9-year-old lanternfly girl honored by Montclair Police months after frightening incident

Toni Yates Image
Friday, January 13, 2023
9-year-old lanternfly girl honored by NJ police department
Bobbi Wilson was honored by the Montclair Police Department, several months after a neighbor called cops on her while she was catching lanternflies. Toni Yates has the story.

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (WABC) -- A little girl was honored on Friday, several months after a neighbor called police on her while she was innocently catching spotted lanternflies outside her home.

What started out as a frightening encounter for 9-year-old Bobbi Wilson, led to a lot of good. A hero's celebration, in fact!

"I just want you to know, that I am you, I see you, I represent you," Montclair Police Officer Erica Peterson said.

"You're remarkable, you're resilient. I'm in awe or the way you handled this entire situation," Montclair Police Chief Todd Conforti said.

It was back in October when Wilson was out in her hometown of Caldwell, spraying lanternflies with a homemade solution, when a neighbor called police and reported the child.

A Caldwell officer arrived and realized this was a little girl and was no threat to anyone or anything except for lanternflies. But the incident frightened her and her mother Monique Wilson, who made the story public.

"To hear my neighbor using triggering words that have resulted in the death of too many Black and Brown children and adults at the hands of police," Monique Wilson said.

Support poured in from an extended community for Wilson and her family.

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"Bobbi, I just want to commend you for everything you have done and taught us and taught me," New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said.

The 9-year-old was celebrated by a host of community members and friends who filled the lobby at the police station.

"I'm excited," she said. "Thank you."

Her mother thanked everyone that the incident did not leave her family standing alone.

"I wanted it to be a teachable moment for my community," Monique Wilson said. "I'm grateful I have Bobbi every night."

Bobbi Wilson may soon have a special guest at home.

"I need the solution formula for my 4-year-old who asked me to get it when I told her we were doing this," Platkin said.


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