Constable Lewis Byers

Photograph of Lewis Byers (Source of photo - Steve Gibson)

 

 

 

This tribute is to a fallen Vancouver Police Department member who was killed on duty.  He had also served two years in the Royal North West Mounted Police prior to joining the Vancouver Police Department.

 

 

 

 

In October of 1911 twenty-year-old Lewis James Byers and his new wife Annie Woodcock moved to Vancouver. Earlier that year, he was forced to quit the Royal North West Mounted Police (Reg. #4574) to marry her. In those days, permission was needed to get married and it was denied by RNWMP headquarters. Annie was homesick for Vancouver especially after the death of their month-old baby. With his previous experience with both the Winnipeg Police and RNWMP he was quickly accepted by the VPD in November of 1911. Tragically, just five moths later Constable Lewis Byers would become the youngest ever and the first Vancouver Police Constable to be killed in the line of duty.

Photograph of Constable Lewis Byers and his wife Annie Woodcock  (Source of photo - Steve Gibson)

Photograph of Constable Lewis Byers and his wife Annie Woodcock (Source of photo – Steve Gibson)

On March 25th 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, threatened them and waved his .38 revolver to emphasize his point. He then walked back to his waterfront shack a few blocks away. Staff phoned the police and Constable Byers arrived on the scene. He obtained the suspects information but witnesses could only provide an estimate of his address, described as being a shack on the eastern side of Hawkes Avenue, near the GNR wharf and the BC Wire and Nail Company’s factory. Constable Byers approached the area and was trying to determine which of the numerous shacks was the suspect’s. Suddenly five yards away the door of a shack flew open and the suspect stood in the doorway pointing his revolver at Constable Byers and forbidding him to take another step. However, Constable Byers took one step as he attempted to run for cover and draw his revolver, the suspect fired three shots, two of which hit Constable Byers, in the chest and neck, he died immediately.

Excerpt from the police report, written by Detective Crewe.

At 5 p.m. in company with Police Constable 28 Barker we attended an ambulance call on the wharf, foot of Hawks Ave. On approaching I saw a policeman lying on his side, with his neck across a large iron hoop and a bullet wound in his chest, about 4 yards east of a shack where his assailant was concealed, with a revolver and a box of .38 caliber cartridges, who continued firing. I immediately removed the policeman, Police Constable 149 Byers and he was conveyed to the General Hospital dying en route. I phoned for more assistance and Detective Champion, Police Sergeant Munroe and Police Constable Quirk answered. We riddled the shack with bullets as the man inside continued firing; suddenly the shots from inside ceased and P.C. Quirk cautiously opened the door. We found the assailant lying on his side apparently shot in the chest and neck during our volley“.

Excerpt from the police report, written by Police Constable 138 Russell.

(He responded to the first call of “shots fired” but took longer to get to the scene, as he had to jump on a streetcar)

“I got a stretcher and conveyed the assailant, in company with Byers to the General Hospital. On arrival, the doctors pronounced Byers dead, he had been shot through the heart. The assailant was alive, though unconscious, on examination the Doctors found 5 revolver shots in the left breast, apparently self inflicted, two wounds on the right temple, one of which would be fatal, one being inflicted by a .38 caliber revolver, the other apparently a rifle wound that did not go deep; Doctors stated he would live about half an hour.”

Excerpt 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: policeman, husband, son. “We Shall Never Forget You.”

Addendum:

Constable Quirk would be shot and wounded in the hand ten years later, in 1922, trying to arrest a suspect who murdered another policeman, Constable McBeath.

Five years later, in 1917, Constable Russell would be slightly wounded in the face during a shoot-out with a suspect who murdered another policeman Chief Constable MacLennan.

All the stories and words on this site were written from the heart, by Sgt. Steve Gibson. They are the result of research and interviews by Cst. Tod Catchpole with families and friends of the officers killed in the line of duty. For the sake of authenticity, the stories appear exactly as written and have not been edited by the site creators. While the Vancouver Police Department stands by the stories, visitors to this site should accept that they may contain minor factual inaccuracies.”

Check out the Vancouver Police Department memorial website here.  

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