PERFORMANCE OF DUTY DEATHS
Roll Call of all Performance of Duty Deaths. A Performance of Duty Death is classified as the death of a sworn member who dies while on or off duty and such death results from a condition, injury, or illness that was not directly related to the member’s performance as a law enforcement officer.
Patrolman James E. O’Connell
Patrolman James E. O'Connell, Star #9524, aged 46 years, was a 22 year, 0 month, 4 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 19th District - Belmont.
On January 21, 1978, at 3:00 a.m., Officer O'Connell was working the first watch with his partner, Patrolman James Lucchesi, on beat 1973. The officers were assigned by the Communications Operations Section (COS) to handle a “Disturbance on the Street” with three men at Roscoe Street and Wolcott Avenue. Upon arrival the officers observed two men scuffling on the street trying to hold Butch Holzner, age 23, of 3201 North Clark Street, down. The men were trying to prevent him from driving as he was intoxicated. The officers tried to calm the situation but Holzner began to fight with them. Holzner struck Officer O’Connell in the chest two to three times. After several minutes of struggling with Holzner the officers were able to gain control and place him in cuffs. Holzner was arrested for Disorderly Conduct and transported to the 19th District for processing. After turning him over to lockup Officer O’Connell’s partner noticed he was pale and perspiring profusely. Officer O’Connell also told his partner that he had discomfort in his left shoulder. Thinking nothing of it, the officers’ cleared their assignment and shortly thereafter received another assignment from COS. They were assigned to a prisoner transport at 1911 West Melrose Street for beat 1933. Upon arrival they loaded two brothers, James E. Forsyth, age 20 and Wayne S. Forsyth, age 19, both of 1911 West Melrose into their squadrol. The arrestees, still unruly after fighting with the arresting officers, required a minimum use of force to get them into the squadrol. After transporting the two to the 19th District Officer Lucchesi noticed that his partner was still pale and now having shortness of breath. He asked him if he was okay, and he replied, “I’ll be alright.” Officer Lucchesi, concerned for his partners health, drove to Illinois Masonic Medical Center where Officer O’Connor entered the ER for help. Officer Lucchesi then notified their Supervisor, beat 1940, Sergeant Mead.
Officer O’Connell was examined and it was learned through tests that he needed a quadruple bypass surgery but was in too fragile a state to have it at that time. Officer O’Connell’s surgery was postponed and scheduled for a later date. On May 20, 1978, Officer O’Connell underwent the surgery, but due to complications he died shortly after the surgery began. He was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m. on May 20, 1978. His death was determined to be caused from cardio-respiratory arrest due to severe coronary artery disease and mitral regurgitation.
Following Officer O’Connell’s death the Police Department ruled that his death was not a result of Performance of Duty. However, on September 22, 1978, the Chicago Policeman’s Annuity and Benefit Fund ruled that Officer O’Connell died in the line of duty. On October 2, 1978, The Director of Public & Internal Information Division, Tina Vicini, was directed by Superintendent James E. O’Grady to respond to Mrs. O’Connell’s attorney. The letter clarified the Department’s decision and informed the attorney that the Department’s previous determination would be upheld.
Officer O'Connell was waked at Thomas J. Cooney Funeral Home located at 3552 North Southport Avenue and he was laid to rest on May 23, 1978 in St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery, 6800 North Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, Illinois.
Patrolman James E. O'Connell, born May 8, 1932, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on May 16, 1956.
Officer O'Connell served in the Armed Forces, was a veteran of the Korean War and was Honorably Discharged. He was also a member of the Chicago Police Officers Local 1975, Diversey Post No. 869 American Legion and the St. Jude Police League. Officer O'Connell was survived by his wife, Catherine (nee Kinane), age 43; children: Kathleen, age 16 and Kevin, age 20; parents: Alma (nee Nichols) and Daniel and siblings: Daniel, Shirley and Steve.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department RD #Z023558 Damage to Property Report.