UTPD DWI arrest leads to capture of serial robber

Ashley Liu

The UT Police Department made a Driving While Intoxicated arrest on Oct. 2 that led to the capture of suspected serial robber Sean O’Brien on Oct. 7.

O’Brien is currently in the Travis County Jail and is charged with four counts of aggravated robbery. During these robberies, a masked man holding an ignited roman candle and hammer demanded money from gas stations, according to KXAN.

The first robbery took place at a Shell Gas Station at 7510 N. Mopac Expressway on Sept. 27. The second incident occurred two days later at the 7-Eleven at 3848 Airport Blvd. On Oct. 1, two 7-Eleven stores were robbed, one at 9200 Burnet Road and the other at the 7-Eleven on 6100 block of Bee Caves Road, KXAN reported.

The Austin Police Department received an anonymous tip on Oct. 5 that named O’Brien as the robber. After looking up his name, APD found that O’Brien had been arrested by UTPD three days earlier for DWI. UTPD then provided video footage of the arrest that showed a mask and gloves in O’Brien’s car.

“There’s almost always information sharing when a case involves overlapping jurisdictions,” said Tara Long, APD’s public information specialist. “We, as law enforcement agencies, would need to maximize resources.”

Long said APD also worked with Lone Star Fugitive Task Force to locate O’Brien at Lockhart, where he was taken into custody by the Lockhart Police Department on Oct. 7.

“There were multiple forces involved in this case,” Long said. “When it’s appropriate, APD will ask UTPD for information that the latter might have. This is not uncommon, especially in West Campus.”

Finance sophomore Jennie Tai heard about the robberies on Twitter in September. She said she is surprised UTPD had played a role in the capture of the suspect.

“It’s cool to see leads that come from unexpected places,” Tai said. “It also shows that there’s so much to be accomplished when departments work with cooperation instead of competition.”

UTPD Lt. Greg Stephenson said although APD cannot directly access UTPD records and vice versa, information sharing can be as simple as a phone call or casual conversation.

“When police departments work together, there involves a document called memorandum of understanding,” Stephenson said. “It outlines the general acknowledgment that we will cooperate back and forth if we are crossing each other’s primary jurisdiction. I can’t even imagine when UTPD would ever refuse to give APD something they need.”

Both former police chief Robert Dahlstrom and current Police Chief David Carter served as chief of staff at APD before joining UTPD. Stephenson said their leadership roles have helped improve the relationship between APD and UTPD.

“We work really well with all the agencies around here, and APD is probably the most prominent,” Stephenson said. “We know the officers by name. The patrol units know each other on the street level. They trade cell phones and talk back and forth on a daily basis. That cooperation moves all the way through the department up to Chief Carter.”

Stephenson said the resolution of the O’Brien case is indicative of the cooperation between UTPD and surrounding agencies.

“It’s not a competitive thing,” Stephenson said. “It’s all about accomplishing the overall mission of getting everyone safe. Together we got a serial robber put away.”