Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 8 years, 10 months, 29 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Bureau of Field Services - Tactical Services: Unit 710 - Gang Crimes Enforcement South
District of Incident (Present Day): 006 - Gresham
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 33
Date of Birth: 20 Oct 1948
Date of Appointment: 19 Mar 1973
Date of Incident: 09 Feb 1982
End of Watch: 09 Feb 1982
Date of Interment: 12 Feb 1982
Cemetery: Holy Sepulchre Cemetery - Alsip, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 5, Lot 4, Block 20, Section 19
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case:
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 10
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3< Line 36
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 44-E: 12
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: Did Not Serve
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Richard James O'Brien, Star #5337, aged 33 years, was an 8 year, 10 month, 29 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the Bureau of Field Services - Tactical Services: Unit 710 - Gang Crimes Enforcement South.
On February 9, 1982, at 2:03 p.m., Patrolmen William Peter Fahey and Richard J. O'Brien were on duty working beat 6162. They pulled over a brown 1978 Chevy Impala at 8110 South Morgan Street for failing to obey a stop sign. The driver of the vehicle was Jackie F. Wilson, age 21 of 11409 South May Street and seated next to him was his brother, Andrew Wilson age 29 of 11409 South May Street. It is alleged that at the time of the traffic stop, the brothers were on their way to free convicted cop murderer, Edgar Hope. According to eyewitness testimony, Jackie Wilson exited the vehicle before the officers approached. He began to argue with Officer O’Brien and refused to produce his driver’s license. Officer Fahey after noticing a suspicious object on Andrew Wilson ordered him to exit the vehicle. Once outside Officer Fahey attempted to place Andrew Wilson in custody and struggle ensued. During the struggle Officer Fahey was disarmed by Andrew Wilson who then proceeded to shoot Officer Fahey once. The bullet entered Officer Fahey’s head behind the left ear, fragmenting upon entry causing severe brain damage. Andrew Wilson then turned on Officer O’Brien shooting him three times in the chest. Jackie Wilson then noticed Officer O'Brien was still moving and shouted to his brother, “still up and about.“ Andrew Wilson then jumped onto their vehicle's trunk lid and shot Officer O'Brien two more times, once in arm and once in the hip.
Following the shooting, the brothers jumped back into their car and drove off. For some unknown reason the murderers made a U-turn and returned to the scene of the crime where they proceeded to grab both officers’ firearms and then fled Southbound on Morgan Street making good their escape. Help was first summoned to the scene when a voice was heard over the police radio, “Emergency! Emergency! Two policemen have been shot at 81st and Morgan.“ It was later learned to be the voice of a witness to the shooting who ran to the squad car and grabbed the microphone when he saw the officers fall. The eyewitness testified, “The police officer [Fahey] had subdued him enough to the point where he could put the handcuffs on, and then the man [Andrew] reached around behind the officer and came up with a shiny pistol.”
Officer Fahey was transported to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park by beat 672 where he fell into a coma and was pronounced dead at 11:14 a.m. on February 10, 1982. Officer O'Brien was also transported to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park by beat 672 and was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Birfe at 2:20 p.m. on February 9, 1982.
On February 13, 1982, the getaway car was recovered at 114th Street and May Avenue. Not far away from the Wilson’s residence. Officer moved in and the Wilson brothers were apprehended and arrested. The officers service revolvers were also recovered from their residence.
In 1983, Andrew Wilson was sentenced to death and Jackie Wilson was sentenced to life in prison without parole. They were later granted retrials on the grounds that they should have been initially tried separately. During the retrial, Jackie Wilson was convicted of first degree murder in Officer O'Brien's death, but was acquitted of his part in Officer Fahey's murder. Andrew Wilson was convicted of two counts of murder and two counts of armed robbery in the deaths of the officers. On January 10, 2003, Governor George Ryan commuted Andrew Wilson’s sentence, along with 167 other inmates on death row, to life in prison. In 2007, Andrew Wilson died in prison.
Tragically Patrolmen William P. Fahey and Richard James O'Brien were shot and killed as they returned from Patrolman James Edward Doyle's funeral who had been killed four days earlier. Patrolmen Richard James O'Brien and William Fahey were not regular partners. O'Brien's regular partner was off sick and Fahey's was filling in on a desk job for a furloughed policeman.
Officer O'Brien was waked at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home located at 3737 West 79th Street and his funeral mass was held at St. Denis Catholic Church located at 8301 South St. Louis Avenue. He was laid to rest on February 12, 1982 in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 6001 West 111th Street, Alsip, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 5, Lot 4, Block 20, Section 19.
Patrolman Richard James O'Brien, born October 20, 1948, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on March 19, 1973. He earned 6 Honorable Mentions and numerous Complimentary Letters during his career.
Officer O'Brien was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. He was survived by his mother, LaVern Evelyn (nee Klein) and siblings: Jack, Michael, Susan Contos and Nancy Spinazolla. He was preceded in death by his father, John Joseph (CPD).
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department RD #D044364.
On October 20, 1982, Officer O'Brien's star was retired by Superintendent Richard Brzeczek and enshrined in the Superintendent's Honored Star Case, located in the lobby at Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. In 2000, Chicago Police Headquarters moved to a new facility at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, Officer O'Brien's Star was re-encased in the new headquarters building lobby.
On October 20, 1982, In memory of his sacrifice the Chicago Transit Authority's Harlem Avenue Rapid Transit Station, located in 5550 N Harlem Avenue was dedicated in Officer O'Brien's honor. A dedication plaque was erected to be permanently displayed. The ceremony was held on what would have been O'Brien's 34th birthday. Attending the ceremony were members of O'Brien's family.