Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 5 years, 7 months*
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 2nd Precinct - West Twelfth Street Station
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 31
Date of Birth: 1850
Date of Appointment: Jan 1876
Date of Incident: 001 - Central
End of Watch: 03 Aug 1881
Date of Interment:
Cemetery: Calvary Cemetery - Evanston, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-1
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 9
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 12
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 30-E: 9
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Detective Patrick M. O’Brien, Star #188, aged 31 years, was a 5 year, 7 month veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 2nd Precinct – West Twelfth Street Station.
On August 1, 1881, Patrolman James Ray was off duty and sitting on the front steps of No. 68 Rebecca Street (present day 533 West 15th Place). While he was conversing with a friend his attention was distracted by the sound of a pistol shot. The gunfire came from No. 50 Rebecca Street (present day 515 West 15th Place). Officer Ray quickly went to the scene of the shooting, and on his way saw one Christ Dixon, who lives in the immediate vicinity, running out of the yard into the alley. Officer Ray stopped him and inquired what he was running for; he stated that Thomas Cahill, of No. 50 Rebecca Street (present day 515 West 15th Place), had just shot and tried to kill him on account of some trivial dispute which they had sometime previous.
Upon examination the officer found a gunshot wound in Dixon’s thigh. Being satisfied of the truth of Dixon’s statement Officer Ray went into the house, Dixon following him inside. He found Cahill concealed in a bedroom up stairs. Officer Ray then asked Cahill what he shot Dixon for and Cahill denied having fired any shots. Cahill then demanded to see Dixon who immediately appeared from behind Officer Ray and accused Cahill with the shooting.
No sooner had the accusation been made, Cahill struck Dixon in the face knocking him down the stairs. Dixon then ran from the house, leaving Officer Ray alone with the Cahill and his family. Officer Ray then proceeded to place Cahill under arrest when he resisted. His family, consisting of his father, mother and brother, then stepped in and helped him in resisting said arrest. Great violence was directed towards Officer Ray. However, after a severe struggle, Officer Ray succeeded in getting the door open and dragged the prisoner outside. Now outside on the top of a stairway leading to the second story in rear of the house, Officer Ray attempted to get him down the stairs. Cahill’s undershirt, which the officer held, suddenly ripped in the back leaving one half of it in the officer’s hands. This caused Officer Ray to lose his balance and fall down the stairs some distance. By the time he regained his footing Cahill had ran back into the house and locked all doors.
Meanwhile, someone in the neighborhood had turned in an alarm for a patrol wagon which soon appeared on the scene with Captain O’Donnell and five patrolmen, among them being Detective Patrick M. O’Brien. Acting in obedience to orders received from the Captain, then present on the ground, Detective O’Brien and Officers Ray and Hefferman went up to the door. Knocking loudly at the door, they demanded admittance, stating that they were police officers. Cahill refused to open the door; Detective O’Brien and Officer Ray then put their shoulders to the door and forced it open a few inches. At the same time Cahill put his revolver into the opening and fired several shots, wounding Officers Ray and Hefferman slightly and Detective O’Brien mortally. Immediately, other officers returned fire seriously wounding Cahill. Detecive O’Brien was shot in the left breast and was taken to the West 12th Street Station. He lingered there for two days before succumbing to his wounds at 3:00 p.m. on August 3, 1881.
Cahill was arrested and found guilty at Coroner’s trial. He was sentenced to life in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet.
Detective O’Brien was waked at his residence, his funeral mass was held at Holy Family Church. He was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery, 301 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.
Detective Patrick M. O’Brien, born in 1850, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department in January 1876.
Detective O’Brien was a member and President of Division No. 7 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, member of the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association, Court Fidelity Independent Order of Odd Fellows and The Police and Fire State Association. He was survived by his wife and five small children.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #2799.