Ben Wilson's killer: 'I don't consider myself a criminal'

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Ben Wilson's killer: 'I don't consider myself a criminal'

"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."

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."