By Dan Majka
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thousands turned out in West Philadelphia Saturday morning to say goodbye to a fallen hero.
Police departments from across the country filed into the Palestra in University City to pay their respects to Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III, who was shot and killed in the line of duty during an attempted robbery at a video game store in North Philadelphia on March 5.
The funeral service included emotional speeches from some of Wilson’s fellow officers, including his partner Damien Stevenson. Mayor Michael Nutter and Commissioner Charles Ramsey also addressed the crowd.
During his speech, Ramsey spoke directly to Stevenson and the rest of the 22nd Police District where Wilson worked. He also addressed the officer’s two young children, telling them their father is a true role model.
“His yesterday will go down in the annals of this department’s history as one of the bravest days we’ve seen anybody live in this department,” Ramsey said. “March the 5th 2015. I will never ever forget that.”
It was on that day that Wilson had stopped at GameStop to buy a gift for his oldest son, who was excelling in school and whose 10th birthday was in a few days, when two men, Ramone Williams, 24, and Carlton Hipps, 29, walked in and announced a robbery. Gunfire was exchanged between the officer and the armed robbers, and Wilson was fatally wounded.
Commissioner Ramsey told the crowd that having the opportunity to see officer Wilson’s final moments inside the store was both a blessing and a curse.
“He never stopped until that fatal round was fired,” Ramsey said, standing on a stage above Wilson’s open casket. “I’ve been in policing for 46 years, and I have never witnessed an act of bravery like I saw that day. Never.”
The police commissioner brought the crowd to its feet in applause on several occasions. First, when he announced that the Medal of Valor would be renamed in Officer Wilson’s honor.
“Effective immediately,” Ramsey said, “the Medal of Valor for the Philadelphia Police Department will from this day forward be known as the Robert F. Wilson Medal of Valor.”
The crowd rose again when Ramsey announced he had posthumously promoted Officer Wilson to the rank of sergeant.
Wilson, an eight-year department veteran, is the city’s tenth police officer killed in the line of duty in the last nine years.
Mayor Nutter told the thousands of mourners, many police officers dressed in blue, that the city has lost a friend, a brother and an American hero.
“You now see that you have a much larger family here with you today who will never leave you, who will never forget you,” said the mayor. “We’ll always be with you. He is a hero.”
Saturday’s services concluded with a burial at Fernwood Cemetery.
Williams and Hipps have been charged with first-degree murder. Ramsey told those in attendance that both men would spend the rest of their lives in prison “like they deserve.”