Slain police officer Robert Wilson III was getting a gift to reward his young son when he was gunned down trying to protect people inside a North Philadelphia video game store, authorities said Friday.
"He was making a security check and he was also picking up a gift for his 8-year-old son who had done exceptionally well at school," said Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Darrell Clark.
Wilson, an 8-year veteran from the 22nd District, died from his injuries after he was shot several times at close range late Thursday afternoon during an attempted robbery inside the GameStop store at Hope Plaza Shopping Center at 2101 W. Lehigh Avenue. The 30-year-old father left behind two young children, ages 8 and 1, as well as a grandmother. The older boy turns 9 on Monday.
The officer was standing in full uniform by the store's counter when two men — identified by police as brothers Carlton Hipps, 30, and 26-year-old Ramone Williams — entered the store around 4:30 p.m.
Wilson and the brothers "engaged in a fierce and violent gunbattle" that resulted in the officer being shot multiple times, Clark said. He was killed by one shot to the head.
"The officer was a hero and a warrior — he fought until the very, very end — firing at both of them," Clark said.
Police charged both suspects with first-degree murder in Wilson's' death and attempted murder for attacking his partner, Officer Damien Stephenson.
Stephenson exchanged gunfire with Hipps as the suspects left the store, striking Hipps once in the leg. In total, more than 50 shots were fired in about 30 seconds.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who watched video of the deadly exchange, said the officer "redefined what being a hero is all about."
"He stepped away from the counter, there were civilians there ... he stepped away so that the shots weren't going directly at them," said Ramsey. "He was actually being hit during the exchange of gunfire but he continued to fight, continued to shoot."
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams also hailed both Wilson and Stephenson, as heroes, saying Wilson "was trying to protect all the citizens that were inside of that GameStop."
After the shooting, Ramone Williams re-entered the store and attempted to change — telling customers and employees to not identify him — in hopes to blend in with the crowd, according to investigators.
Witnesses pointed him out to police which led to his arrest. He later confessed to the robbery and shooting saying he and his brother chose the store thinking it would be an easy target, said Clark.
Both suspects are no strangers to law enforcement. Hipps, who has six previous arrests, and is on parole after being released from prison in 2009, while Williams has two previous arrests.
Police recovered the suspects' weapons at the scene of the shooting, a .40-caliber and a 9mm. One of the weapons had an extended clip, allowing the suspect to fire more rounds than usual, officials said. Investigators said they were illegally sold on the street.
Police also recovered an AK-47 rifle from the Brewerytown home the brothers shared.
"Those two cowards that took his life were pure evil," said the district attorney.
Ramone Williams was arraigned Friday afternoon and is being held without bail. His brother, Hipps, has yet to be arraigned since he's still hospitalized.
Wilson along with his partner were part of the group of 22nd District Officers who volunteered to participate in the trial run of the Philadelphia Police body camera program. During a December interview, Wilson told NBC10 he wanted to work to rebuild trust between police and the community.
"It's less negative reaction from the community," Wilson said. "They're recording us and we're recording them also."
Police said Wilson wasn't wearing a body camera when he was gunned down.
Investigators remained at the store Friday trying to melt snow outside in hopes of uncovering more evidence.
Wilson's partner and fellow 22nd District officers were given leave so they could grieve, said Ramsey.
Funeral plans are pending. A memorial mass is being held 10 a.m. Sunday at Saint Martin de Porres Church along Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia.
A trust fund has been set up for Wilson's children through the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union. Donations can be made in person at the following locations:
- 901 Arch Street
- 7604 City Avenue
- 8500 Henry Avenue
- Leo Mall, Byberry and Bustleton Avenue
- 7500 Castor Avenue
- 3300 Grant Avenue
Checks can be mailed and made payable to:
The Robert Wilson III Family Memorial Trust Fund
Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
901 Arch Street
Philadelphia PA, 19107