George R. Wilson, a retired detective sergeant with the D.C. police department who as a civilian played a critical role investigating unsolved homicide cases as the founder and chief of the D.C. police firearms identification section, died Sept. 13 at a hospice in Westminster, Md. He was 82.
He had complications from dementia, said his son, Michael Wilson.
After he retired in 1974, Detective Sgt. Wilson created the D.C. police firearms unit based on techniques pioneered by the FBI ballistics lab and other police firearms sections nationally. He built the laboratory into a respected firearms identification unit whose staff helped analyze bullets seized from crime scenes.
As shootings and gun-related homicides increased in the late 1980s, Detective Sgt. Wilson told The Washington Post in 1989 that the department was not adequately staffing the section. Salaries were uncompetitive compared with federal and state labs, and it took years to properly train personnel, he said.
The result was a backlog of 600 cases that would take at least two years to comb through, The Post reported.
“You’re in the room where we could close many unsolved homicide cases. We’re sitting on vital information,” he told The Post. “But we don’t know what we’ve got. God, we’re in trouble. We need help.”
A solution arrived later that year. A joint venture of the D.C. police, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office used money and other assets recovered from drug busts to hire retired firearms experts to help work through the backlog.
George Roy Wilson was born in Manhattan. He spent six years in the Navy before joining the D.C. police department in 1953. He was a patrolman and later a detective with the robbery squad. He retired a second time from the department in 1994.
He was a past president of the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners. He was among the forensic experts who in the late 1970s participated in the inquiry led by the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
He was a resident of Davidsonville, in Anne Arundel County.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Frances Henry Wilson of Davidsonville; two children, Dianna Smoot of Laurel and Michael Wilson of Ashburn; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
— Adam Bernstein