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “Nine-years-old, just turned 10.”
Wilson was in full uniform, doing a security check and buying a video game for his ten-year-old son, who had recently done well in school when brothers Carlton Hipps 30, and Ramone Williams, 26, walked in and announced a robbery.
The pair may not have realized a police officer was in the store when they entered. Investigators say Wilson moved away from other patrons to draw fire away from them.
Stevenson, who was outside the store when the gunfire began, shot Hipps in the leg as he tried to flee. Williams ran back into the store and pretended to be a customer until patrons pointed him out. Both are in custody, charged with murder.