In the Line of Duty: Part One

By KBJR News 1

April 25, 2012 Updated Apr 26, 2012 at 1:17 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - 22 years ago this month, the last police officer to be killed in the line of duty in Duluth, died in a shootout at the Seaway Hotel.

Gary Wilson was 34-years-old and he left behind a wife and six year old son, along with his grieving parents. More than two decades later the tragedy still serves daily to remind police officers to be constantly on their guard.

Sgt. Wilson was a highly respected, well-liked police officer, remembered by then Chief of Police Eli Miletich, as a cop who would go far.

"In my mind, back then, he was destined for managerial, high positions on the department," Miletich said.

Gary Wilson was gunned down on the night of April 9th, 1990 as he, and a group of Duluth police officers surrounded a room in the Seaway Hotel. Inside a suspect in a bar shooting was hiding behind the refrigerator.

"Knocked on the door and that's when he started firing. The semi carbine weapon shot through the walls, shot multiple times, one of them striking Gary in the head," former police officer Scott Lyons recalled.

Sgt. Wilson was one of two police officers shot that night at the Seaway.

"Sgt. John Hartley was wounded in one of the shots that went through these plaster walls; this was a very powerful rifle," Lyons said.

"One of the most terrible nights of any in my 33 years," Miletich added.

It was particularly terrible for Gary's wife and six year old son and his parents.

"He was a caring person. He cared about his fellow workers, his family, his friends," Wilson's mother, Irene said.

His fellow cops remember him fondly.

"Gary liked to be on top of everything. He wanted to do every case. He wanted it to work out right. He liked to be on TV," said Lyons.

And in fact being on TV was the last thing he did.

"The suspect as far as we know has fled from the scene on foot. Patrol squads are looking for him right now," Wilson said in a April 1990 interview.

Over the years Duluth police have studied their course of action that fateful night to see if there were anything they could learn.

"They had everything very well organized, very detailed," Miletich said.

"As you go back and dissect it and say, did we do the right things? I don't know if it would have been done much differently today," said Lyons.

One thing they all know for certain is they lost a good man and a good cop that night.

"Gary was so dedicated to police work," Gary's father, Harold 'Bozo" Wilson.

A man who gave his life for the job he loved.

"That's all I have for now. What's your name, sir? Sgt. Wilson...first name," Wilson said in the April 1990 interview.

The memory of that brave police officer is carried particularly close for one Duluth man.

Gary's son Chad was six when his father died in the line of duty.
Now Chad has completed police academy and is hoping to follow in the brave footsteps of his father.

Thursday night on the KBJR 6 & Range 11 News at Ten we'll introduce you to Chad Wilson.

Barbara Reyelts