New Castle County today honors and remembers the late Cpl. Paul J. Sweeney III and his ultimate sacrifice on duty decades ago.
“In a tragic loss on this date in 1972, Cpl. Sweeney became our first New Castle County police officer killed in the line of duty since the force was formed in 1911,” County Executive Thomas P. Gordon said Wednesday.
The other county officer killed in the line of duty was Lt. Joseph L. Szczerba, who died Sept. 16, 2011, after being stabbed by a suspect.
“We owe both these officers an unpayable debt,” Gordon said. “They will not be forgotten.”
Sweeney was just 26 years old -- living near Elsmere with his wife and their two young children -- when he was fatally injured.
On the force four years, he was serving as a detective and patrolman when he was patrolling Concord Pike that night.
His squad car was rear-ended by an out-of-state teen driver and its gas tank exploded. A state trooper who saw the fiery crash pulled Sweeney to safety, but he later succumbed to his injuries.
Sweeney is honored today by members of the New Castle County Police wearing black mourning bands, as well as the lowering of New Castle County flags.
The county permanently pays tribute through its naming of the Cpl. Paul J. Sweeney Public Safety Building near New Castle in his memory. A permanent tribute sign also stands near where his fatal crash occurred along Concord Pike (U.S. 202) in Brandywine Hundred.
“We urge everyone to remember his service and sacrifice,” Gordon said.