MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Friends and colleagues of a Middletown police officer are hoping the public will give back to a man they say has done so much for the community after a serious motorcycle crash left him with a long recovery ahead.
James O’Neil, 33, of Portsmouth, was riding on East Main Road just before 11 p.m. Friday when his motorcycle hit the back of a pickup truck waiting to make a turn, according to Portsmouth police.
Police reported Friday that the man—who had not yet been identified as O’Neil—suffered serious injuries.
Law enforcement quickly found out the injured motorcyclist was Officer James O’Neil, who has been with the Middletown Police Department since 2013.
His friends call him Jay and his supervisor, Lt. David Bissonnette, says he’s the most community-oriented police officer he knows.
“If this were anyone else, Jay would be the one sitting here,” he said. “I’m not comfortable on camera. I’m doing this because I love him.”
Bissonnette told Eyewitness News that O’Neil is recovering from surgery and a serious head injury.
“We didn’t think he was gonna make it but Jay’s a very strong guy and stubborn and tough and he pulled through,” Bissonnette said.
Detective Lt. John Cahoon said he believes O’Neil was wearing a helmet at the time. Police have not identified any contributing factors and say the crash remains under investigation.
O’Neil is a former member of the Coast Guard and organized a fundraiser for current Guard members during the government shutdown, according to Bissonnette.
In addition to giving back to the local YMCA, O’Neil is the president of Watchkeepers Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club.
The club’s treasurer, Portsmouth Detective Jacob Silva, has set up a GoFundMe page to help make sure O’Neil and his wife are covered financially.
“We want her to focus on her own mental well-being and staying with him and being for him,” Silva said.
As of Friday afternoon, more than $18,500 had already been raised for O’Neil.
Silva also said a fundraiser dinner will be held on Sunday, Nov. 3, from 4–8 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of Police Associates Lodge 21 on Mitchell’s Lane. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door. Children under 12 are free.