Two more charged in officer’s killing

Sgt. James O’Connor IV

New charges have been filed in the killing of Philadelphia Police Sgt. James O’Connor, who was shot last month while serving an arrest warrant in Frankford.

Bilal Mitchell, 20, and Khalif Sears, 19, were charged Friday with O’Connor’s murder, joining Hassan Elliot, who investigators believe was the shooter. Elliot, 21, was charged several days after O’Connor’s death.

Mitchell, Sears and Elliot have also all been charged with seven counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

Four men were inside a second-floor bedroom when officers on March 13 raided a house at 1688 Bridge St. looking for Elliot, who was wanted on a homicide warrant. Authorities say Elliot, armed with a 22-caliber assault rifle, fired 21 shots through a closed door, hitting O’Connor twice.

Anthony Voci, who leads the District Attorney’s Homicide Unit, said Elliot, Sears and Mitchell were members of a violent street gang responsible for a wide range of criminal activity.

They helped shield Elliot and Sears, who were both on the run for more than a year as suspects in the March 2019 robbery and killing of Tyree Tyrone in Frankford, he said. The pair have been charged with Tyrone’s murder, and Elliot was also charged in an additional non-fatal shooting in Frankford.

Sears and Mitchell are being charged in the case because their cooperation played a role in O’Connor’s death, Voci said.

Mitchell was arrested not long before the shooting, on Feb. 6, on suspected gun-and-drug-related offenses but released after posting 10 percent of his $25,000 bail, according to court records.

The fourth man in the bedroom, Sherman Easterling, 24, is in state custody for a parole violation, Voci said. He’s also been issued a warrant for weapons offenses, which is pending due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the DA’s Office.

Voci said the investigation isn’t over. O’Connor, 46, was the first Philadelphia officer killed by a suspect in the line of duty since 2015.

In other police news…

Mother charged in boy’s death

A Kensington woman has been charged with murder after allegedly beating her 7-year-old son to death, District Attorney Larry Krasner said Friday.

Natasha Franks PHOTO: Philadelphia Police

Tazmir Ransom was rushed to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children just before 7 p.m. on April 12 with severe injuries and difficulty breathing, police said. He died Wednesday, according to authorities.

His biological mother, Natasha Franks, 26, of the 2000 block of Clarence Street, was arrested April 13 and charged with homicide following his death.

“These are times when we have real concerns about domestic violence and about what happens when people are sequestered in the home and under all kinds of stress,” Krasner told reporters.

Voci said Franks gained custody of Tazmir in September, and the family has a history with the Department of Human Services, though it’s unclear if those reports are related to her or another caregiver.

Investigation continues in SEPTA bus shooting

Krasner warned reporters and the public not to jump to conclusions about a man who shot three teenage boys early Thursday morning on a SEPTA bus in Northeast Philly.

The shooter, a 24-year-old security guard at the University of Pennsylvania, told police he opened fire on the group in self-defense after they attacked him. The incident occurred just after 1 a.m. on the Route 58 bus, which was on the 7200 block of Bustleton Avenue, authorities said.

Officers rushed the teenagers, ages 15, 16 and 17, to the hospital. All of three of them were shot below the waist and listed in stable condition, according to police.

Krasner said investigators are reviewing the shooting, which was caught on tape, and the man’s statement to police following the incident.

“This will take a little bit of time,” he said Friday.

No charges had been filed as of Sunday.

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