Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 11 months, 27 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 3rd Precinct - Desplaines Street Station
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 22
Date of Birth: 1863
Date of Appointment: 15 Dec 1884
Date of Incident: 001 - Central
End of Watch: 11 Nov 1885
Date of Interment: 15 Nov 1885
Cemetery: Calvary Cemetery - Evanston, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-2
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 9
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 17
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 60-E: 4
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Probationary Patrolman Michael W. O’Brien, Star #389, aged 22 years, was an 11 month, 27 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 3rd Precinct – Desplaines Street Station.
On November 11, 1885, at 8:30 p.m., Officer O’Brien heard the sound of gunfire coming from Ritterberg’s Shoe Shop located at No. 191 Adams Street (present day 808 West Adams Street). He proceeded to the scene to investigate and ran into the shop. Officer O’Brien observed distraught shoemaker, Max Ritterberg, age 31, standing in the middle of the floor with his hands behind him. He also saw Joseph Doubek, a shoemaker, also in the shop. The officer asked, “What was that shot?” Ritterberg replied, “There was no shot fired in here.” Officer O’Brien then said, “Yes, there was. Who fired it?” The officer then stepped towards Ritterberg and reached forward to take hold of him. As Officer O’Brien moved in, Ritterberg produced a revolver from behind his back and thrust the gun against the officer’s right breast and fired. Immediately Officer O’Brien turned and ran from the shop. As he exited the front door, Ritterberg fired one more time.
Officer O’Brien continued to run across the street to a patrol box in an attempt to summon the patrol wagon. As he ran he attempted to remove the call box key from his pocket, but his strength failed him as he neared a group of citizens who had gathered by the patrol box. He exclaimed, “My God, I’m shot!” and fell into the arms of the bystanders. C. K. Taggert, a railroad man, took the officer’s call box key and pulled an alarm for the patrol wagon. At the same time John Minucciani, a saloonkeeper, also sent in a call from his private call box. Officer O’Brien was then carried into James H. Kirkley’s drug store and Dr. Stewart made an examination of the wound. He noted that the bullet had entered the right breast and passed through his body, exiting the center of his back. Officer O’Brien was mortally wounded and near death he requested a priest. One of the bystanders ran to St. Patrick’s Church and returned with a clergyman who absolved the dying officer.
With the patrol wagon having already arrived, they loaded Officer O’Brien and took him to his father’s home located at No. 81 West 13th Place (present day 542 West 13th Place) per his request. Officer O’Brien succumbed to his injuries about an hour after he arrived.
After Ritterberg fired the second shot, he ran from the shop diagonally across the street towards his home located at No. 208 West Adams Street (present day 827 West Adams Street). As he ran, a grocer named J. O’Leary attempted to intercept him with the intention of stopping him. As O’Leary moved in, Ritterberg leveled his revolver at him and fired. The bullet whizzed by O’Leary’s head and he quickly gave up his attempt to stop Ritterberg. Ritterberg continued on to his home where he pushed past his wife, who was standing in the front door after hearing the gunshots. He then thrust aside his niece who was also there and ran into a back room where he placed his revolver to his temple and pulled the trigger. He fell at the threshold of the door and lay in a pool of his own blood dying instantly.
After the incident Joseph Doubek, employed by Ritterberg, gave the following story of the shooting. A few days ago a man entered the shop with a new .38 caliber double action Colt revolver that he wanted to sell for $85.00. Doubek and Ritterberg both chipped in and purchased the gun and Ritterberg took it. On November 11, 1885, Ritterberg had left the shop for quite some time and had been drinking at a saloon around the corner. He returned to the shoe shop at 8:00 p.m., took out the pistol and said he was going to try it. Doubek tried to dissuade him from doing so, but he persisted. Doubek then said, “Well, if you’re going to shoot it do it in the corner over there.” Ritterberg replied, “All right” and went to the corner and fired the gun. He then stood upright and held the revolver behind his back. A moment later Officer O’Brien entered the shop.
Officer O’Brien’s funeral mass was held at Holy Family Church. He was laid to rest on November 15, 1885 in Calvary Cemetery, 301 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.
Probationary Patrolman Michael W. O’Brien, born in 1863, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on December 15, 1884.
Officer O’Brien was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association and the Holy Family Total Abstinence & Benevolent Society. He was survived by his fiancée, father and brother.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #2802.