Hundreds Honor Slain Septa Officer

Posted: March 17, 1989

Sgt. Thomas Sewell, the first SEPTA police officer to be killed in the line of duty, was honored yesterday by hundreds of uniformed officers who lined the

entrance to St. Laurence Church in Upper Darby in a tribute to their slain brother.

The 143-member SEPTA police department was joined by hundreds of officers

from four states in saluting Sewell, a seven-year veteran of the SEPTA force.

Sewell, 31, was remembered by fellow officers as a quiet and meticulous man, a caring person who did everything by the book.

He was stabbed to death early Sunday while investigating a prowler at the SEPTA bus parking lot on Victory Avenue in Upper Darby. In the struggle, Sewell shot to death his attacker.

"He was an outstanding officer," SEPTA police Chief Howard Patton said after the service. "He was impeccable in his appearance, and professional in his demeanor and mannerisms. We hope our police officers would try to emulate him."

"Tom chose his career of service with care, and he loved his calling," the Rev. Harry White of St. James Episcopal Church in Prospect Park told the mourners during the eulogy. And risk and vulnerability are an integral part of that calling, Mr. White said.

"Ever since I've known him, he wanted to be a police officer," Sewell's brother-in-law, William Sides, a lieutenant with the Upper Darby Police Department, said earlier this week. "His job and his wife were the two most important things in his life."

Sewell married Jeanne Sides, his high school sweetheart, in 1981, and they spent much of their free time working on a home they bought in Drexel Hill last year. They had no children.

Before joining the force, Sewell was a car mechanic, and relatives said he had been working on a car before heading to work for Sunday's midnight shift.

Yesterday, the Independent Brotherhood of Transit Police, Local 191, presented a plaque to Sewell's wife at the Donohue Funeral Home in Upper Darby. The union praised Sewell for his "high ideals, courage and insight."

"It's always the best that go," said James Howard, a former SEPTA police officer. "He was a fantastic guy. If you got in a bad situation, there was nobody better."

Sewell earned the nickname "Tight Tommy" because he was a stickler for procedures, said Cpl. Louis Dachowski. "He always had the correct and proper


"He broke me in when I was a rookie," Officer William Holmes said. "You couldn't meet a more beautiful human being. He was a true professional."

After the funeral, a stream of police cars with flashing red lights led the way to Valley Forge Memorial Gardens. About 200 police departments from Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington, D.C, were represented in the mile-and-a-half-long procession.

Three volleys of shots broke the silence at the cemetery and taps played softly as Sewell's family and fellow officers gathered around the casket.

The flag held over the coffin was presented to Jeanne Sewell, who was comforted by her older brother, Leo Sides, an Upper Darby officer.

"I walked in her shoes three years ago," Pamela Gleason, the wife of a Philadelphia officer who was slain in 1986, said after the service.

Killings of police officers are rarely associated with suburban life, Gleason said, but she noted that five months ago, a service was held for Edward Setzer, the first Lower Merion police officer to be killed in the line of duty in 64 years.

"It just keeps happening," she said.

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