Salvation Army Maj.Philip Wise; photo via FOX News Channnel 16, Little Rock, AR
Salvation Army major fatally shot Christmas Eve in front of his kids

Arkansas police are searching for two men who shot and killed a Salvation Army major Christmas Eve outside the organization's community center in North Little Rock as his three young children looked on, reports Michael Ireland, chief correspondent, ASSIST News Service.

According to media reports, Salvation Army Maj. Philip Wise was shot and killed in North Little Rock, Arkansas Thursday. The incident happened around 4:45 p.m. in the Salvation Army parking lot at the intersection of West 18th St. and Division St.

Local FOX News affiliate Channel 16, citing www.arkansasonline.com says Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper said two men accosted Philip Wise and his children -- ages, 4, 6 and 8 -- about 4 p.m. Thursday. He says one man pulled a gun, demanded money and then shot Wise.

Wise's wife, Cindy, also a major in the Salvation Army, was inside the center and called 911.

FOX News said North Little Rock Police Sgt. Terry Kuykendall called the shooting a tragedy for the community. Wise had worked in the neighborhood for years, helping run youth programs, a food pantry and church services.

According to Arkansas Online, the 40-year-old father has been a member of the charitable organization for 16 years.

Friends and colleagues mourned Wise’s death, describing him as an "all-around good guy" and "a big teddy bear who loved sports."

The Salvation Army told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that any donations made in Wise's name will go toward a music program at the organization's summer camp.

Police said Maj. Wise took two bell ringers home and then returned to the Salvation Army with his three young children. Officers say two armed men approached Wise at the back door and demanded money. They say they then shot Wise at least once. He died at the scene.

Police are not saying if money was taken.

Wise's three children witnessed the shooting. Their ages are 4, 6, and 8. His wife was inside and reportedly called 911.

According to the FOX News report, North Little Rock police say they are now searching for two black suspects. Police say they are in their late teens to early twenties and were dressed in all black.

Police also say Wise had been with the Salvation Army for 16 years. For the last three years he has managed the Salvation Army chapters in Sherwood, North Little Rock, and Maumelle.

The online news service www.arkansasonline.com said Wise was known as "a big teddy bear of a man" according to those close to him. Wise worked for three years in the very neighborhood he was gunned down in.

The 40-year-old father of three joined the Salvation Army along with his wife, Cindy, 16 years ago, and they had spent the past few years reaching out to those in the Baring Cross neighborhood. The North Little Rock center provides youth programs, weekly church services and Sunday School and a food pantry, among other services.

Police don’t know whether Wise, who was active in the community, knew his attackers.

The news service said Wise was returning to that Salvation Army center at 1505 W. 18th St. with his children Thursday afternoon when two black men, both with handguns, approached him and demanded money. One shot was fired, and Wise was killed as his children stood by. His wife, who was in the center at the time, was the one to call 911.

The family was about to leave for a Christmas trip to West Virginia.

"It's such a tragedy for the community," said Sgt. Terry Kuykendall with the North Little Rock Police Department. "I hope they realize the loss."

According to the website, Maj. Harvey Johnson, Wise's boss for the past year and a half, said Wise was an all-around good guy, a big teddy bear who loved sports. With Wise's children and Johnson's grandchildren around the same age, they shared many birthday celebrations together with their families.

The Wises had just adopted their children -- ages 4, 6 and 8 -- last year, Johnson said. The three were siblings who came from an abusive family. They were receiving counseling after their father’s death, he said.

"He was involved in the fabric of that community in a lot of different ways," Johnson said.

He described Wise as "a big boy" who played "a big old tuba" in a brass ensemble and used his love of music to try help others.

"He encouraged kids in music as an alternative to the life they were living," he said.

Kuykendall said he knew Wise, although they were not close friends.

"Mr. Wise within the last two months had spent so much time raising money so that several hundred children in this community could have a good Christmas, and for this to happen...on Christmas Eve is just a tragedy," he said.

The news service stated that Wise was originally from Weirton, W.Va., and his wife, Cindy, was from Charleston, W.Va. They met 16 years ago at a Salvation Army school in Atlanta, Johnson said. Both had worked for the Salvation Army ever since.

"He's touched a lot of people," Johnson said. "But who would he have touched if he had been able to live out his career?"

The Salvation Army said any donations made in Wise's name will go toward music instruction at the organization's summer camp.

A Wise Family Memorial Fund will be set up soon, according to Kathy Barbeire with the Salvation Army.

Police are seeking witnesses who know anything about this homicide. They are being asked to call the North Little Rock Police Department at (501) 758-1234.

Authorities are hoping anyone with information into the shooting comes forward. Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for an arrest and conviction in Wise's shooting.

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