A married Wilmington Police officer, and father of two young children, is now undergoing surgery after being shot while pursuing a suspect in the Southbridge section of the city Sunday.
The shooting happened around 3:50 p.m. on Sunday when two Wilmington officers tried to pull over a white Chevy Equinox for an equipment violation, according to police. The driver of the Chevy allegedly refused to stop and the officers pursued the vehicle.
Police say the SUV finally stopped on the 1200 block of Peach Street. It was then that at least one of three suspects opened fire, striking 34-year-old officer Justin Wilkers in the left jaw as he exited his police vehicle, according to investigators.
The three-year veteran of the Wilmington Police Department was rushed to Wilmington Hospital before being transferred to Christiana Hospital. He is in serious, but stable condition. On Tuesday he underwent surgery to remove the bullet that is still lodged in his face.
All three suspects fled on foot following the shooting while officers ran after them. Jared Wiggins, 20, and Ronald Boyce, 21, were caught and arrested a short time later. The third suspect, identified as Fredrick Gray, 21, of Wilmington, was found walking near W. 6th and N. Jefferson Streets Monday night. He was arrested and taken into custody without incident.
Police say Gray is on probation for a 2007 assault and for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony conviction. Gray is now charged with attempted murder, resisting arrest and other related offenses. He was arraigned Tuesday morning and committed to Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in lieu of $300,000 cash bail for the most recent charges against him and an additional $100,000 cash bail for an outstanding violation of a probation warrant.
Wiggins is charged with failing to obey a police signal, resisting arrest and providing a false statement. Boyce is charged with resisting arrest.
Police have not determined which of the three was the shooter. They do believe that Wiggins was the driver however.
"This assault on our police officer Justin Wilkers is an affront, an insult and a total sign of disrespect for authority," Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning said during today's news conference.
Wilkers is married with two young children. NBC10 also spoke with the officer's mother and stepfather in an exclusive interview.
"You worry every day about them but you never think it's going to be you," said Shirley Shea, Wilkers' mother.
Shea's other son Joshua, who is also a police officer, called her Sunday to break the news of Justin's shooting.
"As a mother, getting that call yesterday was horrendous," said Shea. "As for the men who did this, it's a good thing I'm not looking for them. God wouldn't want me to be angry with anybody so I'll just pray for them. I have a lot to be proud of. Because the mothers of those guys who shot my son have nothing to be proud of. My boys go out everyday to protect people like you and I."
"There's a lot of good out there but there's also a lot of bad," said Rick Shea, Wilkers' stepfather. "These two guys are pretty bad."
"Our collective hearts ache for our wounded brother," a fellow officer said.
"Thank God this officer is here and wasn't hurt more seriously or killed," another officer, John O'Connor, told NBC10.
Anyone with information on the shooting is urged to contact Wilmington Police.