Philadelphia Police and legal officials gathered at the corner of 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue yesterday to honor a fallen hero.
Sgt. Robert Wilson III, a former officer in the 22nd District, was fatally shot March 5 when he entered a GameStop store on Lehigh Avenue near 21st Street during a robbery.
Wilson pulled himself from a throng of customers and had a gunbattle with two brothers away from the customers. The brothers shot Wilson several times and he died at the scene.
Carlton Hipps and Ramone Williams have since been charged with the officer’s murder.
At 22nd district headquarters around 11 a.m. Wednesday, officials including Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, District Attorney Seth Williams and John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, gathered to commemorate a new plaque for Wilson on the 17th Street sidewalk.
In the months following Wilson’s death and after seeing video of the incident., Ramsey added his name to the Robert F. Wilson Award of Valor, the department’s highest honor.
“Seeing what he did, seeing how he responded and the bravery and heroism that he displayed, believe me, it redefined in my mind what heroism is all about,” Ramsey said. “We’d like to think that we’d do the same thing, but you don’t know until you’re put in that situation. That’s his instinct. He didn’t know he was going to be in that situation. He just reacted and responded. That was in his heart and in his mind already.”
The 25-minute ceremony featured short speeches from Ramsey, Williams and McNesby, along with Wilson’s aunt Shakira Wilson and Officer Mike Rivera, who attended police academy with him.
“The silent moments are what hurt the most,” Shakira Wilson said. “When the cameras are off, when the lights stop flashing, that’s when support is needed, not just at times like this.”
Rivera, who fought back tears during a short speech, said Wilson was often called “Robbie” and “Mr. Hugs.”
“A hero is someone gives sacrifice without thought,” he said. “It’s that simple. That’s what Rob was. That’s what he is. And that’s what he always will be.”
The plaque honoring Wilson is in the sidewalk tile next to Moses Walker, another fallen officer from the 22nd district who was shot off-duty in August 2012 when two men tried to rob him. There are about 115 such plaques across the city, Ramsey said.
“We don’t forget the sacrifices that are made on the part of public servants and their families,” Ramsey said. “We have an obligation to continue to take care for them, to show that we have not forgotten and that their death was not in vain. This plaque is going to be a permanent reminder for generations of police officers.”
Joe Brandt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBrandt_TU.
Video shot by Tasha Kuronen and edited by Sean Brown.