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A solemn farewell to Police Sgt. O’Connor

A Philadelphia Police Department armored vehicle carrying the body of slain SWAT Sgt. James O’Connor IV turns on Knights Road en route to Resurrection Cemetery.
James O’Connor IV

Police Officer James O’Connor V described his dad as a family man and hard worker who loved life and would drop anything to help somebody.

James O’Connor IV, of Millbrook, was a police corporal in SWAT when he was shot to death on March 13 as he was serving a fugitive murder arrest warrant at 1688 Bridge St. in Frankford. That fugitive, Hassan Elliott, is charged in O’Connor’s killing.

The coronavirus caused an eight-week delay in O’Connor’s funeral. A Mass was celebrated on Friday morning at Our Lady of Calvary Church. A small number of family members and colleagues attended, as the pandemic continues. O’Connor, posthumously promoted to sergeant, was buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem.

O’Connor V, who is assigned to the 6th Police District, said his dad – a hunter and Realtor who performed electrical work on the side and had a “guy” for everything – will eventually have a proper sendoff.

“Dad, I promise that I will take care of everything. You made me into the man I am today. You will be missed by so many and will never be forgotten. I love you, dad. Until we meet again,” he said in a eulogy before the Mass started.

O’Connor is also survived by his wife, Terri; daughter Kelsey, who is in the Air Force; and 7-month-old granddaughter Callie.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 has established a fund in O’Connor’s memory. Donations can be mailed to Philadelphia Police and Fire Federal Credit Union, 901 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.

O’Connor was a member of the police department for 23 years, including 15 in SWAT.

After he and members of his squad entered the Bridge Street home, about 21 bullets were fired on them from a single firearm from behind a closed door on the second floor.

Evidence showed that Elliott, 21, was the one who fired the bullets. The arrest warrant for him had been for a 2019 murder.

The funeral Mass was celebrated by the Rev. John Babowitch, pastor at Our Lady of Calvary. Babowitch said O’Connor learned the police motto of honor, integrity and service growing up in Kensington and Visitation Parish and attending North Catholic High School. The pastor said he was heartened to see signs of “8162” – the slain officer’s badge number – across the Northeast, adding that Jesus has already told O’Connor, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Others in attendance included FOP president John McNesby and chaplain, the Rev. Steve Wetzel.

Mayor Jim Kenney said the city owes O’Connor a debt of gratitude and will never forget him.

“May God bless the entire O’Connor family,” he said.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said service was in O’Connor’s DNA, as his dad is a retired longtime member of the police department; his son and daughter-in-law, Nicole, are police officers; his daughter is in the military; and cousins are cops and dispatchers.

“We grieve his loss and celebrate his gifts to us,” she said.

Archbishop Nelson Perez addressed the O’Connor family at the end of Mass, recalling the words of St. John Chrysostom, who said, “Those we loved and lost and are no longer with us are now with us wherever we are.”

After the cantor sang an Irish blessing and the recessional hymn, a long caravan of police vehicles passed by Knights Road and Chalfont Drive, where a large group of people, many wearing blue SWAT hoodies, waved American flags and held signs. The caravan passed by O’Connor’s house before the trip to the cemetery. ••

A Philadelphia Police Department armored vehicle carrying the body of SWAT Sgt. James O’Connor IV passes through the intersection of Knights Road and Chalfont Drive.
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