Philadelphia Police Department mourning 2 of its own due to COVID-19 pandemic

When Captain Milillo was admitted to the hospital, he told his cousin, "We'll take it one day at a time."

Friday, December 4, 2020
2 veteran Philadelphia officers pass away due to COVID-19
The Philadelphia Police Department is grieving the loss of two of its officers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Police Department is grieving the loss of two of its officers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Captain Frank Milillo commanded the Southwest Detective Division. Officer Tab Ali was a 25-year veteran of the force and a fixture in Manayunk on the department's Bike Patrol.

Remembering Captain Milillo

Captain Frank Milillo, 53, was a 31-year veteran of the force.

"He's a family man, a great guy. As big as he was is as big as his heart," the captain's cousin Ed Milillo told Action News.

Philadelphia Police Inspector Verdell Johnson posted of Milillo's passing on social media Thursday night.

"With great sadness we lost Captain Frank Milillo today after a battle with an illness," Johnson said.

Johnson added, "Prayers are solicited for his family as this terrible year takes another active officer!"

Police Inspector Derrick Wood tweeted, "Philadelphia police lost a great man today. Captain Frank Milillo, a respected veteran and commanding officer of Southwest Detectives. He was known for working hard and paying attention to the details. Frank was a dedicated family man and will be deeply missed. Rest well, Frank!"

In a message Friday morning, the 3rd Police District said, "It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our former Commander, Captain Frank Milillo. He was a great leader, mentor, and friend on the job and a loving husband and father off of the job. You will be missed, but never forgotten."

Ed Milillo said he spoke to his cousin just last week after the 53-year-old father and husband was admitted to the hospital.

"I asked him how he felt. He said, 'Ok.' He was concerned he was on oxygen," Ed Milillo said. "He said, 'We'll take it one day at a time.'"

Action News interviewed Captain Milillo in early September after a Philadelphia student was seen with what appeared to be an assault rifle during a virtual learning session.

The student wasn't charged, with Milillo saying at the time, "We want to work with these students. We don't want to give these students criminal records if not need be."

Manayunk community remembers beloved officer who died from COVID

For 14 years, beloved Philadelphia police officer Tab Ali would be patrolling the streets of Manayunk on his department-issued bike. But Ali's family says his life was stolen by the dreaded COVID-19 that has taken so many.

"And not a day didn't go by where he didn't go up and down every street to make sure that things were calm here in our town," said Manayunk Civic Leader John Teague.

"He was on that bike in all types of weather; (it) meant a lot to him," said Ali's nephew, Thomas Johnson.

Ali was highly regarded by business owners and civic leaders in town.

"He is a person that if you know him for the first time, you feel like you know him for years," said Rafih.

"He is the epitome of a community relations officer. I knew Tab for about 15 years," said Teague.

Two weeks ago, Ali, who was a Marine, called out of work with flu-like symptoms. His nephew said a few days later, when no one could reach him, they found him dead in his bed at home.

"I later found out that he did test positive for COVID," said Thomas Johnson.

While going through his uncle's cell phone, Johnson said he came across a group text between bike officers that had been on a sheriff's bus full of officers that began testing positive for COVID.

"Over half of them tested positive for COVID," said Thomas Johnson.

Johnson reached out to Action News wanting to let people know that our heroes on the front lines are losing their lives to COVID-19 and we must do better to protect them.

"I will give credit to the city that they went all out with his service. The escorts, I mean everything, it was really heartwarming," said Ali's nephew.

The Manayunk community is in the process of putting together a memorial plaque in his honor.

"I never called him by his name. I always called him brother because I don't have a brother. But for me, he's my brother," said business owner Rafih.

COVID & Police

FOP President John McNesby said they are saddened by the deaths. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the union has worked to make sure police have personal protective equipment and proper disinfectants.

His concern is with the patrol cars used all day, every day by multiple officers and how officers were transported during the riots.

"You're telling them to social distance then you're throwing 50, 40, 60 on a bus to move them from place to place," he said.

McNesby added he does believe there is a light at the tunnel for the officers who are on the front lines of the pandemic every day.

"The vaccine is supposed to be a week away. We're coordinating that now," he said.

The city has a policy preventing them from sharing the amount of city workers infected by the virus but Action News obtained an internal report that shows as of Tuesday 192 police officers are quarantining after testing positive, more than 200 other officers are out because of coming in contact with positive officers or under investigation of having the virus.

At least 20 officers have been hospitalized and released since the start of the pandemic, with at least three still in the hospital.

First City Employee COVID Death was Philly Officer

Back in April, Philadelphia's first city employee to die from coronavirus was a police officer, 59-year-old Lt. James Walker, who most recently worked the traffic division.

Lt. James Walker

Following the lieutenant's death, Action News spoke with Walker's widow who warned Philadelphians to "please take this virus seriously."

"It's the most devastating feeling imaginable not to be able to be with my husband at the end, to hold his hand, to tell him what our life together has meant," said Vita Walker.

RELATED: Widow of Philadelphia officer issues heartbreaking coronavirus warning

Widow of Philly officer issues heartbreaking COVID-19 warning as reported by Christie Ileto during Action News at 11 on April 6, 2020.

Lt. Walker had previously worked in eight other police districts, as well as the Narcotics Strike Force.

Vita said, while her husband did have high blood pressure and diabetes, he did everything he could to protect himself from the virus.

"I know they gave him a mask, and my husband was notorious - even before this -he always wore gloves, he had sanitizer," said Vita.

Nine months ago, Vita, wiping away tears, had this message for Philadelphia residents about the coronavirus: "It is destroying families. It's destroying lives and it has forever changed and altered the outcome of my life. So please take this virus seriously, it is no joke, it is a killer."