Manassas Journal Messenger | Honoring the fallen

Darrell Mullins was sitting on his motorcycle 15 years ago when he got the news that his friend, Sgt. John David Connor III, had been shot in Manassas.

Mullins said he remembers the day.

“I was out on my personal motorcycle with two other officers — as a matter of fact it was in Quantico, right at the Joplin Road and the Route 1 intersection. I had my pager with me,” the retired Manassas Police Department lieutenant said. Mullins spoke during a wreath laying ceremony Thursday at Quantico National Cemetery.

Every officer in the Manassas Police Department went to work and then to Fairfax Hospital when they heard the news, Mullins said.

“We all responded to the police station. We rushed his mother over to the hospital so she could see him in his last few minutes,” said Mullins, who came to the ceremony from his home in Warrenton.

“It was just sad,” he said.

In the early evening of July 24, a Sunday in 1988, Connor answered a call of shots fired behind some town houses on Laurelwood Court where he found Roy Bruce Smith armed with a semi-automatic rifle.

Connor ordered Smith to drop his weapon, but Smith opened fire and shot Connor numerous times, said Sgt. Bill Goodman of the Manassas police.

Connor was initially taken to Prince William Hospital in an ambulance and then flown to Fairfax Hospital where he died early the next day, according to Goodman.

Smith was tried and convicted for killing Connor and executed by lethal injection in 1998, Goodman said.

Connor and Mullins were friends as well as motorcycle officers with the department. Connor was promoted and had to leave the motor squad.

“John and I were similar in our lives. We both had four kids and we were both from southwest Virginia. We planted vegetable gardens together and our children were within months apart. We had so much in common,” Mullins said.

“I was happy he’d just gotten promoted,” Mullins said.

Connor is the only officer of the Manassas department to be killed in the line of duty.

Manassas Police Chief John J. Skinner spoke at the ceremony surrounded by police officers wearing dress blue uniforms with red piping.

“We are all constantly reminded of John on a daily basis and we will never forget his ultimate, untimely, valorous and heroic sacrifice,” Skinner said.

“Sgt. John Connor, you are a fallen hero. You will always be in our prayers, in our thoughts. I salute you and may God bless you,” Skinner said.

Pastor John Hall of Buckhall United Methodist Church concluded the brief ceremony

“We thank you for John Connor,” Hall prayed, “We thank you for the service of all officers. We pray your blessings on all of them and all the people they serve, Amen.”

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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