Thursday memorial service to honor Denny’s hero

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite is inviting the public to attend a memorial service Thursday at 5:30 p.m. for a fellow American Legion member who died protecting a north side restaurant from a man with a gun Saturday morning. The service will be held at the American Legion Post on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

Retired 1st Sgt. Mario Wilson died after being shot three times while struggling with Leonard Bond, 26, at the Denny’s at 8808 N. Michigan Road just before dawn Saturday.

Wilson and Bond had exchanged words before Bond left the restaurant and returned with a small handgun.

“Wilson kept talking to him and would not stop,” according to an IMPD report with Bond’s account of the shooting. “Because Wilson was a big dude he pulled his chrome/silver pistol from his pocket,” the report said.

After Bond admitted firing one shot, Wilson began struggling with him.

“(Bond) shot two or three more times,” the report quotes Bond, who claimed “he was not trying to kill Wilson.”

“(Wilson’s) training kicked in,” said Hite who is also a member of Post 249 in the 2600 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

“He saw a threat. He saw a young man bang on a window,” Hite continued. “He saw in his hand what he probably thought was a weapon and made a decision, ‘He can’t come back in here and shoot the place up. I’m going to try to stop him at the door and have a conversation with him,’ and, ultimately, it cost him his life.”

Wilson was a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Korea and Afghanistan, raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims on his post and helped retired veterans navigate red tape to receive their V.A. benefits.

“We always talk about how one homicide can affect hundreds of people,” said Hite. “Here’s a case where one homicide could affect thousands of people whose lives he not only saved in terms of service to our country but now here he is in terms of retirement helping the very veterans he worked with in battle.”