by Alex Lloyd Gross
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner filed formal murder charges against Hassan Elliott for allegedly shooting Corporal James O’Connor as the officer was preparing to arrest him for a different murder. The District Attorney said that Elliott was charged with murder in the officers death and another charge of murder for a shooting that happened last year.
“Today, the District Attorney’s Office is filing charges for the murder of Philadelphia Police Corporal James O’Connor. We have sufficient evidence to establish that Hassan Elliott, the subject of the fugitive arrest warrant, fired the bullets that killed Corporal O’Connor. We are relentlessly pursuing additional evidence to establish all of the facts, including the results of forensic testing that is under way.”
Four individuals were taken into custody following Friday’s police-involved shooting, in which approximately 21 bullets were fired on members of a SWAT team from one firearm and from behind a closed door: Hassan Elliott (DOB: 8/14/1998) of Philadelphia; Khalif Sears (DOB: 7/25/2001) of Philadelphia; Bilal Mitchell (DOB: 7/5/2000) of Philadelphia; and Sherman Easterling (DOB: 5/5/1995) of Philadelphia.
10 firearms were found in a second floor bedroom. A gun that fired the fatal shots was fired by Elliott, Krasner said. His office gave the following timeline for events.
- 6/8/2017: Elliott, then 18 years old, is arrested for drug possession and possession of a firearm without a license. During 2018 the DAO succeeds in obtaining his guilty plea and a 9–23 month sentence of incarceration plus 3 years of probation. The sentence is well within Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines and approved by the Court. He is released on parole.
- 1/29/2019: Elliott is arrested for drug possession only.
- 2/6/2019: Elliott appears in court for a violation of parole (VOP) hearing. Court grants continuance because PPD seizure analysis of substance found is not yet available. Court does not issue a detainer and instead directs him to appear in his next court date.
- 3/1/2019: Elliott appears again in court for VOP hearing. Court does not issue detainer to hold him.
- 3/1/2019: Elliott and Sears allegedly commit a robbery and murder on the 53KK block of Duffield Street.
- 3/26/2019: Following investigation by the Philadelphia Police, in which video surveillance and firearms used in the 3/1/2019 murder are presented to the DAO as evidence, the DAO approves warrants for police to locate and arrest Elliott and Sears. PPD undertakes to arrest Elliott and Sears with the warrant, but they remain at large.
- 3/26/2019: Elliott is due in court for a VOP hearing and fails to appear.
- 4/3/2019: Elliott is again due in court for a VOP hearing and fails to appear.
- 4/3/2019: Elliott fails to appear for the 1/29/2019 drug possession case. Based in part upon a notification by the U.S. Attorney’s Office from early 2018 that an arresting officer in the drug possession case has admitted to providing false testimony, and based on the U.S. Attorney’s referral of that officer to the DAO for consideration of pursuing perjury charges against the officer, DAO withdraws drug possession charges. Case is also fatally flawed because the police actions described, credible or not, violate the Fourth Amendment and will result in suppression of evidence and dismissal of the case. Elliott is still being actively sought by PPD on the murder arrest warrant approved on 3/26/2019, which is far more serious.
- 12/27/2019: Elliott allegedly commits a non-fatal shooting on the 1900 block of Bridge Street.
- 2/2/2020: A music video featuring Elliott and Sears that appears to have been filmed on the 16XX block of Bridge Street is uploaded to YouTube.
- 3/13/2020: Police Homicide Fugitive Squad and SWAT unit of six officers attempt to execute the fugitive warrant on Elliott to bring him into custody for the 2019 murder on the 16XX block of Bridge Street. Corporal O’Connor is fatally wounded during an exchange of gunfire.
“Elliott and Sears have been wanted, dangerous fugitives for nearly one year. Our police officers put the safety of the public before their own lives, and in the course of performing their duties in order to bring dangerous individuals into custody, Corporal O’Connor was lost to us forever. We all owe Corporal O’Connor and his family a debt of gratitude. Tragically, we will never be able to repay,” District Attorney Krasner said.
Sears was arraigned on Monday on charges for the March 2020 murder, and is also being held without bail. Preliminary hearings for Sears and Elliott have been scheduled for April 1st, the day the courts are scheduled to reopen following closure for the COVID-19 health emergency.
Mitchell was arraigned on Sunday on charges of Possession With Intent to Distribute (PWID) for 59 vials of crack cocaine found on his person last Friday. He is being held on $1 million bail pending the outcome of a court hearing on a DAO request that bail eligibility be revoked.
Easterling has been transported to state prison on a VOP detainer. He will be held in custody while awaiting a parole board hearing, the outcome of which could result in additional incarceration.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw promoted James O’Connor to the rank of Sergeant posthumously.