Detective Larry Short

VPD Detective Larry ShortIt was February 9, 1962, when Vancouver Police Detective Larry Short of the Fraud Squad received a call from a clerk at a travel agency reporting a man trying to purchase airline tickets with a credit card believed to be stolen.

Detective Short set out with Constable Len Galbraith for the Bayshore Hotel, where the suspect was registered. The officers decided that since fraud suspects were rarely violent, Constable Galbraith would wait outside in their police car, just in case he tried to escape.

Assistant Hotel manager Larry Kingston accompanied Detective Short to the suspect’s hotel room in case the door needed to be unlocked. Eric Lifton opened the door when they knocked and they both entered the room.

Mr. Lifton was calm and cooperative as Detective Short interviewed him. Paul Egley, the travel agency clerk, came to the hotel room a short while later. As Mr. Egley was making a call to his office, he heard Detective Short shout that the suspect had a gun.

Lifton had pulled a hidden .25 calibre pistol from his waistband and pointed it at the three victims. Detective Short tried to persuade him to put the gun down and surrender, but to no avail.

“I could do this,” stated Lifton, as he pointed the gun first at his own temple, and then at Detective Short. “I have done worse things.” He ordered the three men to lay down on the floor.

Detective Short, fearing that he was about to be shot, reached for his .38 calibre service revolver, surprising Lifton, who yelled, “What are you doing?”

The detective shot first – from a prone position on the floor, less than six feet away – hitting Lifton in the stomach. His heavy coat, shirt button and belt buckle deflected the bullet and he was not injured. Before Detective Short could fire again, Lifton returned fire and emptied his gun into all three men still lying on the floor.

The room went silent as Detective Short and Larry Kingston both lay dying, and Egley lay wounded. Lifton grabbed Detective Short’s revolver and ran out of the hotel and into a taxi on Cardero Street.

Meanwhile, Constable Galbraith was still waiting outside with no idea what had just occurred. He recognized Lifton as he fled into the taxi, and flagged the car down. When he opened the door to speak to the suspect, Lifton said that Detective Short had already interviewed him and told him he could go. Galbraith was doubtful and told him to wait until he confirmed his story.

Lifton suddenly pulled out the hidden revolver and pointed it at Galbraith. He ordered him to get into the back of the taxi with him, and Galbraith had no choice but to comply. Lifton told the taxi driver to take them to the airport. As the taxi pulled ahead to leave, Lifton told Galbraith he was using Detective Short’s gun.

Detective Galbraith realized that his partner must be dead. When Lifton ordered him to hand over his revolver, he knew he had to act to prevent being shot himself. When he glanced down at the revolver pointed at him, he could see that the chambers of the cylinder were empty.

Galbraith quickly slapped the gun from Lifton’s hand, and after a short struggle was able to handcuff him. When he checked the gun later, he was relieved to discover he had been correct about the empty chambers.

Three months later, on May 10, 1962, Eric Lifton was convicted. He was sentenced to hang on July 31, 1962, but four days before his execution his sentence was reduced to life in prison by the Federal Justice Minister after consultation with the Prime Minister. Shortly after, the death sentence was abolished in Canada by an Act of Parliament.

After several years in Kingston Penitentiary, Lifton was transferred to prison in the United States, where he served the rest of his sentence. He obtained his law degree in prison and went on to work as a lawyer in the United States.

Larry Short: police officer, father, husband, son.

More Information

British Columbia Law Enforcement Memorial