Four Men Indicted on Federal Murder Charges for Death of Philadelphia Police Sergeant James O’Connor
PHILADELPHIA (STL.News) United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that an Indictment was unsealed today charging four defendants with the murder of Philadelphia Police Corporal James “Jimmy” O’Connor, posthumously promoted to Sergeant, and related drug trafficking and firearms offenses. The defendants charged in the Indictment are Hassan Elliott, a/k/a “Haz,” age 22; Bilal Mitchell, a/k/a “Omar,” a/k/a “Walkdown,” age 20; Khalif Sears, a/k/a “Leaf,” a/k/a “Lil Leaf,” age 19; and Sherman Easterling, a/k/a “Foot,” a/k/a “Foot on da gas,” age 25, all of Philadelphia, PA.
During a news conference outside the federal courthouse, U.S. Attorney McSwain discussed the charges in the seven-count Indictment. All four defendants are charged with: murder in the course of using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime; using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime; possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking; conspiracy to distribute “crack” cocaine and marijuana; possession with the intent to distribute “crack” cocaine and marijuana; and maintaining a drug involved premises. Additionally, the Indictment charges defendants Elliott and Easterling with possession of a firearm by a felon.
The Indictment alleges that the defendants are members of a violent drug trafficking group known as “1700 Scattergood,” which operates in the Frankford section of Northeast Philadelphia. The defendants allegedly sold narcotics from a stash house they maintained where they kept an arsenal of weaponry, drugs and drug paraphernalia. On March 13, 2020, the defendants were inside the stash house property in the 1600 block of Bridge Street when Sergeant O’Connor and other members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s SWAT team arrived with arrest and search warrants. As Sergeant O’Connor and his fellow officers ascended the staircase to the second floor of the residence and announced their presence multiple times, Elliott allegedly fired a semi-automatic assault rifle 16 times, striking and killing Sergeant O’Connor.
A subsequent search of the property revealed the scope of the defendants’ alleged drug trafficking conspiracy: ten firearms, bulk and packaged “crack” cocaine, bulk and packaged marijuana, and items commonly used to package and sell narcotics, such as a scale and packaging materials.
“The murder of a police officer is one of the most agonizing things that a community can experience, and my heart goes out to the O’Connor family. Sadly, this year has already seen more shootings in Philadelphia than in any other year – ever,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “In order to address this epidemic of violence in our city, we must have the courage to tell the truth. The truth is that, as a practical matter, District Attorney Larry Krasner’s pro-violent defendant policies are what kept Hassan Elliott on the street; they put this horrible chain of events in motion; and in that sense, they are every bit as responsible for Sergeant O’Connor’s alleged murder as the defendants. While we cannot bring Sergeant O’Connor back, we can honor him by seeking justice and doing all that we can to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again.”
“This indictment shows ATF’s commitment to working with our local, state and federal partners to help diminish the violent crime that continues to plague Philadelphia,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF Philadelphia’s Filed Division. “I commend the hard work of the investigators and detectives of the Philadelphia Police Department that made these charges possible and that hopefully will prevent another potential crime or death. I also thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their guidance and work prosecuting this case.”
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum possible penalty of lifetime imprisonment. However, contained within the Indictment is a Notice of Special Findings for defendant Elliott with regard to the charge of murder while using or carrying a firearm. This Notice makes Elliott eligible for the death penalty.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Diviny and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Ashley Martin and Lauren Stram.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.