PHILADELPHIA - A mural honoring the life of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Sergeant Robert Wilson III was vandalized in Strawberry Mansion.
"I was devastated and I couldn't believe it," said Denise Hooks. Graffiti and foul language was spray painted on the face of Sergeant Robert Wilson III, a man Philadelphia will forever remember and hold high. Hooks saw it right away when she arrived at her restaurant Emmanuel Kings and Queens of Soul Food at 29th and Ridge Avenue around 10 a.m. Thursday.
"I felt some type of way about him because he was the officer from our neighborhood who was always the nice officer. People always talk bad about the police but we got good police officers," said Hooks.
City leaders and the community unveiled the mural by Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program July of last year. It spans the entire side wall of Hooks’ restaurant.
"I had that mural put up there and I did it for honor to him because he's our hero from the 22nd District," said Hooks.
In 2015, Wilson stopped by a GameStop to buy a gift for his son when he found himself in the middle of an attempted armed robbery. He protected civilians while investigators say the two suspects opened fire, killing him.
FOX 29's Shawnette Wilson spoke to officials with the Mural Arts Program on the phone. They had already come out to remove the vandalism. Remnants of the red spray paint still stain Sergeant Wilson's face. It’s a reminder block captain Thomas El says of their often futile efforts to keep the community clean and safe.
"Sometimes it's thwarted by people that live right here and that's something that needs to change in the community," he said. “It just breaks your heart. I mean you know because that's one of Philadelphia's finest. He lost his life and they dedicated that mural to his memory," said El.
He also says police told him there is surveillance video from a nearby business that captures a suspect in a mask. Police tell us they’re still looking into the incident.
The Philadelphia FOP Lodge #5 is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest of an individual who defaced the mural. The reward will be paid immediately when there is an arrest.
“It’s sickening and disgusting that some low-life would deface the mural of hero and fallen-officer, Robert Wilson III,” said FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby. “We will never forget Rob’s bravery, courage and valor when he saved lives inside that GameStop store.”
The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police is offering a $32,500 reward for anyone with information that leads to the arrest of the individuals responsible for defacing the mural.
IBEW Local #98 put $5,000 towards the reward, FOP said. Steamfitters Local #420 and Bruan McMonagle & Fortunato Perri Attorneys chipped in $2,500 each. Other donations pushed the pot to over $22,000 and the Sheetmetal union local #19 added another $10,000.
“The reward will be paid immediately to an individual who offers a tip or information that leads to an arrest,” FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby said.