Colo. officer dies of injuries 6 months later

Sarah Langbein
Rocky Mountain News
Copyright 2006 Denver Publishing Company

Robert Wilson was a criminal's worst nightmare.

The 10-year Denver police veteran surpassed his co-workers in arrests, earning him a Police Officer of the Month Award last year.

He was expecting a promotion to sergeant six months ago when his motorcycle collided with a suspected drunken driver. Early Saturday, he died of the injuries he suffered in that accident.

Wilson was 47.

"Bob was probably the hardest-working guy on his shift," Detective Nick Rogers said. "He was a thorn in the side of the criminal element."

On Dec. 23, 2005, Wilson and a fellow District 4 officer were on their motorcycles when they left work for the evening. Along the way, his friend ran out of gas, so Wilson drove to a filling station.

As Wilson headed westbound on West Evans Avenue near South Bryant Street, a gray truck going in the opposite direction turned in front of him. Wilson's motorcycle slammed into the truck's side.

A witness stayed with Wilson while another followed the pickup driver, Joseph Jerome Santillanes, 42, who circled back to the scene.

Santillanes is charged with two counts of vehicular assault, one count of leaving the scene of a crime and two counts of driving under the influence.

Prosecutors now plan to add two counts of vehicular homicide because of Wilson's death.

Wilson joined the Denver Police Department in 1995, after serving more than 20 years in the Air Force, police said. He served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Wilson spent his entire career in District 4, in southwest Denver. District 4 Cmdr. Rudy Sandoval called him an "informal leader."

"He made so many good arrests," Sandoval said. "He just had a knack for seeing things that didn't belong."

In 2004, Wilson was nominated by Police Chief Gerry Whitman for the Presidential Medal of Valor for heroism.

He also received many commendations, two distinguished service crosses, one superior tactics and response award, and one chief's unit citation award.

Wilson is survived by his wife, Freida, whom he married in 2002, and three sons. His first wife preceded him in death, police said.

Wilson's funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at First Church of the Nazarene, 3800 E. Hampden Ave. Burial will be at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

A reception will follow at 4 p.m. at the Police Protective Association Event Center, 2105 Decatur St. 
June 13, 2006

See related:

Officer down: Robert Wilson

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