Brothers of basketball phenom Ben Wilson publicly reconcile with his killer ahead of documentary release

Wilson’s murder in 1984 stunned the city. “To have the two families come together was amazing,” one observer said.

SHARE Brothers of basketball phenom Ben Wilson publicly reconcile with his killer ahead of documentary release
merlin_89856951.jpg

From left, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rapper Common, William Moore, and Anthony and Jeffrey Wilson, speak at Malcolm X College, during a conversation and private screening of “Both Sides of the Gun”, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Chicago.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Anthony Wilson was met with a range of responses when he told people he was meeting with the man who shot his brother, Ben, a prep hoops phenom at Simeon who was viewed as the top player in the nation before his murder in 1984.

“You meeting with the man who killed your brother?”

“Are you crazy?”

But Wilson said he agreed to meet with William Moore — who was convicted in his brother’s killing — after his mother, Mary, asked the family to forgive him on her deathbed in 2000.

While the first meeting between the two men was three years ago, they appeared publicly for the first time Thursday at Malcolm X College on the Near West Side. Another brother, Jeff Wilson, was also present at the event, which featured clips from an upcoming documentary that chronicles the men’s road to forgiveness, “Both Sides of the Gun: A Story of Reconciliation.”

The panel discussion also featured hip-hop artist and actor Common and former CPS CEO and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — a childhood friend of Ben.

An estimated 350 students from the city’s public and Catholic schools attended the event.

“This is about forgiveness,” said Anthony Wilson, 43. “I’ve learned to forgive Mr. Moore. I was emotionally compromised meeting this man.”

merlin_89856937.jpg

Anthony Wilson (left) and Jeffrey Wilson, discussed “Both Sides of the Gun,” a documentary about their reconciliation with their brother’s killer, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Chicago.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Moore was 16 years old when Wilson bumped into him as he was having an argument with his girlfriend Jetun Rush, the mother of his son, Brandon, on Nov. 20, 1984.

An argument ensued and Moore shot Wilson.

Moore served 19 years and 9 months in prison before his release in 2004.

Even as Anthony Wilson started to forgive Moore, his brother wanted revenge. But he said Thursday his hatred for Moore eventually turned into forgiveness.

A clip of Jeff Wilson giving the bullet found in Ben’s body to Moore as the two embraced, prompted the crowd to applaud.

“I did it for the city of Chicago,” said Jeff Wilson, 46. “... I don’t want anyone to have this type of bitterness.”

Moore told the crowd he was sorry for what he did.

“It’s something I carry with me my whole life,” Moore said. “I want to make sure other young people don’t have to go through the things I had to dealwith.”

Jayla White, a sophomore point guard on Simeon’s varsity girls’ team, was moved by what she saw from Moore and the Wilsons.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” White said. “There’s so much hatred when someone is shot; they never want to forgive. ... To have the two families come together was amazing.”

merlin_67192679.jpg

Ben Wilson, who died in 1984 in Chicago, was once rated among the best high school basketball players in the country and recruited by the University of Illinois weeks before his death.

Sun-Times Media

Moore now works as a case worker with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network and mentors young boys similar to his younger self.

Unfortunately, he also knows the Wilsons’ pain of losing a loved one.

He lost his own son, William IV, to gun violence in July 2017.

, speaks with Wilson’s brothers, Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Rapper Common at Malcolm X College, during a conversation and private screening of “Both Sides of the Gun”, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Chicago.

William Moore appears at Malcolm X College private screening of “Both Sides of the Gun,” Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Chicago.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Ald. David Moore (17th), William Moore’s cousin and a Simeon alumnus, was also close with the Wilsons.

“When this happened, it was a real ‘tearing’ for me because Benji was like family to me, and Billy [William] is my real family,” Moore said. “When Mama Wilson said ‘I forgive you,’ that started everything. If she wasn’t able to forgive, I don’t think her sons would’ve.”

The Latest
“You talked to him for even a few minutes [and] you had nothing but warmth toward him,” said his brother, journalist Ellis Cose, an author and former Sun-Times columnist.
Lizbeth Urbina is a single mother of two daughters, ages 1 and 3, and works at a shoe store in Little Village. “People love her in the neighborhood,” said Baltazar Enrique. “This is one of our children. She’s one of our family.”
Ald. Jason Ervin said with so many Black candidates, the community risks “losing it all.” But the newest mayoral challenger, Ald. Sophia King, called it “shortsighted” to think “Black candidates will only get Black votes.”
“I think it’s a curious statement,” La Russa said. “It’s better to be discussed within the family. If there’s a problem, straighten it out.”
Not only does the bestselling, genre-mixing hitmaker himself not come across as a real person, the film never tries to help him. Fans won’t learn anything new, and the curious may even be turned off.