Slain Philly SWAT officer receives highest honors at funeral

Cpl. James O'Connor
Photo credit Philadelphia Police Department
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Two months after Philadelphia Police Sgt. James O’Connor was shot and killed inside a Frankford house while serving a homicide warrant, the SWAT officer was laid to rest.  

During her eulogy Friday morning, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw posthumously awarded O’Connor the department’s highest honors — the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart and the Sgt. Robert Wilson III Medal of Valor — honoring the 46-year-old for his heroism on March 13.

“Jimmy spent the last 15 years working as a SWAT officer,” said Outlaw. “He worked to uphold the law, working with teams to keep people from hurting themselves, to rescue people held captive by someone threatening to harm them, to defuse potentially explosive situations, and prevent harm from coming our way. His service has been nothing shy of heroic.”

O’Connor’s son, James Jr., who is a police officer in the 6th District, memorialized his dad as a dedicated father, husband and grandfather.

“My dad was the kind of guy that would drop anything he was doing just to help someone,” he remembered. “I never saw anyone with the amount of energy that he had.”

The funeral service was held inside Our Lady of Calvary Church along Knights Road in Northeast Philadelphia, where about a dozen family members and some fellow officers sat in the pews. 

O’Connor’s funeral service was postponed due to the coronavirus, and social distancing rules only permitted a few inside the church for the service. About 100 more stood outside to pay their respects, some wearing protective masks.

“This is not the way we wanted to say goodbye to my father,” continued O’Connor’s son. “It's just not fair. When the time is right, we will give my dad a proper sendoff.”

Mayor Jim Kenney noted how extraordinarily challenging this time has been for the family, as they had to delay the service.

“The courage and devotion you have shown during this unbelievably difficult time is a testament to Jimmy,” he said. “It is the very same courage he showed each day as he put on his uniform, left his house and carried out his sworn duty to protect the residents of our city.”

O'Connor was a corporal at the time of his death but was posthumously promoted to sergeant. 

The 23-year-veteran of the force was laid to rest in Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem.

“There is no doubt that I am a Philadelphia police officer, and Kelsey” — the slain officer’s daughter — “is an airman in the United States Air Force because of the love and support and direction that he provided,” added James O’Connor Jr.

Three men have been charged with murder in O’Connor’s death.

James O’Connor Jr. continued: “I want my dad to be remembered for who he was and how he touched each and every one of us.

“Dad, I promise I will take care of everything. You made me into the man I am today. I love you dad; until we meet again.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.