Slain Phila. Officer Robert Wilson III promoted during final farewell

UNIVERSITY CITY (WPVI) -- During a final farewell, slain Philadelphia police officer Robert Wilson III was posthumously promoted to sergeant, and the department's Medal of Valor was renamed in his honor.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey made the announcement during his remarks at Wilson's funeral Saturday morning in University City.

Wilson was also posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor along with the Medal on Honor.

The funeral was the culmination of a two-day farewell as the city honored a fallen hero.

The day began with Sgt. Wilson's casket being taken in a horse drawn carriage, accompanied by a long procession of officers, from 30th and JFK Boulevard to the Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania.

The procession stepped off at 6:00 a.m. and was led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the men and women from the 22nd Police District.

When the procession arrived at the Palestra, Wilson's flag-draped casket was taken into the arena.

PHOTOS of the viewings, procession and funeral

A second viewing got underway at 7:00 a.m., with hundreds of officers from across the region filing quietly past the open casket.

And then came the funeral service, which began shortly after 10:30 a.m., after the bleachers and floor seats at the 8,000-seat Palestra filled nearly to capacity with family, friends, police officers and elected officials.

Commissioner Ramsey and Mayor Michael Nutter recounted Wilson's final moments in the emergency room.

"I saw his heart beating, he fought valiantly, just as he fought in that store when two cowards came upon him," said Mayor Nutter.

"I've been in policing for 46 years and I have never witnessed an act of bravery like I saw that day - never," said Commissioner Ramsey.

The emotional service included several of Sgt. Wilson's fellow officers and his partner Damien Stevenson, who at first was too overwhelmed to talk.

"You could see from those pictures that all we did was had fun, there was no car like #2222," said Ofc. Stevenson.

Wilson was a hometown hero and nearly 9-year veteran of the force.

But the 22nd district officer was also a father of two boys - ages 10 and 1.

He will be remembered for his softer side. The song 'Smile' played as mourners filed in.

"That smile - everyone knows that smile. I could go on and on about the stories we had because of that smile," said Ofc. Stevenson.

Loved ones, strangers and police officers from across the country showed their support too.

"To see everyone come out and honor him, all the cops, all the community, I want to thank everyone for paying their respects to my nephew," said Tracey Kingcade, aunt.

The procession, second viewing and funeral service came the morning after an emotional show of strength and support by police officers in Southwest Philadelphia.

Officers from across the region and the country gathered together at Francis Funeral Home Friday afternoon.

Outside the funeral home sat Wilson's police cruiser with his name emblazoned on the side.

In a moving tribute, the legions of officers saluted Wilson's family.

"It just takes time to heal. There are no words that can instantly take away the pain they feel right now. But we certainly can do what we can to pay the proper honor to him and let his family know just what he meant to us," said Commissioner Ramsey.

Eagles football coach Chip Kelly paid his respects and delivered two footballs to Wilson's two sons.

Across the street, people gathered to sign a large mural put together by local artist Mark Gaines.

"I'd just like to say to the family, especially his son, that his father is still alive because he is living within him," said Gaines.

30-year-old Wilson was buying a gift for his son at a North Philadelphia GameStop last week when he was gunned down as he tried to stop a robbery.

Police say his bravery and courage saved the lives of others inside the store.

It's an act that has left a mark on the hearts of many Philadelphians.

"I just couldn't stop thinking of him and so today I came straight from work just to touch his hand, just to say, 'Thank You,' said Francis Gaynor.

"He's a hero man, that's all I can really say. I wouldn't have been man enough to go out like that to be honest with you, I wouldn't have been man enough to do it so I'm proud of him," said Anthony Butcher.

The Philadelphia Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 have established a GoFundMe page for contributions to Officer Wilson's family.

Click here to donate

Wilson's fellow brother and sisters in blue have also established a trust fund for his family.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so in person at the following
PFFCU branches:

901 Arch Street
7604 City Avenue
8500 Henry Avenue
Leo Mall, Byberry and Bustleton Avenue
7500 Castor Avenue
3300 Grant Avenue

Or by mailing a check payable to:
The Robert Wilson III Family Memorial Trust Fund
Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
901 Arch Street
Philadelphia PA, 19107
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