Contributing Writers: Giuseppe Reategui, Andrea Lopez, Gilberto Martinez and Theresa Coates Ellis | Images: CCN —
On July 24, 1988, Sergeant John D. Conner, III was killed in the line of duty. Conner was shot three times and later died after responding to a report of a man shooting bullets into the air, according to his Officer Down Memorial page. The suspect, Roy Bruce Smith, was shot in the foot and survived, but was later sentenced to death and was executed nine-years later.
Twenty seven years later, Sergeant Conner is remembered. On Friday, the Manassas City Police Association held a morning wreath laying ceremony at the Manassas City Police Department (MCPD) followed by a scholarship presentation, an employee appreciation luncheon, a running event and an evening wreath ceremony at Quantico National Cemetery.
The MCPD’s Honor Guard presented the wreath of white carnations, red roses and bluebells at the Police Department as bagpipes were played in the background. Officer Thomas J. Rodriquez placed the wreath in front of a portrait of Sergeant Conner.
Chief Douglas Keen spoke about the tragic 1988 event and later said, “Sergeant Conner was the only officer in the history of Manassas that was killed in the line of duty.”
The Manassas City Police Association Charitable Foundation (MCPACF) hosted the Sergeant John D. Conner, III Memorial Scholarship. Each scholarship winner received $500 dollars. The Foundation was proud to announce that they have donated $100,000 in scholarships during the past years. The scholarships are funded by local business and private donations. Officer Rodriquez, Immediate Past President, played an emotional video called, “Daddy’s Last Parade,” in honor of Sergeant Conner.
The scholarships were presented by Chief Keen and Officer Rodriquez. The recipients included: Brandon F. Jordan, Kathleen E. Larkin, Alexandra L. Southard and Brianna R. Tines.
The employee appreciation luncheon was catered by The Bone at the Harris Pavilion. During the buffet that included burgers, hot dogs and potato salad, Officer Rodriquez shared his summer experiences with MCPACF’s Team Summer Quest, an activity program for 35-40 at-risk youths. Every week, Officer Rodriguez takes a group on a day trip to teach and enrich them.
Team Summer Quest is designed to provide at-risk youth with “learning through experiences” outside their social and economic boundaries. The youth ages range from 13 to 17.
Some of the events include a visit to the Twilight Tattoo showcase, a live-action military pageant featuring Soldiers from The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). They also went to Jammin’ Java, a cafe and music hall, where they had the opportunity to attend a free concert and learn about instruments. Their next trip is to a local cross-fit facility where they will learn about health and nutrition.
Following the luncheon, participants ran in a Manassas City event to honor Sergeant Connor.
The final evening ceremony was held at Quantico National Cemetery. The wreath was presented and displayed at Sergeant Conner’s gravesite with some words of reflection by Ingrid Vance, Sergeant Conner’s sister, and Lieutenant Steve Neely.
Ms. Vance said, “For years, I had anonymously contributed a blue rose at the Quantico ceremony — blue representing the police department and the rose as a symbol for love — I miss my brother every day.”
Now Virginia bluebells and red roses decorate the wreath placed where her brother rests in peace.
Sergeant John D. Conner legacy is known as the ultimate sacrifice. He will continue to be honored and remembered for his bravery.