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2000 badge with a mourning band

John Joseph O’Brien

Appointed October 26, 1971
End of Tour Thursday, April 16, 1981

Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota
[Minnesota Death Certificate No. 1981-MN-010081]

Fatally injured when his patrol car was struck
by a motor vehicle that had fled another squad.

U.S. Marine Corps Veteran


Photo of John O'Brien

Shortly after 2305 hours (11:05 p.m.) on Thursday, April 16, 1981, Police Officer John Joseph O’Brien1, Badge No. 483, was killed when a vehicle that was being driven recklessly and fleeing other officers ran a stop sign and struck his police squad at an estimated forty to fifty mph at the intersection of N. Forest Street and E. Geranium Avenue in the City of Saint Paul. A contributing factor in the accident was the high amount of alcohol found in the blood of the teenage driver of the striking vehicle.

The impact caused O’Brien’s squad to roll over and both vehicles to strike a house on the northwest corner of the intersection, caving in the living room wall. Patrolman O’Brien’s partner, Richard Paul Fillmore2, was critically injured, but was able to continue his police career on a “light duty” status. Two teenagers in the striking vehicle, Laura Lane, 15, and Thomas Lunzer, 17, of Saint Paul, were killed in the crash, and a third, Shelly Woller, 15, of Saint Paul, was critically injured.

Born on August 24, 1943, and raised in Saint Paul, the thirty-seven year old John Joseph O’Brien, commonly known as “Dude”, had been with the Police Department since October 26, 1971 (ten years), and had previously served with the United States Marine Corps. Officer O’Brien was survived by his expectant wife, Joan, and two daughters, Stacy and Colleen. Joan later gave birth to a third daughter, Megan. Officer O’Brien’s funeral was held on Monday, April 20, 1981, at Saint Mary-of-the-Lake Catholic Church, White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and he is buried at the church cemetery in White Bear Township. Two brothers, Frank3 and Michael O’Brien4, likewise, were police officers with the department.

1 John Joseph “Dude” O’Brien was appointed Patrolman October 26, 1971; and was fatally injured when his patrol car was struck by a motor vehicle that had fled another squad Thursday, April 16, 1981. He was a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran.

2 Richard Paul Fillmore was appointed Emergency Neighborhood Aide III on May 8, 1980; was appointed Police Officer November 1, 1980; voluntary reduction in title to Clerk I (due to work related motor vehicle accident) October 13, 1986; and retired March 16, 2001.

3 Francis “Frank” Stephen O’Brien was appointed Patrolman May 22, 1972; was promoted to Sergeant October 19, 1981; and retired October 9. 1996.

4 Michael J O'Brien was appointed Police Officer July 11, 1977; was promoted to Sergeant November 15, 1997; and retired May 31, 2007.