On May 31, Washington State Patrol trooper Sean O’Connell became the 12th Snohomish County law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty since 1902. More than 2,200 people attended his funeral Thursday at Comcast Arena. Here’s a look at the traditions and local history of fallen law officers.
O’Connell, 38, died after an on-duty motorcycle collision while working traffic control related to the Skagit River bridge collapse. The Marysville-area man was a 16-year veteran of the State Patrol. His family and friends described the trooper as a loving, personable man with a whacky sense of humor. He brought them joy. He was dedicated to his children and his job.
O’Connell’s memorial featured staples from civic ceremonies, including a color guard and a motorcade. Because it was a law enforcement service, it also incorporated traditions that have been used to recognize warriors since ancient times, including pipes and drums and a riderless horse, with boots placed backward in the stirrups, symbolizing the journey away from loved ones.
The State Patrol sought to explain the meaning behind some of the ways they sought to honor O’Connell.
The fallen trooper and his casket were placed under ceremonial guard from the time of his death and that watch was maintained through the service, patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said.
His family was accompanied into the event through a Cordon of Honor. The ranks of uniformed officers were there to show respect, but also to provide a measure of privacy for mourners during a difficult time.
A key part of the service, unique to the State Patrol, was attaching a gold streamer with O’Connell’s name to the agency flag.
In lieu of a 21-gun salute, another military tradition, the indoor service featured a bell being rung 21 times. Near the end of the ceremony a final radio call was broadcast, using O’Connell’s radio number, “Mary 1076.” It went unanswered.
O’Connell joins 12 men and one woman from Snohomish County, each honored at the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial.
Snohomish County’s other fallen officersJuly 5, 1902 — Everett police detective Charles Raymond was ambushed near Bothell. He was helping the sheriff’s office hunt Harry Tracy, an escaped convict from Oregon. Tracy reportedly killed a half-dozen lawmen before being brought down near Spokane. Raymond was described in a local news account as “one of the most efficient officers of the Everett force.”
Nov. 5, 1916 — Jefferson Beard and Charles O. Curtiss were fatally shot in the gun battle known as the Everett Massacre. Both had been deputized by then-Sheriff Donald McRae to repel a boatload of labor protesters from Seattle. Beard had worked in law enforcement; it’s less clear for Curtiss (whose name is spelled differently in some accounts).
Nov. 23, 1920 — Jack Fox, an Everett police detective, was fatally shot on Colby Avenue while trying to arrest a robber.
March 2, 1927 — Percy Z. Brewster, Sultan’s town marshal, was fatally shot while placing an inmate in the town jail. Edward Sickles was convicted and sentenced to hang. He escaped from the county jail, and a posse tracked him to a shack near Granite Falls. He died from multiple gunshots.
Dec. 29, 1960 — State trooper Wesley H. Whittenberg was fatally struck by a car while directing traffic around a crash along Highway 99 at the Stillaguamish River.
Feb. 5, 1966 — Marysville police officer William D. Arndt was fatally shot by a troubled 17-year-old boy.
Dec. 18, 1984 — Seattle police officer Nicholas Davis was fatally shot when he confronted a man who left a restaurant without paying. Davis lived in Snohomish County.
Aug. 15, 1994 — Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Kinard was ambushed by an ex-con, who minutes earlier had killed a blind man. Charles Finch was sentenced to die but won a new sentencing trial on appeal. He later died from a fatal jump at the county jail.
July 15, 1999 — Everett police officer Brian DiBucci fell from the U.S. 2 trestle while assisting in a felony traffic stop.
Sept. 12, 2006 — Brier officer Edwanton “Eddie” Thomas died from a heart attack while struggling with a man who was having a diabetic reaction.
Oct. 31, 2009 — Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was ambushed in his patrol car. He lived in Marysville.
Jan. 29, 2011 — Corrections officer Jayme Biendl was strangled at her post in the chapel of the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe. Her killer has been sentenced to death.
Note: This post has been updated to include information about the line-of-duty deaths of two Seattle police officers who lived in Snohomish County.