Thousands of mourners from around the region spilled into the University’s of Pennsylvania’s Palestra on Saturday to pay tribute to fallen Philadelphia police officer Robert Wilson.
With police cars lining the streets for blocks and rain gently falling, Marilyn Regis walked to the service with an umbrella and remembered Robbie, as she knew him, as a principled and dedicated friend.
She’s been a family friend of Wilson’s for more than two decades, she said. And there’s one attribute that, very early on, made an indelible impression on her.
“His smile,” she said, resting on the thought for a moment. “Nothing else but his smile. And his smile and face,” she said.
“So the shots they have of him as an officer — he looks all stern and mean, and like Captain America a little bit, but, you know, we know the good guy, we know the guy who was always smiling. And that’s all I want to think about today.”
That glowing charm was something Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey referenced before making an announcement to the quiet and rapt audience: The city’s Medal of Valor will now be renamed for Wilson. The news received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Ramsey declared that Wilson’s bravery in standing up and defending himself and others against two gunmen dwarfs any he’s witnessed in more than four decades in the police business. “He never stopped until that fatal round was fired,” Ramsey said.
After the viewing, Mayor Michael Nutter recalled being in the ER with Wilson. Nutter said Wilson fought valiantly, but he had to tell the officer’s 10-year-old son that he “just didn’t make it.”
He “redefined what being a good officer is all about,” Nutter said of Wilson. “He redefined what being a good citizen is in Philadelphia.”
Wilson is the city’s 10th police officer killed in last nine years.
Among the mourners was Corporal Edward Breslin, who said it’s no surprise that officers came from New York, Connecticut, D.C., Boston and elsewhere to pay tribute to Wilson.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or anything like that,” Breslin said. “It’s all one big family, and we all face the same dangers.”