Conroy George O'Brien was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, on May 4, 1952. He
attended Fairfield Rural High School in Langdon, Kansas. Following
graduation, he attended Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas, then
Wichita State University.
He joined the Patrol on September 18, 1974, and was assigned field duties in Wichita. O'Brien transferred to the Patrol's Kansas Turnpike detail in 1977.
On May 24, 1978, at approximately 5 a.m., Trooper O'Brien stopped a vehicle on the Turnpike near Matfield Green (approximately 44 miles east of Wichita). What transpired immediately after the stop is uncertain, but at approximately 6 a.m., a truck driver reported that a patrol car was stopped with its lights flashing and an officer was lying in the ditch. Troopers responding to the scene found that O'Brien expired from 2 gunshot wounds to the head at close range.
Around 7:30 that morning, Trooper Charles Smith, stationed in Herington,
observed a vehicle speeding north on US-77 approximately 4 miles south
of Herington. Trooper Smith tried to stop the vehicle, and a pursuit
ensued onto county roads. The vehicle reached a dead end, and the three
occupants exited and began firing at Smith. Trooper Smith returned fire,
striking one of the suspects in the leg. All three suspects then fled
into a nearby wheat field.
A manhunt ensued, and all 3
suspects were apprehended that evening. Further investigation found that
the 3 men were wanted in a string of armed robberies.