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Constable James Archibald

VPD Constable James ArchibaldOn the night of May 28, 1913, Constable James Archibald headed out to walk the beat on Powell Street. When he failed to return to the station after his shift, a search was launched. His fellow officers found his body in a vacant lot on Powell Street the next morning. He had been shot three times.

Constable Archibald spent his last shift diligently patrolling the commercial area on Powell Street, as there had been a recent rash of burglaries. The investigation into his murder would later reveal that as he was walking past the office of Hastings Shingle Mall No.2 in the 1300 block of Powell Street at 1:30 a.m., two men were coming out a side door after burglarizing the business. When one of the men lit a cigarette, Constable Archibald saw the flash from the match, and walked toward it.

He approached cautiously, holding his flashlight in his left hand and his revolver in his right. When his flashlight captured the two men, he asked them what they were doing. One of the men told him they were looking for a place to sleep in the bushes. The constable was suspicious and detained them for further investigation. In order to search them properly, he needed both hands, so he put his revolver back in his holster. When searching the first man, later identified as Herman Clark, he quickly found a pry-bar hidden in his pocket. At this point, he would have realized he was in a dangerous situation – outnumbered by two burglary suspects.

Constable Archibald reached for his revolver to arrest them, however Clark and his partner-in-crime, Frank Davis, were both also armed. Clark drew first, shooting the constable three times from point blank range, killing him instantly. The men fled, but then quickly returned to hide the evidence. They hid Constable Archibald’s body in some nearby bushes, and tossed his revolver and flashlight, along with their burglary tools, into a mud-hole.

The two men, however, left behind valuable evidence next to the body – a crudely-made, black cloth mask, which would lead to their arrest later the same day. Detectives Levis and Tisdale made the arrests, arresting not only Clark and Davis, but also Joseph "Blackie" Seymour and William Hamilton. An informant’s tip led police to their hideout in a nearby waterfront shack. When searched, police found a match to the mask found beside Constable Archibald’s body. A piece of black material was found with the outline of the mask cut from it.

All four men were taken to jail and interrogated by Detectives Levis and Tisdale. As they were all facing the death penalty, Joseph "Blackie" Seymour and William Hamilton quickly decided to give "King’s evidence" and were granted immunity.

They provided evidence to the investigators regarding where the murder weapon was hidden and also testified at the trial. On November 6, 1913, Clark and Davis were found guilty. His lordship Justice Morrison sentenced them "to be hanged by the neck until dead."

They were hanged on May 15, 1914, in the provincial jail in New Westminster almost a year after the murder.

Constable James Archibald was 27 years old when he died, with only 13 months on the job with the VPD.

Addendum

During the investigation, a background check of Clark revealed he had escaped from Folsom Prison in California on July 29, 1912, where he was serving a 12-year sentence for first-degree burglary.

Ironically, Detective Levis, one of the arresting officers, would also be killed in the line of duty almost a year later.

James Archibald: police officer, husband, father, son.

Poem

The following is a poem, published in the Vancouver Daily Province on May 28, 1913, author unknown.

James Archibald – Hero, Vancouver Police Force

Don't think that our heroes are all of the past, That they live but in song and in story,
As long as the name of "A Briton" shall last,
Our sons will win honor and glory,
And not only then0when the “war-drum” may beat –
Do some merit Victoria’s Cross –
In this city of peace stay the din of the street,
While we mourn a brave hero – our loss,

A wreath for "James Archibald – Hero of Peace"
Who answered when "Duty" did call –
For a moment the tumult of Vancouver cease –
As in silence we follow his pall.
Then! – a cheer for our policemen – their children and wives,
Of such men our Vancouver is proud.
When "Duty" doth need it, they'll give up their lives
For the careless and confident crowd.

"For the crowd" – who are careless and rugged and cold,
(We’re not great on "Emotions" out West.)
But we know the right color and valor-and gold,
We can value "What comes thro the test."
Then a wreath for a hero who gave up his life,
Who answered when "Duty" did call,
And remember, my brothers, his children and wife
Have a claim on us, boys-one and all.

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