PHILADELPHIA — A police officer who went to a video game store to buy a present for his son ended up in a fierce gun battle with two would-be robbers, fighting to the end of his life to protect patrons and employees, a police captain said Friday.
Officer Robert Wilson III, 30, was at the counter of the GameStop store late Thursday afternoon when two brothers armed with semi-automatic weapons entered, the officer turned, and “the gunfight was on,” police homicide Capt. James Clark said.
“The officer was a hero and a warrior,” Clark said. “He fought to the very, very end, firing at both of them. Unfortunately, he lost his life.”
The brothers were identified Friday as Ramone Williams, 24, and Carlton Hipps, 29. Both had prior arrests, and police said Hipps had gotten out of prison in 2009. Both were charged with murder, attempted murder, robbery and related offences.
Williams was in jail, and Hipps was hospitalized Friday and wearing Wilson’s handcuffs, authorities said. It was unclear if either man had an attorney who could comment on the charges.
Clark said Williams gave a statement to police, saying he and his brother did not see Wilson’s cruiser outside the store and did not know an officer was inside.
The men hid behind signs in the store as Wilson exchanged volleys with them. Clark credited the officer with saving lives by stepping away from other people in the store. He kept firing even after he was hit and “redefined what hero is all about,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.
His partner, who was outside, shot Hipps in the leg as the two men fled the store in a second gunfight, police said.
All told, more than 50 shots were fired, investigators said.
Police said Williams ran back into the store after the shootings to pretend to be a patron, but was quickly identified as one of the gunmen.
Wilson, a father of two who had been on the force eight years, was stopping by the store for a security check and to buy a game for his 9-year-old son for getting good grades and for his birthday, which is Monday, police said.
He was shot multiple times in the body and in the head in what Clark described as a “fierce” battle inside the shop, where most of the gunfire occurred.
The commissioner said he met Wilson and his partner when they took part in a recent pilot program in which officers wore body cameras. But police said Friday that Wilson was not wearing a body camera at the time.
Surveillance video from store security cameras was recovered.
“It’s a tremendous loss in so many ways,” Ramsey said. “Our focus now is really trying to get the family through it — particularly his son. It’s just a tough time for everybody. How do you explain it?”
Capt. Robert Glenn, who commanded the district Wilson worked in, said he was one of the first to step up for assignments.
“If there was any type of crime pattern that we had going on in the district, he was one of the first officers to say, ’Captain, let me and my partner be part of the solution, whatever that may be,”’ Glenn said.
Funeral arrangements had not yet been set.
The last Philadelphia officer killed, Moses Walker Jr., 40, was shot in an attempted robbery as he walked to a bus stop after an overnight shift in August 2012. His killer was convicted of first-degree murder in December in a nonjury trial that spared a possible death sentence.