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By Jim Steinberg, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 06/14/16 – 1:31 PM PDT |

RIALTO >> “Everybody makes a difference.”

That was the mantra Rialto City Councilman and former police sergeant Shawn O’Connell lived by, family and friends said Tuesday.

Before age 21, O’Connell had lost both his twin brother, Scott, and his mother, to separate accidents involving drunken drivers.

Those painful losses likely shaped the Shawn O’Connell, who would later leave his Massachusetts home and become a police officer in Southern California, Laurie O’Connell, one of his four sisters, said during a memorial service Tuesday at Sunrise Church Rialto.

O’Connell, 48, was found dead from a medical issue June 5 in Loma Linda, according to Rialto police officials. There were no signs of foul play.

During the service, Laurie O’Connell recalled that as her brother Shawn — five years her junior — sat in the limousine on the way back from his mother’s funeral, he said: “‘I didn’t know mom had impacted so many lives.’”

Because she had been a Massachusetts School Committee member, several thousand attended her funeral, Laurie O’Connell said.

It was a turning point. Soon afterward, at age 20, Shawn O’Connell began his “life-altering quest to become a police officer,” Laurie O’Connell said to the about 1,000 people gathered for the memorial service.

Shawn O’Connell joined the Rialto Police Department in 1996 and was named Officer of the Year two years later, according to his obituary.

He was promoted to corporal in 1999 and became a member of the department’s SWAT/Crisis Negotiating Team and Bike Patrol Team.

In early 2001, he was promoted to sergeant, a rank that takes most eight to 10 years to reach, Rialto police Chief Randy DeAnda has said.

“Shawn was an adventure-seeker. He always drove himself to try new and exciting things,” said Kathy Bantley, wife of sister Kelly O’Connell.

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