I was 17 years old when Officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a vehicle driven by William Cook. It was in the wee morning hours of December 9th, 1981. An altercation between Faulkner and Cook ensued, and Faulkner was able to call for back-up. During the altercation, Cook’s brother Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook) ran up and shot Officer Faulkner in the back. Officer Faulkner returned fire, injuring Abu-Jamal with a single shot to the chest. Abu-Jamal shot four more times at Officer Faulkner, hitting him at close range in the face. Abu-Jamal was found at the scene, in possession of the gun, which was registered to him. Eye witnesses identified Abu-Jamal as the man who shot Officer Faulkner, and at the hospital where he was taken for the treatment of his injury, Abu-Jamal allegedly confessed to shooting Officer Faulkner.
Officer Daniel Faulkner, a five year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, and husband of just one year to his beloved wife, Maureen, was dead. Murdered in cold blood, at point blank range by a man who now nearly 26 years later sits in prison, requesting a new trial, supported by such Hollywood notables as Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, and Edward Asner.
Today, I sat and watched for nearly 2 hours the funeral Mass of Officer Chuck Cassidy. Officer Cassidy, a 25 year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Force, married father to two beautiful daughters and a strapping young son, walked in on a robbery in progress at a Dunkin Donuts in the city. The suspect, John Lewis, shot Officer Cassidy from within 5 feet, the bullet entering Officer Cassidy’s brain. He died a day later at Einstein Medical Center. I shed more than a tear or two as the homily recounted the wonderful deeds this man had done for the people of the city of Philadelphia, friends, and family alike. I cried during the eulogy, when his brother-in-law looked toward humor to keep from breaking down himself in the face of the tragic loss. And as the casket was closed into the hearse outside the Basilica, I cried again as the pall bearers, one by one, broke down, fell into each other’s arms, and cried their eyes out. It broke my heart.
But I have to wonder. As 21 year old John Lewis gets ready for his return trip to Philadelphia from Miami, where he fled to avoid the manhunt being conducted in Philadelphia, how long until some Hollywood celebrity or bigwig politician comes to his defense? How long until someone tries to make Chuck Cassidy’s life seem insignificant when compared to the obstacles poor John Lewis had to face growing up? How many years will John Lewis live in the prison, off of the tax dollars being paid by Judy Cassidy and the other members of Officer Cassidy’s family? How soon will the name of Chuck Cassidy be replaced in the news with another police officer, victim of another poor, lost soul like John Cassidy?
This was a sad day for the city of Philadelphia and the men in women in blue. But it’s not going to be the last sad day. Until we stop giving people a pass because their mom was a crack addict and their dad did a disappearing act before they were born, there will be a lot of sad days in Philadelphia and everywhere else. We all face obstacles. Daniel Faulkner faced obstacles. Chuck Cassidy faced obstacles. The children of Chuck Cassidy will face obstacles. Life doesn’t hand many of us a ticket for a free ride. It’s time to make sure someone pays for the crimes they commit. Lets see how many Hollywood celebrities take a stand for the death penalty when John Lewis is found guilty of this murder. I’ll bet there won’t be any. There’s not much publicity in rooting for the good guys.