Sandy City Mourns Unexpected Death Of Police Chief Bill O’Neal
Jan 13, 2020, 6:12 PM | Updated: 7:19 pm
SANDY, Utah – Sandy City was mourning the passing of Police Chief Bill O’Neal, who died unexpectedly Sunday afternoon.
The Utah Fraternal Order of Police reported 48-year-old O’Neal had died from a heart attack.
Flags flew all around Sandy City Hall on Monday and the police department in memory of O’Neal.
His closest friends said his legacy will live on for a long time to come.
“You don’t see cops cry a lot, but there were a lot of tears today,” said Sergeant Jason Nielsen with the Sandy City Police Department.
Nielsen said O’Neal was the type of guy everybody respected and maybe, more importantly, the type of guy everybody liked.
“If I were to go into the fires of hell I would follow him because I know he would bring me back,” said Nielsen.
This year would have marked O’Neal’s 25th year with the Sandy City Police Department.
He rose through the ranks from officer to sergeant, captain, and later, deputy chief, before becoming chief in 2018.
“He’s an icon of the police department,” Nielsen said.
Troy Rasmussen worked alongside O’Neal for 14 years. The two have been good friends for 25 years.
“I would just call him for advice,” Rasmussen said. “He was just that type of friend. Always there to lend an ear. Yeah, he’ll be missed.”
Rasmussen said O’Neal’s first priority was his family, especially his three children.
His profession was a close second.
“I think his compassion and his instant likability made him a great chief,” Rasmussen said. “He just would connect with people whether it was somebody he just met or a good friend, he would just connect.”
Rasmussen and O’Neal were two of the officers who found Elizabeth Smart in 2003 while she was walking along State Street with her captors.
“It’s always a big day when you save somebody’s life,” Rasmussen said.
Elizabeth’s rescue stuck with O’Neal from that moment on.
“Being able to rescue her was a monumental thing in our careers,” O’Neal said during an interview in 2013. “When she was talking I could see her teeth and from the fliers and the smile, I recognized her teeth. I know that sounds strange and that’s when it hit me. Wow, this is Elizabeth Smart.”
Elizabeth Smart released this statement about O’Neal, saying:
“I am profoundly grateful for the courage and bravery of the law enforcement officers, especially Chief Bill O’Neal, who responded to the call and helped rescue me almost 17 years ago. Chief O’Neal was a leader who provided tremendous service to our community for nearly 25 years. I express my deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”
Deputy Chief Greg Severson will act as interim chief.