History & Museum Historical Stories
THE FORGOTTEN POLICEMAN
(Murder of Constable Charles Rooke - Manitoba Provincial Police)
|Historical Stories Main|
by Patrol Sergeant Albert Apostle
and written by Staff Sergeant Jack Templeman (retired)
Articles have been written about all of the police officers who have given their lives on duty in Manitoba from Chief Richard Power of the Manitoba Provincial Police in 1880 to Constable Robert Thomas of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1986, except one - Constable Charles Rooke, of the M.P.P. who was murdered in 1913.
Unfortunately the name of Charles Rooke does not even appear on the Ottawa memorial to peace officers killed on duty (it will be added), probably because his death was forgotten when most of the M.P.P. records were lost or destroyed following the amalgamation with the RCMP in 1932.
Charles Rooke was born in Redhill, Surrey, England, on May 5, 1876. His father served as Inspector-General in the Indian Army and was also an Honourary Physician to Queen Victoria. Charles Rooke came to Canada in 1895 and served with the N.W.M.P. for 5 years. In 1905 he was selected by the Provincial Government to organize a group known as the Manitoba Mounted Police to fight the growing problem of horse thieves along the U.S. border. The largest gang, known as the "McGraw Gang" was eventually captured and most of the missing horses were recovered. When the need for his special organization ceased to exist he joined the regular Manitoba Provincial Police Force and was stationed in Dauphin. In 1906 he married Elizabeth Surrey and they had one son. Charles Rooke was known in the community as a fearless man and he was well respected.
The man responsible for the death of Charles Rooke was John Baran. He was one of a number of Galicians who immigrated to the area around the Riding Mountains and near Dauphin. Most of the immigrants were good, honest, hard-working people who established homesteads and blended into the community. Baran, on the other hand was feared and hated by all who knew him including the other Galicians. The soil of his land had never been broken and he lived in a log shack 9 feet by 14 feet with a small porch. It had two windows and was heated by a small stove. There was a bunk bed on one wall and a wooden box served to hold a wash basin and a few utensils under it. A trunk held some women's clothing, but no extra men's clothing was found. There was little food in the shack and moose meat appeared to be the main staple. Two home-made violins were found in the shack and Baran was described as a genius at making things that required dexterity of the hands. He was unable to put that ability to good use as even his Galician neighbours detested him & would have nothing to do with him.
Constable Rooke had previous dealings with Baran two years before when Baran was sent to jail for assaulting his wife. She fled to Dauphin with two of the children, but left the other two destitute and starving with Baran. Constable Rooke travelled some 30 miles to the homestead to rescue the children on one of the coldest days of that year. The children were eventually seized by Children's Aid and placed in foster homes.
Mrs. Baran stayed in Dauphin and lived on welfare and John Baran went to Kamsack, Saskatchewan & returned with a young woman who had a small child. The woman was known as Annic Chizyk or later at the trial as Maria Pellock. The age of the child, a boy, was never established, but he was believed to be about two years old.
In January 1913, Magistrate Munson of Dauphin issued a warrant for Baran for non-support after he failed to appear on a summons. Constable MeMillan tried once to execute the warrant but was unsuccessful so it was given to Constable Rooke as he knew the man.
Constable Rooke waited until the cold weather eased up and in the early morning of January 26th, set out in a rented livery sleigh with driver John Tomski @ Thompson. They travelled to the Baran homestead, but left their sleigh at a neighbours so they could approach on foot and surprise Baran.
It was planned that the driver would do the talking in his native Galician while Rooke waited for an opportunity to apprehend Baran. They got to the shack about noon and knocked. A woman appeared at the window and said Baran was not home. Rooke opened the door onto the porch followed by the driver and as he tried to open the second door, two shots were fired through the door with one bullet striking Rooke in the chest above his heart. Tomski dragged the injured officer away from the shack but had to leave him so he could go for help. He went back to the neighbours and both men returned and were able to carry Rooke to the house.
Rooke was too badly wounded to be transported, so Tomski went nine miles to the nearest house with a phone and called Dauphin for help. The town police chief was notified and Dr. Harrington went to the scene in a sleigh. Little could be done for Constable Rooke there so he was wrapped warmly and rushed back to Dauphin Hospital in critical condition. They arrived after midnight and the morning paper headlined that he "lies at the point of death". The fact that he had survived at all was attributed to his excellent physical condition.
When word of the shooting was received by Chief Bridle in Dauphin he organized a posse of six men and headed to the scene. He also notified the M.P.P. headquarters in Winnipeg and Deputy Commissioner John McKenzie & Det. John Parr headed to Dauphin to take charge.
The posse set out at 1:00 a.m. for the Baran shack in the hope that he would still be there. On arrival they did not see anyone around but as they approached the building, shots were fired at them from the window. The posse returned the gunfire and waited a short time before rushing the door. Inside they found a badly wounded woman on the floor and a young child dead on the bed opposite the window. Baran had escaped.
The woman, Annie Chizyk @ Marie Pellock, had been shot in the chest and waist. The child had been shot in the chest with the bullet passing right through the body. The posse returned to Dauphin with the wounded woman and dead child and met the Provincial Police officers who had arrived.
The Provincial Police officers began a search for the wanted man and took the Elphinstone Trail to the other side of the Riding Mountains. They had travelled more than 30 miles when they suddenly came across Baran walking south on the trail. He was about 5 miles from his shack.. Baran surrendered without a struggle and claimed that he had not been in the shack when the shooting of Constable Rooke occurred. He blamed the woman for shooting the officer.
Baran was locked up in Dauphin on the non-support warrant while the investigation continued on the shooting. The injured woman at first claimed that she had fired the shots through the door, but later admitted that she lied out of fear of Baran.
An Inquest was held into the death of the young child and the following verdict was reached:
"We, the jury empanelled to take evidence as to the death of baby Baran, on Jan. 27th, find that the baby came to his death by being shot with a rifle in the hands of one of the posse under Chief Bridle, organized for the purpose of arresting John Baran, suspected of having shot Constable Rooke, and the death of the baby, while regrettable, was purely accidental under the circumstances and we attach no blame to any member of the posse."
At 7:30 a.m. on February 3rd, Constable Rooke died of his wounds. Later that morning John Baran was formally charged with murder. That same day an Inquest was held into the murder of the officer and the verdict in that case was:
"We, the jury, empanelled to hear evidence as to the death of Provincial Constable Charles Rooke, find that the said Charles Rooke on Sunday, January 26, 1913, received a bullet in the breast from a rifle in the hands of John Baran and that the said Charles Rooke died on Monday, Feb. 3, 1913, from the effects of that shot."
The funeral of Constable Charles Rooke took place from his residence in Dauphin with burial in the Riverside Cemetery. A headstone was erected by the Masonic Lodge of Dauphin. The widow and son remained in Dauphin at this time.
John Baran was held in Dauphin for preliminary trial on February 7th. He appeared weak and had to be assisted into court by two officers. During the trial he fell to the floor and was allowed to lie there by presiding Magistrate Munson. Baran declined to make a statement, but his lawyer, Bertram Ryan, admitted Baran fired the shot that struck Rooke, but he claimed that Baran did not know Rooke was an officer of the law and had the right to defend his home. He asked that the charge be reduced to manslaughter. Magistrate Munson refused the request and committed Baran to trial for murder at the Spring Assizes in Portage la Prairie.
The trial was held on March 6th and 7th in Portage la Prairie before Mr. Justice Prendergast. The jury took only one hour and forty minutes to find him guilty. Before sentence was passed Baran spoke and admitted shooting Rooke, but claimed he was frightened and did not know who was coming in the door. Mr. Justice Prendergast told Baran he could hold no hope for a pardon or commuting his death sentence and advised him to make peace with his God. He then sentenced him to hang at 8:00 a.m. on May 20th, 1913.
Preparations were made for the first execution in Portage la Prairie with a scaffold being built in the courtyard. The public was very curious and the night before the execution a steady stream of citizens were allowed entry to see the structure. This was all reported in detail in the local Portage newspaper.
Baran was comforted during his last night by Bishop Boudka of the Ruthenian Church. He was left alone to eat his last breakfast and at 7:55 a.m. Deputy Sheriff Muir read the death warrant and they began the short walk outside. Captain Sheppard, Governor of the Jail and two guards accompanied the prisoner. Turnkey Gordon of Portage was assisted by Turnkey Handel from Winnipeg. Handel is reported to have told Baran to "brace up and be a man" after which he walked to the gallows with a firm step.
Hangman Arthur Ellis moved quickly and efficiently when Baran appeared at 8:00 a.m. and within a minute the straps and hood were in place and the trap doors sprung open to drop him 7 feet breaking his neck instantly. The newspapers reported that Hangman Ellis was satisfied that the execution was conducted in a most credible manner. Mr. Ellis does not conceal his identity, but he does go about heavily armed. After the body was cut down an Inquest was held and he took this opportune time to go out for breakfast and was able to return in time to be present for the burial. It was reported that Mr. Ellis travels next to Prince Albert where two more executions are scheduled soon.
The Inquest concluded that death was the result of hanging by order of the court and the body was then removed for burial in the courtyard. A wooden coffin built in the jail was lined with quicklime and the body placed inside. It was then covered with more quicklime and the lid nailed shut. It was buried in the south-west corner of the yard only 45 minutes after the execution.
In less than 4 months from the date of the murder of Constable Rooke, the course of justice had moved swift and sure and John Baran had paid the supreme penalty.
* Top of Page