History & Museum Historical Stories
THE MURDER OF CONSTABLE CHARLES GILLIS
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Researched & written by Staff Sergeant Jack Templeman (retired)
lay their lives on the line every working day and everyone knows
the law of averages says we will suffer losses. The next policeman killed on duty died as a result of a
bungled hold-up that the criminal anticipated would net him at
least 30 cents, the price of a gallon of gas.
That 30 cents cost the life of an officer and eventually
January 24th, 1936, shortly after 7:00 p.m., Ian Murray Bryson, 22
years, of 466 Burrows Avenue, walked onto the Prairie City Service
Station lot at the southeast corner of Donald and St. Mary's
manager, Thomas Christie was outside checking the gas storage
tanks while his 15-year-old helper Willys Doran was shovelling
snow on the lot. Bryson
approached Doran with a gun in his hand and ordered him over
towards Christie. Then
he ordered both inside the station and when they moved too slowly,
he fired a shot into the ground.
inside he demanded the money from the till and was told there was
none. He told them
that he had been watching the station and saw them sell a gallon
of gas and demanded the 30 cents.
Again he was told there was no money.
He then demanded their own money and was told neither had
any which upset him and he pulled the trigger of the gun while it
was pointed at Christie but it misfired.
Bryson was herding the employees into the station, a passer-by,
Harry Fuller, saw what was going on and waved to Christie to
indicate he had seen them. Fuller
then rushed to Betty's Cafe a block over at Hargrave and St. Marys
Avenue and phoned the police at 7:16 p.m.
car manned by Constable Charles Gillis #128A and George Blow #163A
(later Chief Constable) received the hold-up report only two
blocks from the scene and arrived almost immediately and pulled
right on to the lot.
time the gun misfired, Bryson saw the cruiser come onto the lot
and he headed for the office door.
He got just outside as the cruiser stopped and the officers
got out to pursue him on foot.
Constable Gillis was behind him and Bryson turned with the
gun in his hand and fired once.
The bullet struck Gillis and knocked him down.
Blow kept running at the suspect who was having difficulty with
his footing as he turned and tried to continue running.
Blow ran right into him knocking the gun from his hand and
sending both of them sprawling on the snow covered ground.
Blow was able to regain his footing first and without
ceremony or hesitation disabled the suspect with a direct kick in
the face. As Blow
handcuffed the suspect, Constable Gillis came over to assist and
picked up the .38 cal. Iver Johnson revolver.
Blow asked Gillis if he had been hit as he was holding his
left side and he replied 'yes'.
Gillis then went into the office and was helped by Christie
and a young lady, Frances Payea, who had been walking by.
driver, Robert Webster, stopped to assist Constable Blow and Blow
told him to get his partner to a hospital as quick as possible.
Webster loaded Gillis into the taxi and Miss Payea
accompanied them as they rushed to Misericordia Hospital.
Webster obviously did rush as he damaged his car pulling
into the Misericordia lot.
happened so quickly that after the initial call at 7:16 p.m., the
next call was at 7:19 p.m. from Christie at the service station
reporting a policeman shot and asking for an ambulance and help.
Two more cruisers attended along with Patrol Sergeant R.
Fisher. When the
police ambulance arrived there was only the injured prisoner to
convey to General Hospital. He
received treatment to his face before he was conveyed to the
Rupert Street Station where he was detained after giving a
first statement claimed he had been drinking all day and he
admitted seeing the man (Fuller) wave and knew he would call the
police. He claimed he
couldn't remember anything after the car pulled onto the lot.
The following day Bryson made another statement telling
where he kept the gun stashed by the William Whyte School and also
admitted to the armed robberies of four small stores in the
previous couple of months.
Gillis lay in Misericordia Hospital in critical condition from the
bullet that punctured his bowel in three places and lodged itself
near the base of his spine. At
6:45 a.m., on February 7th, 1936, two weeks after the shooting he
died as a result of septic poisoning from the wounds.
Gillis was born in Montrose, Prince Edward Island on August 27th,
1888. He joined the
Winnipeg Police Force on November 18th, 1912 and served until May
31st, 1915 when he joined the army and fought in the First World
War with the 90th Battalion, Winnipeg Rifles.
His bravery in combat earned him the Military Medal and
entitled him to the letters MM after his name.
He returned to Winnipeg and rejoined the Force on July 7th,
Gillis was survived by his wife Annette and 15 year old son George
and 13 year old daughter Eleanor.
They lived at 169 Morley Avenue.
He was 47 years of age.
The funeral for Constable Gillis was held on
Tuesday, February 11th, at 11:00 a.m. from St. Ignatius Church
with burial at St. Mary's cemetery.
The church was jammed with friends and fellow officers of
this very dedicated and respected officer.
Pallbearers were Chief Constable George Smith, Deputy Chief
Charles McIver, Sergeant James Burton and Constables Angus
MacDonald, Robert Still and George Blow.
was committed for trial and was convicted on June 9th, 1936 and
sentenced to hang. His
execution was carried out at Headingly Jail on November 20th,
combined service with the city was just over twenty-three years
that entitled his widow to a payment from the Police Pension fund
of $2,355.00 plus a refund of his pension contributions with 4%
Workman's Compensation also provided for a pension of $40.00 a
month for her and $12.00 for the eldest child and $10.00 for the
other child until each were 16 years of age.
years of war could not do was done by a young man with a gun in a
policeman to die on duty was to meet his fate when a stakeout went
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