SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)— Tuesday marks seven years since Scranton Patrolman John Wilding died in the line of duty.
The police memorial outside of the Scranton Police Department is a place Mary Wilding, John’s mother, never wanted to see her son’s name.
“John was working a double. He worked 2-10. He was a beat cop. He went home. He changed. He said goodbye to his wife and he went back to work, to work the midnight shift,” Wilding said.
Not knowing it would be his last.
“Around 3:30 in the morning, I got a phone call that John had been injured and to get to the hospital,” Mary said.
In 2015, officer Wilding responded to an armed robbery.
It started as a vehicle pursuit until three suspects began running on foot.
“John came on to the scene and ran to back up his fellow officers. He went to hop over a wall thinking it was a short wall and he’d be with his fellow officers. Instead, there was a 15-foot drop. My son struck his head and never woke up again,” John’s mother said.
Patrolman Wilding died less than 24 hours later.
“There is no word awful enough to cover the loss of a child, to lose a child. There’s no word for that,” John’s mother said.
It’s something that left a forever impact on wilding’s family, including his brothers on the force.
“We create a tight bond like a family when we work together constantly in danger to protect the public. When we took this hit. John dies. It is like losing a family member,” Thomas Carroll, Chief of the Scranton Police Department, told Eyewitness News.
Seven years later, his bike remains here, in the lobby of the Scranton Police Department, honoring the sacrifice he made in the line of duty.
“I can’t change anything that happened to John, but from this day forward, no family will have to go through what we did,” said Mary Wilding.
The teens responsible were charged with third-degree murder and burglary.
“What we found as a result of that tragic death, the tragic death of officer john wilding, was that the PA crimes code did not have the offense of evading arrest by foot. We changed that with Senate Bill 814,” said Senator John Yudichak of District 14.
Also known as the “Officer John Wilding law,” the bill would charge suspects with a felony when a police officer is hurt or killed during a foot pursuit.
The legislation was also amended to hold suspects responsible if a K-9 is injured or killed.
“I think the real piece of this is education. Let’s let everybody know that if you take off on foot, you’re getting arrested. Maybe it will cause them to pause and think about their actions before they actually take off on foot,” Chief Carol said.
The only opposition to the bill came from the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union saying in part “SB 814 risks criminalizing the lawful right to refuse to engage with law enforcement, an open invitation to round up young black men and other people of color who may be legally ignoring or walking away from a police officer.”
Senator Yudichak disagreed, saying it’s not your constitutional right to run from law enforcement.
“When you are a suspect in a crime and you are being pursued, lawfully pursued by a police officer, it is not your constitutional right to injure or to kill that police officer. I think it’s the right thing to do in terms of adding greater protection to the law enforcement community who do a very tough job for the citizens of Pennsylvania,” Senator Yudichak explained.
The bill has been sent to Governor Wolf for review.