The family of Alexander Wilson, the 16-year-old boy who was shot in the head by a DPS officer, was buried yesterday at a packed service that was as much a sermon on police killings in poor neighborhoods as it was a funeral.
Family members say Wilson aspired to be a football player and was known for his smile. More than 50 people filled the pews at the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ on Buckeye Road yesterday. And even though the bullet disfigured the boy's face, the family had an open casket and put dark sunglasses and a black baseball cap atop Wilson's head.
Reverend Jarrett Maupin, who conducted much of the service, mentioned that several other churches in the area shied away from hosting the service, possibly because of controversy surrounding Wilson's death.
"God did not kill Alex," Maupin says. "A middle-aged white man with a hand gun, whose name has not been released, whose face we cannot see, who was called by police a victim, and not a victimizer, [killed Alex]."
Around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7, a DPS officer near 27th Avenue and Camelback Road ran the license of a Chevrolet Tahoe and the plates came back stolen. The officer, whose name is being withheld, followed Wilson and his passenger, Will Brown, 18. The officer tailed the two for eight blocks until Wilson steered the SUV into a Chevron gas station and parked.
From here on, the police report and Brown -- the surviving passenger, who was later arrested on unrelated charges -- disagree on what occurred.
Wilson had a warrant out for armed robbery, but the officer couldn't have known this at the time. And Wilson used no actual weapon to commit the crime, and the warrant was issued because he missed a probation hearing, according to records.
No alcohol, drugs or weapons were found in the car, and the officer couldn't have known any of this, too, which might have given him reason to use more caution.
Brown says Wilson picked him up in the Tahoe and told him it belonged to a friend (the family also says this). As the two headed west on Camelback, they noticed the DPS officer following them and so Wilson turned left to see if the officer would follow. Brown says the officer never turned on his lights or siren. Brown remembers that Wilson parked the car between a gas pump and a curb, which had a big blue clothes donation drop off depository in the center next to the road. The officer parked behind the two and got out of his vehicle.
It was maybe only long enough for Wilson to put the car in park, think for a few moments, and say, "I'm feelin' to smash," three times before the shot from the rifle broke the window. (The police report says Brown told investigators that Wilson said he was going to "slam it." The only reason this is odd, is if Wilson wanted to "slam" the DPS vehicle he would have to hit the squad car in reverse. Brown says "feelin' to smash" means to get the hell out of here.)
The next thing the two noticed was the flashlight on the bottom of the officer's AR15 rifle beaming into the driver's side window. Brown says the officer stood to the side of the vehicle, using the metal blue clothes depository box as cover.
The box is several feet from where Brown says they would have been parked, and if the officer was using it as cover and never moved from the side of it like Brown says, then the officer would have been facing perpendicular to the car the entire time and in seemingly no apparent danger of being run over.
Brown says Wilson accidentally geared the SUV into neutral and the engine revved. A loud bang sounded, and the car popped into drive and took off with Wilson's lifeless foot pressing the pedal.
The police report sent to media differs in a few respects. After he parked behind the Tahoe, the police report recounts Wilson's final moments like this:
"The Officer then positioned himself towards the front of the suspect's vehicle, in the exit of the gas station parking lot; in order to see the occupants and to give them verbal commands, until his back-up could arrive. The driver of the stolen vehicle did not comply and revved the vehicle's engine before putting it into gear ... The vehicle drove at the officer, who fired one time."
Maupin took offense with the death because he says it could have been anyone in the car. The Officer had no clue who was inside, but rushed out with an assault rifle immediately and that driving a stolen vehicle - whether Wilson stole it, knew it was stolen or had no idea - is not a crime punishable by death.
"The 16-year-old man who is lying here today, while he might not be your blood, he is your brother in Jesus Christ, so now everyone here has a brother who has been a victim of police brutality."
The family planned to drive the hearse and a line of cars around the Capitol in protest, but at the last minute they decided against it. The hearse took Wilson to a cemetery and family wept under an awning as he was lowered into he ground.