Philadelphia Police lined JFK Boulevard before sunrise Saturday, preparing for the caisson procession that brought the casket carrying fallen Officer Robert Wilson III to the Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania.
Only the drumming of the Philadelphia Police Honor Guard and the somber footsteps of hundreds of officers could be heard as the horse drawn carriage weaved through the wet West Philly streets.
The grieving began long before the public viewing began at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Palestra on South 33rd Street in University City.
"It affects everyone around the United States, especially our brothers here, our brothers and sisters in the police department," said Kevin Sexworth, a member of the Philadelphia Police Honor Guard.
Thirty-year-old Wilson, a father of two, was shot during a robbery at a GameStop at Hope Plaza Shopping Center on Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia last Thursday. He died from his injuries at Temple University Hospital a few hours later.
Family photos of the 8-year police veteran flashed on a video screen as mourners gathered inside the historic Ivy League gym.
Saying Goodbye to Fallen Officer Robert Wilson III
The 22nd District officer's badge name and number was displayed on the Palestra's scoreboard.
Officers from across the region lined the sidewalk outside the UPenn facility, waiting for the 10 a.m. funeral services to begin.
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Rain fell as officers stood alongside their patrol vehicles, lights flashing, on 33rd Street between Spruce and Market streets blocking traffic.
The procession began on JFK Boulevard near 30th Street Station, continued west on Market Street to 34th Street, and then headed south to Spruce Street before turning east to 33rd Street.
Police said drivers should expect congestion surrounding the Palestra, which is located at the corner of 33rd and Spruce/South streets, until at least 1 p.m.
Burial at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania will immediately follow the funeral. The funeral procession will start its route to the cemetery around noon -- requiring the following road closures:
- Walnut Street – Schuylkill Avenue to the 63rd Street
- 63rd Street/Cobbs Creek Parkway – Walnut Street to 61st Street
- 61st Street – Cobbs Creek to Baltimore Avenue
- Baltimore Avenue – 61st Street to Church Lane
Wilson was in full uniform when brothers Carlton Hipps, 30, and Ramone Williams, 26, entered the GameStop store and announced the robbery, subsequently sparking a "fierce and violent" gun battle that ended with the officer being shot in the head and killed, said Homicide Capt. Darrell Clark.
Wilson is being hailed a hero and is credited with saving the lives of customers and store employees, according to Ramsey. 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.