Rookie police officer from Leet dies of pulmonary embolism
Zachary John O'Neill had been a police officer for four months, but his work ethic proved to be far greater than most rookies.
A part-time officer in Leetsdale and Leet Township, O'Neill would have turned 21 on July 4. He died June 23 after suffering a pulmonary embolism, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office.
“He was beyond his time,” Leetsdale police Chief James Santucci said. “He was an adult in so many ways, but in age, still 20.
“It was almost like I had a veteran cop with him around.”
Santucci said he watched O'Neill grow up from his days as a member of the Quaker Valley High School football team.
O'Neill, of Leet, worked as a summer camp counselor at Henle Park for the borough recreation department's youth programming.
He also spent time as a Leetsdale road crew worker.
“He knows the streets and 90 percent of the people here,” Santucci said of Mr. O'Neill.
A 2010 Quaker Valley graduate, O'Neill first attended Robert Morris University in Moon Township before entering the police academy, Santucci said. He was hired as a part-time officer for Leet and Leetsdale after graduation.
Gianni Floro, a Quaker Valley School Board member, knew O'Neill and said he was “deeply saddened” by his death.
“He was wonderful to watch on the football field, and I would often seem him running around the neighborhood as he trained for the seasons,” Floro said. “You get to watch and see how these kids come up, and Zach followed closely in his brother's footsteps — from the field to the classroom. Sometimes younger siblings amplify the success of their siblings, and that was the case in Zach's case.”
O'Neill had just completed a shift in Leet and woke up on the next Sunday morning in pain, Santucci said. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
Leetsdale police officers will honor O'Neill during the Fourth of July parade through the borough with a memorial sticker, Santucci said.
O'Neill was the son of Daniel P. and Sue Grace Ervin O'Neill; grandson of the late John J. Sr. and Mildred Kerr O'Neill and Russell and Ruth Ervin; and brother of Nicholas Russell O'Neill.
Memorial contributions are being accepted in Mr. O'Neill's name to the Western Pennsylvania Police Benevolent Foundation at www.wppbf.org.
Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Bobby Cherry to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.