Mario Wilson spent more than two decades in the U.S. Army, serving in Afghanistan before retiring to Indiana where he helped other veterans navigate government red tape and receive their benefits.
Leonard Bond has a lengthy criminal record including arrests for shooting two men in a drug deal, robbing a man of $7 at gunpoint, having sex with a 14-year-old girl and slapping a man in a wheelchair.
Wilson and Bond met just before dawn Saturday morning at the Denny’s Restaurant at 8808 North Michigan Road.
Wilson is dead.
Bond is charged with his murder.
Wilson and girlfriend Karen Dunbar, herself a veteran, were having breakfast with family when Bond and a young woman sat down in the booth adjacent to their table.
“The young man came in and sat behind us and he started making insulting remarks and so we played it off for a second,” said Dunbar. “Mario said, ‘You’re being disrespectful. That’s uncalled for.’”
Dunbar said Wilson, 46 and a retired Sergeant First Class, believed in right and wrong and respect and duty.
“He was a man of his word. You have to step up and do what has to be done,” Dunbar said.
After a few more words, Dunbar said Bond left the restaurant, but returned moments later to knock on the window where Wilson was sitting.
“At this time, when the young man did that, he immediately turned and started running for the door. That’s when Mario got up and he ran out the door and as he was running through he said, ‘He can’t come back in here.’”
Dunbar said she didn’t know if Wilson spotted Bond’s gun or maybe he just expected the worst.
“He seen the danger that was about to come in and he wouldn’t let that young man come in to hurt anyone else. He was not going to let that young man come back in there.”
Dunbar and other customers were just a few steps behind Wilson but before they stepped outside, there were three gunshots.
“By that time I hit the door and Mario was fighting the guy. He had…he’s been shot and he still had the man’s arm…the man can’t get (to his gun).
“I grabbed the man’s arms as well and in between the two, Mario had eye-to-eye…looking at this young man and keeping him from being able to pull the trigger again.”
The gun clattered off across the pavement. The customers wrestled Bond to the ground. Dunbar tried to save Wilson’s life.
“And just in a snap, life has changed like that,” said Dunbar.
After IMPD arrived and Wilson was taken away by medics, Dunbar looked at the man who just shot her boyfriend.
“I guess the young man…eventually it got to him what he had done and he was sitting there and every once in a while shaking his head.
“He started from ten down to one and all he could do was put his head down. I did tell the young man that his soul was going to hell,” Wilson said. “I have to say we pray for the young man’s soul.”
Dunbar said before forgiving Bond she screamed at him in, asking if he knew what he had done in killing the man she loved.
“He was happy for you. He wanted you to be happy in what you did and to enjoy life and he stood up for what was right which is what everyone should do,” she said to him.
One of Mario Wilson’s son is due to join the military soon.
Wilson was a Mason and a member of the American Legion.
The Legion Post at 2523 Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Street will honor him in a memorial service later this week.