SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across California gathered along with state and local dignitaries and residents Thursday to pay final respects to a veteran San Diego patrolman and father of two gunned down in the line of duty last week.
A ceremonial procession of police vehicles traveled from Mission Valley to Liberty Station prior to the late-morning funeral for 17-year SDPD Officer Christopher Wilson, who was mortally wounded 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 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 public servant 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 man who lived in Tierrasanta, 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 a second-floor apartment in the 400 block of South Meadowbrook Drive.
The officer died in a hospital early the next morning.
Also killed were the fugitive, Holim Lee, 30, and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Lucky Xayasene.
A service dog was wounded in the shootout 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 in front of a casket draped in the American flag, SDPD Chief William Lansdowne told the overflow audience at the memorial 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, the first on-duty law enforcement officer slain in San Diego County in nearly four years, is survived by a 17-year-old son, Conner, and 20-year-old daughter, Kaylee.
The San Diego Police Officers Association has set up a trust fund to benefit his 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.