"I live with Ben everyday. Im sure until the day I die, Im going to live with Ben. I cant get away from that. Unfortunately, theres going to be people in society who arent going to let me get away from that." -- Billy Moore, the man who murdered Ben Wilson
Twenty-eight years ago today, two bullets ended the life of a Chicago basketball star and ruined the lives of many others.
Ben Wilson, a 6-foot-7 forward from Simeon High School, was considered the No. 1 high school player in the country.
Billy Moore was a 16-year-old teenager walking down Vincennes Ave. on Chicago's South Side with a gun.
It would become one of the darkest moments in the history of Chicago sports.
"It was an unfortunate situation," Moore said, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "It really didn't have to happen, but it did. I'm so sorry that it did."
How long should a man pay for his sins? Can someone ever be forgiven for killing another?
These are questions that have tormented Moore ever since he was released from prison in 2004. With every step he takes, he moves further away from the incident; but no matter how far he travels, Moore can't shake it.
His murder of Ben Wilson is always there in the rearview mirror.
"I asked Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Wilson and the Wilson family to forgive me. I've asked God to forgive me and I have forgiven myself," Moore said. "As you sit here with me today, I'm 44 years old. I'm not the 16-year-old person who committed that crime."
But almost three decades later, the result of Moore's crime is still being felt -- especially to those in the Wilson family -- like Ben's younger brother, Jeff -- who walks around with a deep wound in his heart.
"I lost my brother who was like a father to me," Jeff Wilson told Comcast SportsNet.
"You shot my brother, our brother. You ruined the lives of people waiting for him in college, the sports world, NBA, the whole city of Chicago."
"If you rob a man, you can replace what you have taken. If you beat a man up, his wounds will heal. But if you kill, there is no tomorrow for that man. There is no working anything out. That life is gone forever."-- Jeff Wilson on the loss of brother, Ben, 28 years agoBefore the shooting, Ben Wilson, at just 17 years old, was one of the most popular athletes in Chicago, comparable to Michael Jordan, an NBA rookie who was just starting his career with the Bulls.
Wilson was expected to follow in Jordans footsteps. But on that one afternoon, the dream ended.
He and Moore were strangers. They had a confrontation on a sidewalk just steps away from Simeon High School. Shots rang out. One life ended. Another one stopped dead in its tracks.
Moore was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder and attempted armed robbery. He ended up serving 19 years, 9 months. His accomplice, Omar Dixon was given 30 years.
While Moore admits to killing Wilson, he maintains that he shot Wilson out of self-defense.
"Omar Dixon who went to prison with me had nothing to do with it. He was standing in the grass." Moore explained. "They said we tried to rob Ben. It was 12 oclock in the daytime, a half a block from a high school with people walking up and down the block in front of a busy store. I would think it would be stupid for me to pick the biggest person that I have ever seen in my life to try and rob him in broad daylight, but thats what I was charged with; attempted robbery and first-degree murder."
A criminal is defined as "a person charged with and convicted of a crime." That would make Moore a criminal in the past, present and future. But he doesnt see it that way.
"I dont consider myself a criminal," Moore declared.
But you did shoot him.
"I did shoot him," he said. "Growing up in Chicago, it's not right to be carrying a gun. I think a criminal is a person who pretty much survives on criminal instincts to live, to make a life, to victimize other people. This is the way he pretty much goes about his everyday life. I made a very stupid mistake at 16 by picking up a gun. This is the day that me and Ben met up and as a result, he lost his life and I went away for 20 years."
But to Jeff Wilson, who feels the permanent void of a brother he'll never get back -- the crime is eternal, the loss indefinite.
"If you rob a man, you can replace what you have taken. If you beat a man up, his wounds will heal," Wilson said. "But if you kill, there is no tomorrow for that man. There is no working anything out. That life is gone forever."
Moore hopes that one day the Wilson family will come to forgive him. Jeff Wilson says he is willing to forgive, but he cannot absolve Moore for the murder of his brother.
"I have forgiven my anger towards him and I hope that everyone who loved Benji would do the same," Wilson said.
The two have never spoken to each other but if given the chance, what would Billy Moore say to Ben's brother?
"I would say that I understand how you feel. There's no right for me to tell you that you should continue to hold onto that," he said. "The only thing I can tell you is that I didn't mean to do what happened. I didn't mean for Ben to die. If you could find it in your heart to forgive me, I would welcome that. But who am I to say how you should feel about this situation? That was their brother. That's family."
Today, Moore works as a security guard for the Chicago charter school system. His main job, ironically, is to make sure his students avoid danger at school and get home safely.
Before pulling out the gun that killed Ben Wilson, Moore says he didn't have anyone in his life telling him to avoid guns. He recalled the words of his grandfather who said, "If you show your gun, use it."
Now he is hoping to spread his anti-gun message to young people, specifically in Chicago, where there have been 461 homicides so far in 2012, a large majority of the victims being African-Americans.
"If I could be of any example, to help people who might be confronted with some situations that they don't know how to deal with it and think that carrying a gun is the best solution, I'm here to tell you right now, that it's the worst solution. That's no solution," said Moore.
Recently, Moore's young daughter saw some old footage of Ben Wilson playing basketball. She told her mother that she wanted to wear No. 25 on her jersey.
Ben Wilsons number.
"That's her decision," Moore said. "I wouldn't encourage her against it. If it inspired her to feel that way, then so be it."
What would have become of Ben Wilson? Well never know. All we're left with are the questions ... and the man responsible for his death, a person still haunted by his past as he tries to turn his life around.
"I suffered for 19 years and nine months, and I've had an opportunity to regain my freedom and resume my life. I know every day that Ben didn't."