A sea of people gathered tonight to honor Officer Robert Wilson III on the same basketball court where he spent his summers as a kid.

"He was just an awesome guy; this tragedy happened to someone who cared so much for the community," said Tyrone "Cakes" Sims, a man who watched Wilson grow up.

Wilson was gunned down a week ago today while stopping a robbery inside a GameStop in Hope Plaza, on Lehigh Avenue near 21st in North Philly.

"We're all dearly going to miss him," Sims said.

Sims helped organize the vigil with the office of state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, himself a product of Cobbs Creek, a small slice of Southwest Philly near the city limits.

They chose the playground on Baltimore Avenue near 61st Street, because it's a "safe zone" for neighborhood kids, Sims said.

And, years ago, Wilson was one of those youths snatching rebounds and firing off jump shots.

"The same ground we're standing on, he walked on," Sims said.

Hardy implored the crowd, including several police and SEPTA Transit Police officers, to remember Wilson as a "normal guy," one whose memory will always be cherished by his community.

"Robert's soul will always be a part of Cobbs Creek," Williams said.

"Tonight is about sharing our stories and adding our voices to the record," he added. "Tonight, we give something to smile about to someone who truly is in heaven."

Wilson's family also added their voices to the record.

Shakira Wilson-Burroughs, Wilson's sister, thanked the crowd for its continued support.

"My brother fell doing what he loved: protecting people," she said, choking back tears.

"Not only did we lose my brother, we lost a big part of our family and our community; it hit home, and it hit home hard."

She implored the upturned faces of the people in the crowd, glowing in the flickering light of the candles they held, to put an end to violence.

"When will it end?" she asked. "It's not going to stop until we start."

Williams, his arm around the grieving woman, promised to "pack this playground with people" willing to spread that message.

"We will honor all police officers in the way your brother would," he said.

A deafening echo from the crowd - kids, adults, police officers and civilians- answered immediately.

"We will honor Robert."
A viewing for Wilson will be held tomorrow from 4-8 p.m. at the Francis Funeral Home, on Whitby Avenue near 52nd Street in West Philly, police said.

Another viewing will be held Saturday from 7-10 a.m. at the University of Pennsylvania Palestra, on 33rd Street near Spruce in University City.

That viewing will be followed by a memorial service, after which Wilson will be interred at Fernwood Cemetery in Lansdowne, Delaware County.

Officer Moses Walker, the last city police officer killed, is also buried there.