Officer Chris Wilson memorialized by family, friends, colleagues, dignitaries
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across California gathered today along with state and local dignitaries and mourning members of the public to pay final respects to a veteran San Diego patrolman and father of two gunned down in the line of duty.
A ceremonial procession of police vehicles traveled from Mission Valley to Liberty Station prior to the funeral for 17-year SDPD Officer Christopher Wilson, who was mortally wounded last week in a shootout with an assault suspect at a Skyline-area apartment complex.
Among the top state leaders joining San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and other city officials at the midday memorial service were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his newly elected successor, Attorney General Jerry Brown. The Hollywood action star-turned-governor praised Wilson as a dedicated lawman who “did what heroes do.”
“He rushed in where others would have run away,” Schwarzenegger told a crowd estimated at 2,000 — mostly clad in ceremonial uniforms — inside the Rock Church on Rosecrans Street. “His loss is a reminder of just how dangerous police work really is. That's why I always say people like Chris are the real action heroes.”
Wilson, 50, a former Navy lieutenant and one-time SWAT team member, was ambushed by a gunman late on the night of Oct. 27 while helping deputy federal marshals try to flush a fugitive assault suspect out of an apartment in the 400 block of South Meadowbrook Drive.
The Tierrasanta resident died in a hospital early the next morning. He was the first on-duty law enforcement officer slain in San Diego County in nearly four years.
Also killed during the confrontation were the fugitive, Holim Lee, 30, and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Lucky Xayasene. A service dog was wounded as well but is expected to survive.
Autopsies determined that Lee killed himself. Xayasene's death, conversely, was not a suicide, but it remains unclear if it was a shot from Lee's gun or an officer's return fire that felled her. Ballistics tests that will answer that question have yet to be completed, according to police officials.
Standing on a stage behind the slain officer's American flag-draped casket, SDPD Chief William Lansdowne told the overflow audience attending the three-hour service that Wilson was “the kind of person you want in your department, your city.”
“He grew up and knew exactly where he was going — he was going to be a public servant,” the chief said. “He knew being a police officer is different, because you get to protect people every single day.” Wilson spent part of his childhood on a Navajo reservation while his mother taught in a school there, and also lived in Alaska and New England during his youth.
“While everyone in Vermont wears plaid shirts and boots, all he wore were designer jeans,” said Lt. David Goodman of the Tampa Police Department, a college friend of Wilson's. “But on top of all that designer clothing, he always wore a Boston Celtics jacket.”
Dan Walters, a one-time Padres backup catcher turned San Diego police officer, took the stage in a wheelchair to describe how Wilson helped him after an on-duty shooting in 2003 left him paralyzed.
“I had no nursing care, no equipment; all I had was Chris,” Walters said. “When there was nobody, he was there. I loved him so much, I could never adequately explain how much he means to me.”
The retired officer broke down in tears while telling the assembled mourners about his relationship with Wilson.
“I want everyone here, every politician, media outlet and citizen to see this and never forget this sacrifice, and to understand there is no such thing as routine police work,” he said. “Chris volunteered that night to help bring in a violent offender. He took the lead, took point and he never had a chance. That's just his style.”
When Walters finished speaking, everyone in the church sanctuary rose in a standing ovation.
The slain officer's 20-year-old daughter, Kaylee, described growing up blessed by strong, consistent and unconditionally loving guidance from her father, who took her on patrol ride-alongs numerous times.
“If I could tell my Dad one thing other than that I love him and miss him, it's that I will be OK, and it's because of his strong morals and character,” she said during her tearful address to the capacity crowd. Wilson's ex-wife, Tracy, said he “was a police officer every time he walked out of the house.”
“His eyes were everywhere, making sure he knew what was going on and that people were safe,” she said, adding that Wilson “would not have chosen to go any other way.”
“He would be so proud being honored today in such an overwhelming fashion,” she told the gathering, which overflowed into the church's lobby and cafeteria, where televisions showed the proceedings taking place inside the meeting hall.
Wilson's 17-year-old son, while acknowledging having been estranged from his father for several years, described him as “my hero.” “Even right now, I'm still hoping that this is a dream, that I'll wake up and this nightmare will be over,” Conner Wilson said. “I wish I could tell him I love him one more time.”
The San Diego Police Officers Association has set up a trust fund to benefit the officer's family. Donors are asked to make checks payable to the SDPOA Charity Fund — with Officer Wilson written on the memo line — and send them to the agency's offices at 8388 Vickers St., San Diego, 92111.
Contributions also can be made via the association's website.