By Julie Shaw and Chris Palmer The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
Mar 16, 2020 Updated Mar 16, 2020
PHILADELPHIA — U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain issued a sternly worded statement Monday contending that Friday’s murder of Cpl. James O’Connor IV in Frankford “was the direct result of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s pro-violent defendant policies.”
The lengthy statement was the latest salvo in an ongoing feud between the region’s top prosecutors, and the most recent example of McSwain criticizing Krasner’s policies after a high-profile crime.
O’Connor, 46, was part of a Philadelphia Police SWAT team trying to serve a predawn arrest warrant on Hassan Elliott, 21, for a March 2019 killing. The cops were met by gunfire through a closed second-floor door of a rowhouse on Bridge Street. O’Connor, struck in an arm and shoulder, was declared dead a half-hour later.
In his statement, McSwain, the top federal law enforcement official in Philadelphia, contended that Krasner’s policies, which have sought to decrease the city’s incarceration levels, “put dangerous criminals like Elliott on the street.” Calling Elliott a known “gang-banger,” McSwain criticized Krasner’s office for not seeking to more aggressively prosecute him over a drug-possession case that was still open when Elliott allegedly committed the March 2019 killing.
Police have said six people were in the Frankford rowhouse Friday, including Elliott and a second suspect in the March 2019 slaying, Khalif Sears, 18. O’Connor’s colleagues returned fire, and two people behind the door were wounded, including Sears. Investigators found at least nine firearms and drugs in the house.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, no charges had been filed in the shooting of O’Connor as authorities continued to sort out the incident.
McSwain and Krasner — who took office in January 2018 — have frequently clashed, with McSwain accusing Krasner of endangering public safety, and Krasner, a Democrat, brushing off the attacks and blasting the Republican McSwain as an appointee of President Trump.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 President John McNesby also has criticized Krasner, saying his policies led to the killing of O’Connor. “Unfortunately, he’s murdered by somebody that should have never been on the street,” McNesby said.
McNesby also said FOP members and police officers formed a human barricade to block Krasner from entering the hospital Friday to see O’Connor’s family.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, March 16, 2020
Statement of U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain Regarding the Murder of Philadelphia Police Corporal James O’Connor
The Murder Was the Direct Result of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Pro-Violent Defendant Policies
PHILADELPHIA – Last Friday, Philadelphia Police Corporal and SWAT team member, James O’Connor, a proud 23-year veteran of the Department from a family of police officers, was gunned down in the City’s Frankford section while trying to arrest Hassan Elliott, who was wanted for murder. Elliott was on the street for one reason: because of District Attorney Krasner’s pro-violent defendant policies. Those policies – which include permissive bail conditions for violent offenders, failing to pursue serious probation and parole violations by violent criminals, offering lenient plea deals for violent offenses, and outright withdrawing cases against violent felons – put dangerous criminals like Elliott on the street.
All Philadelphians have been living with the negative, and often tragic, consequences of these policies for the 2+ years that the City has had to endure the Krasner regime. But now those consequences could not be clearer. Corporal O’Connor’s widow, his children, his brothers and sisters in law enforcement, and the entire City deserve to know why he died.
Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner on Radical Path to Remake Criminal Justice System By Steve Volk On 10/31/18 at 6:00 AM EDT Krasner is part of a national movement to end mass incarceration.
Even in liberal Philly, the existence of Krasner’s candidacy set off a political earthquake. A career defense attorney, he never prosecuted a case in his life. And within the world of Philadelphia’s celebrity defense bar, he was never among the first rank. He wasn’t a go-to guy for the city’s mob, nor did he spend decades pulling down headlines, trying the city’s most sensational homicide cases.
Instead, when protesters from Occupy Philadelphia and Black Lives Matter got arrested, he defended them. And he sued the police department at least 75 times for civil rights violations. He’d enjoyed a career, he liked to joke, that rendered him completely “unelectable.”