Remembering Fallen Officer Robert Wilson III: Funeral for a ‘Warrior'

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced the medal of valor would be renamed in honor of slain Officer Robert Wilson III during his funeral Saturday, as fellow officers, friends and family recalled the hero officer's infectious smile during services at the Palestra.

"Robert redefined what valor means in my mind," Ramsey told hundreds gathered to mourn Wilson Saturday. "I've been policing for 46 years and I have never witnessed an act of bravery like I saw that day. Never."

He encouraged other officers and the city of Philadelphia to take pride in the courage the fallen officer showed during the violent exchange of gunfire at a North Philly GameStop last Thursday.

"It is something that is haunting. And it's painful," continued Ramsey, who also posthumously named Wilson a Sergeant and awarded him the medal of honor. "But at the same time there is pride. Pride that we walked alongside a man that had the kind of courage and determination that Robert Francis Wilson had."

Thirty-year-old Wilson, a father of two, died from his injuries at Temple University Hospital a few hours after the armed robbery occurred.

The caisson procession carrying his casket weaved through West Philly on a dreary Saturday morning.  His funeral services took place at the University of Pennsylvania's Palestra at 33rd and Spruce streets.

Hundreds of officers, wearing their dress blues, stood in the rain outside the historic Ivy League gymnasium, waiting to pay their respects.

The crowd shuffled inside in near silence, pausing as they walked past the white casket before taking their seats in the stands.

The somber stadium was interrupted with brief bursts of laughter as the slain officer's partner, Officer Damien Stevenson, shared memories of the 22nd District officer. 

"If I got an accomplishment or an accommodation...Oh, he heard it. He heard it for days," Stevenson said. "But look who has outdone me now. Sergeant."

"They named a medal after him. Oh, he outdid me again," he continued, bringing smiles to the faces of the mourners.

A large photo of the partners wearing red and white socks ahead of a visit to the Ronald McDonald House was displayed on a video screen above Stevenson throughout his time at the podium.

But the respite from the tragic reality was brief. Stevenson's words turned serious as he addressed Wilson's family.

"You gained a very annoying uncle, brother, grandson. I'm here for you. No matter what," he said firmly.

Earlier in the services, Nutter -- who called Wilson a "warrior" and a "fighter" --  also directed his statements to his relatives, pointing to the extended family they now have.

"You now see you have a much larger family here with you today who will never leave you, who will never forget you, who will always be with you," Nutter said. "He is a hero. He will never be forgotten."

Ramsey, calling to Wilson's eldest son by name, told him to remember his father's love.

"The last thing he was doing was doing something to show his love for you," said Ramsey, urging the 10-year-old boy to help his younger brother, only 1, remember the man their father was.

"Share those memories," he said. "Talk about your father. Talk about the kind of father he was to you. So that he can understand the kind of father that he would have been to him."

Acknowledging the burden of his statement, Ramsey told Wilson's son that he knew he could handle the responsibility "because you're your daddy's son. And the blood that flows in your veins is his blood. You have a strength inside you that you can't even imagine right now."

Before the funeral processional brought Wilson to his final resting place at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, fellow officers remembered happier times with Wilson -- many recalling his wide smile, well-known among the 22nd District.

Officer James Samuel, a close friend of Wilson's, and Ramsey said they hoped this experience would not reoccur. 

Wilson is the eighth Philadelphia Police officer to die from a gunshot since 2006, according to the Fraternal Order of Police. Moses Walker, another 22nd District officer, was the last member of the Philly Police force to lose his life when he was shot and killed on Aug. 18, 2012.

"Every single time I know I always say a prayer and take a moment and just wish that this is it. We never have to do it again," Ramsey said. "But deep down inside I know we will. And I know we will because there is a lot of violence, unfortunately, along the streets of our city."

"Everybody that is under the color of blue," Samuel said. "I want you all to be safe and to go home to your families at night."

Wilson was in full uniform when brothers Carlton Hipps, 30, and Ramone Williams, 26, entered the GameStop store, announced the robbery and then opened fire, according to police.  Williams and Hipps are charged with his murder.

Fellow officers setup a trust fund for Wilson's family. Checks can be mailed and made payable to:

The Robert Wilson III Family Memorial Trust Fund
Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
901 Arch St.
Philadelphia, Pa. 19107

A GoFundMe page was also created so donations can be made online.

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