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CONSTABLE LEWIS BYERS

Constable Lewis ByersIn November of 1911, and despite his young 20 years of age, Constable Lewis Byers came to the Vancouver Police Department. He had worked for both the Winnipeg Police and the North West Mounted Police (NWMP). When the NWMP required him to ask permission to marry, and then denied his request, Constable Byers quit and married Annie Woodcock. After the couple lost their month-old baby, he brought his bride back to her home town of Vancouver.

Tragically, just five months later, Constable Lewis Byers would become the first Vancouver Police constable killed in the line of duty – and to this day, the youngest.

On March 25, 1912, a drunk and belligerent customer entered the liquor store on Powell Street near Hawkes Avenue. When staff refused to serve him, he became angry, threatening them, and waving his .38 revolver to emphasize his point. The man walked out, back to his waterfront shack a few blocks away.

Store staff phoned the police, and Constable Byers arrived to get information about the suspect. Witnesses could only provide an approximate address – a shack on the eastern side of Hawkes Avenue, near the Great Northern Railway wharf and the BC Wire and Nail Company factory.

Constable Byers approached the area, trying to determine which of the numerous shacks belonged to the suspect. Suddenly, five yards away, the door of a shack flew open and the suspect stood in the doorway. He pointed his revolver at the constable, forbidding him to take another step.

Constable Byers ran for cover and he drew his revolver. The suspect fired three shots, two of which hit the officer - one in the chest and one in the neck. He died immediately.

Detective Crewe and Constable Barker came to the ambulance call on the wharf, at the foot of Hawkes Avenue. As they approached, they could see Constable Byers lying on his side, with a bullet wound in his chest. He was about four yards east of the suspect’s shack, who continued to fire his weapon.

Detective Crewe managed to drag Constable Byers out of range of the gunfire and into an ambulance. Sadly, a bullet had hit his heart, and he died on the way to the hospital. Crewe requested back-up and Detective Champion, Sergeant Munroe, and Constable Quirk answered. The officers riddled the shack with bullets, as the suspect inside kept firing. When the shots ceased, Constable Quirk cautiously opened the door. The assailant was lying on his side, shot in the chest and neck. Inside, the officers also found the revolver and a box of .38 calibre cartridges.

Constable Russell, who had just arrived via streetcar, got a stretcher and took the suspect to the General Hospital. He was unconscious, but alive. Doctors found five bullets in his left breast – apparently, self-inflicted – and two wounds on the right temple, one of which would be fatal. He only survived another 30 minutes.

Except from the Vancouver World newspaper, April 1st 1912, reprinted with permission:

Sorrowing Thousands View Somber Pageant

It was evident on all sides that the crowd manifested a genuine sorrow, intermingled with admiration of the heroic constable who had fallen a martyr to the bullet of an assassin in the performance of his duty, But during the passing of that great pageant the hearts of the crowd were deeply touched with sincerest sympathy at the spectacle of the lonely figure of the young wife who passed by, weeping bitterly in a carriage, behind the hearse. Those few in the crowd who were able to obtain admittance into the church could not fail to notice, seated in the front pew in front of the casket containing the body of her husband, the sad drooping figure of Mrs. Byers who had been deprived of the gallant husband who had laid down his life in the execution of what is at all times a perilous duty.

Lewis Byers: police officer, husband, son.

Addendum

Five years later, in 1917, Constable Russell was wounded in the face during a shoot-out with the suspect who murdered Constable MacLennan.

Constable Quirk was shot and wounded in the hand ten years later, in 1922, trying to arrest the suspect who murdered Constable McBeath.

More Information

British Columbia Law Enforcement Memoria

This week in history: Historic revolver donated to Police Museum
by John Mackie
Vancouver Sun
June 27, 2014

RCMP Veteran's Association


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