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Slain officer's son spends birthday with his new 'family'

Dozens of Philly cops helped Quahmier Wilson celebrate his 10th birthday and pledged to always be there for him.

Balloons are released during a vigil for fallen Philadelphia police officer Robert Wilson III.
Balloons are released during a vigil for fallen Philadelphia police officer Robert Wilson III.Read moreVinny Vella / Staff

QUAHMIER WILSON blew out 10 candles on his birthday cake yesterday.

He did so surrounded by family - both his blood relatives and dozens of the 6,300 men and women in the Philadelphia Police Department who have committed themselves to supporting him and his 1-year-old brother.

"He was happy; he kept a straight face," Tremaine Ward, a cousin of Quahmier's father, Officer Robert Wilson III, said last night.

"Everybody is trying to keep him distracted, to give him something to smile about," he added.

"He's being a real man about the whole situation."

But for a few hours yesterday, at a birthday party organized by some of his father's colleagues, Quahmier got to relish being a kid.

He played arcade games inside Dave & Buster's in Old City, joked around with his family and unwrapped a mountain of presents.

Those gifts included a heap of Green Bay Packers gear - his dad's favorite team - gift cards, a football and a trip for him and his family to Walt Disney World, the latter provided by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5.

One of the packages he opened contained a PlayStation 4, an item that bears a grim significance in the young man's life.

On Thursday, not long after Wilson, 30, clocked in for his shift in North Philly's violent 22nd District, he visited a GameStop inside Hope Plaza, a shopping center on Lehigh Avenue near 21st, to buy Quahmier a video-game console like that one, a gift for doing well in school.

He never got to see the joy on the boy's face when he opened it.

Two gunmen tried to rob the store while Wilson was inside, and the eight-year veteran of the Police Department died in a violent gunbattle while protecting other customers.

Last night, as Quahmier and his family were wrapping up their party, about 200 people gathered outside that still-shuttered GameStop to honor Wilson's sacrifice and to demand change in their community.

Mel Wells, the president of One Day at a Time, a nonprofit agency that supports people with addictions, spearheaded the vigil. It included representatives from community organizations in that slice of North Philly, as well as Sheriff Jewell Williams, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and John McNesby, the president of Lodge No. 5.

"Don't look at this as a photo op," Wells said. "This is a family meeting.

"I can never imagine not making it home to my daughter, and it's a terrible thing for Officer Wilson to not come home to his family."

The speakers lamented the violence in the community, urging residents to "take back their streets" and to set a positive example for their own children.

"Let's work together to end all violence, not just what happened here, but everywhere," Ramsey said, "because all violence is senseless."

Ramsey, who came to the vigil directly from Quahmier's birthday party, said the boy and his brother, Robert IV, will never lack for someone to turn to.

"We will be there for him for the rest of his life; he's family," Ramsey said to the gathered crowd. "Not just police officers; you are all family to him, too."

The FOP's McNesby, who also paid a visit to the party at Dave & Buster's, said the support for Quahmier yesterday was "overwhelming."

He came up with the idea to send the boy and his family to Disney World as a way of bringing some much-needed levity to them in the months ahead.

McNesby said he had not been aware that Wilson was planning a trip to the Orlando theme park with his sons at the time of his death.

"We're not going anywhere," he said, "and we'll be there for whatever his family needs, no matter how big or small."