Police Officer Killed While Serving Warrant, Fugitive Arrested

March 13, 2020 Updated: March 13, 2020
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PHILADELPHIA—A Philadelphia police officer was shot and killed early Friday as he served a homicide warrant at a home, and several people were arrested, including the fugitive being sought, officials said.

Cpl. James O’Connor, 46, was shot around 5:45 a.m. in the city’s Frankford section, officials said. He was shot in the shoulder above his bulletproof vest when officers entered the home, and two people in the home were wounded by return fire from another officer, officials said.

He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

The two wounded people were stable, and their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, authorities said. Their names were not released.

Several people were arrested, including Hassan Elliott, the 21-year-old fugitive wanted in a robbery and slaying last year not far from the scene, District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office said. Elliott was not among those injured, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

Krasner’s spokeswoman, Jane Roh, said more than one person inside the house had a gun. More charges were expected Friday as investigators determine “which bullet came from which person,” she said.

“Elliott is currently in custody. We expect to bring charges for the March 2019 murder and additional charges following today’s incident shortly,” Krasner said in a statement.

Philadelphia police highway patrol officers
Philadelphia police highway patrol officers lead the procession after the body of SWAT Cpl. James O’Connor was brought to a hearse at the emergency room entrance at Temple University Hospital in North Philadelphia on March 13, 2020.

O’Connor, a married father of two from a proud police family, had been an officer for 23 years and served on the high-stakes SWAT unit for 15 years. His father retired after 40 years with the department, and his son serves on it now, the police union said. His daughter serves in the Air Force.

“There’s not a word that you can put on the level of emotion that’s being felt right now,” Outlaw, who joined the department from Portland, Oregon, just last month, said during a news conference outside the hospital. “As expected, it’s a whirlwind of emotions. These are people that leave their families, their loved ones, during holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, to protect complete strangers and to do work that’s a calling. These people are led to serve.”

Elliott had been paroled in 2018 after serving about a year on a felony gun possession charge, court records show. He was later charged with violating probation.

In April 2019, a month after the fatal robbery, a bench warrant was issued. According to Roh, it took police some time to locate him before Friday’s attempt to arrest him on the warrant.

The Defender Association of Philadelphia, which had previously represented him, declined to comment.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was “grief-stricken” and ordered city flags flown at half-staff in O’Connor’s honor.

“Today, like every day, he demonstrated the ultimate form of heroism: putting out his uniform, leaving his family and carrying out his sworn duty to protect the residents of this city,” Kenney said.

The city last had an officer slain on duty five years ago this month. More than 260 officers have been killed in the department’s history.

John McNesby, the local police union president, said SWAT team members serve warrants several times a week and never know what they’ll face. He complained that Elliott was sentenced to just nine to 23 months on the 2017 gun charge and remained free despite the apparent parole violation.

“[He] should have never been on the street,” McNesby said.