‘The man who wore badge 9990’: Philly police honors fifth anniversary of death of Sergeant Robert Wilson III

Shaki'ra Wilson Burroughs, backed by her extended family, speaks about the loss of her brother, Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson, during a memorial ceremony on the fifth anniversary of his death. Wilson was shot to death by armed robbers at a video game store. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Shaki'ra Wilson Burroughs, backed by her extended family, speaks about the loss of her brother, Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson, during a memorial ceremony on the fifth anniversary of his death. Wilson was shot to death by armed robbers at a video game store. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“I understand how devastating it is, for all of us, when an officer makes the ultimate sacrifice.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle M. Outlaw delivered those words to a large crowd gathered outside of the 22nd Police District today to honor slain police sergeant Robert Wilson III on the 5th anniversary of his death.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw (left) attends a memorial ceremony for Officer Robert Wilson, who was shot to death during an armed robbery five years ago. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

On March 5, 2015, when two gunmen attempted to rob a GameStop, Sergeant Wilson risked his life to draw gun fire away from shoppers. He was fatally wounded.

On March 5, 2020, members of Sergeant Wilson’s family, as well as local police officers, supervisors, commanders, and community members came together to remember Wilson and pay respects.

Officer Damien Stevenson, Sergeant Wilson’s partner, who was present on that fateful day, says life as he knew it changed within seconds. His partner’s death has taken a toll on him.

“Imagine closing your eyes and hearing fifty gunshots, for three months straight … and lying to everybody saying that you’re alright,” Stevenson recounts.

Philadelphia Police Officer James Samuel speaks tearfully of his friend, Officer Robert Wilson, who was shot to death during an armed robbery five years ago. A memorial was held at the 22nd District police headquarters, where Wilson served. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Officer Stevenson keeps Wilson’s badge on the door of his police vehicle, so he can feel Wilson is still close by.

Shaki’ra Wilson-Burroughs, Sergeant Wilson’s sister, says she has also been thinking about tangible ways to honor her brother. In the spirit of keeping Wilson’s memory alive, she’s starting the Sergeant Robert F. Wilson III Foundation, which will provide educational, charitable and community-based programs and services.

Police officers from the 22nd District prepare to release yellow and green balloons in memory of Officer Robert Wilson, who was shot to death during an armed robbery five years ago. Wilson was a Green Bay Packers fan. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Wilson-Burroughs and Robby — as she calls her brother — were especially close. They both lost their mother at a young age, which she credits for tightening their bond.

“His smile, it was infectious … He was my best friend,” Wilson-Burroughs remembers. “He was my go-to. We were both there for each other.”

Wilson-Burroughs says that her brother was a huge proponent of education. She hopes that the foundation embodies the values that mattered to Wilson.

Doves are released outside the 22nd District Police Headquarters in memory of Officer Robert Wilson, who was shot to death during an armed robbery five years ago. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The memorial featured a prayer by the 22nd Police District Chaplain, Reverend Peter Harris, as well as a ceremonial release of two doves — one in honor of Wilson, and the other in honor of his now deceased grandmother, Constance Wilson, who accepted her grandson’s National Medal of Valor at the White House from former President Barack Obama in 2016.

Shortly after, family members of Wilson scattered green and yellow balloons into the sky, a nod to Sergeant Wilson’s uplifting character and his love of the Green Bay Packers.

As Commissioner Outlaw reminds us, “The man who wore the badge number 9990 is indeed a hero.”

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