Four men accused of participating in the fatal shooting of Philadelphia Police Cpl. James O’Connor IV were held for trial Wednesday on charges including murder, conspiracy, attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, and weapons offenses.
The decision by Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon marked the belated end to a preliminary hearing for the alleged gunman, Hassan Elliott, 22, and his alleged coconspirators, Bilal Mitchell, 20, Khalif Sears, 19, and Sherman Easterling, 25. Last month, their hearing was cut short when one of the defense attorneys went into labor inside the courtroom.
Police have said the four men were holed up inside a second-floor Frankford apartment in March when O’Connor and a team of SWAT officers climbed the stairs to arrest Elliott on a murder warrant for a 2019 killing. Elliott began firing through the walls, police said, striking O’Connor.
O’Connor was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Last month, prosecutors presented two days’ worth of testimony to bolster that account, saying Elliott had bragged of the shooting in jail and scrawled O’Connor’s name on the wall of his cell. In addition to facing murder charges in O’Connor’s killing, Elliott has been charged with committing two other unrelated homicides in Frankford.
Mitchell also faces murder charges in O’Connor’s death under the conspiracy act. DeLeon dismissed murder charges against Sears for lack of evidence, according to court records.
Still, he and Mitchell — who prosecutors have said were part of a violent street gang with Elliott — will be tried on several counts of attempted murder of a police officer, and a host of related crimes, for their alleged roles. Easterling, meanwhile, faces gun charges for allegedly being inside the apartment, which was filled with guns and drugs, during the shooting.
The son of a city police officer, O’Connor — who was posthumously promoted to sergeant — is survived by his wife, Terri, and two children, James, also a city police officer, and Kelsey, who serves in the Air Force.