Conrad L. Birney was born in Philadelphia on August 9, 1932. He grew up in Alexandria, graduated from George Washington High School, and went on to serve four years in the Marine Corps. He returned to Northern Virginia and married. On April 4, 1956, he was sworn in as an Alexandria police officer.
Conrad Birney served as a patrol officer and in 1965, he became a detective. Detective Birney enjoyed his work in the juvenile section of the investigations bureau, helping to make a difference in the lives of young people.
In the early afternoon of December 27, 1972, Detective Birney was in his unmarked cruiser in the West End when a call for a bank alarm went out. Detective Birney was very close and responded to the bank at 4616 Kenmore Avenue. In plain clothes but carrying his police radio, Detective Birney began to enter the bank, passing through the first set of doors that led to the lobby. He and the robbers saw each other at the same time and as he reached for his weapon, one suspect forced the door against him, knocking him to the ground. Before he could draw his weapon, one of the bank robbers fired at him.
The shot struck Detective Birney in the left chest and as he fell, he drew his weapon. The suspects fled from the bank and Detective Birney was unable to return fire. He was taken to Alexandria Hospital and pronounced dead at 1:07 p.m.
Three Washington, D.C., men were later identified and on May 22, 1973, they were indicted for Detective Birney’s murder. In addition to their federal bank robbery convictions, each was convicted of first-degree murder. Mack Holland, a 23-year-old prison escapee, was sentenced to life in prison, Ralph Walker, 24, was sentenced to 40 years in prison, and Percy Floyd, an escapee from Lorton, was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Detective Birney, 40, was survived by his wife Barbara, and their three children, Judy, Cheryl and Robert. He is buried at Mount Comfort Cemetery, just outside of Alexandria.