Larry Burden’s This Day In The RCMP

The achievements and contributions of the Force have been built upon the individual contributions of many past Veterans. These contributions have largely been forgotten.

Veteran Sgt. Larry Burden ( #35982), who served  in “E” Division for 20 years, has spent over ten years researching and summarizing these achievements by specific date. Nearly every day, Larry sends out an email message with a selection from his work in progress manuscript “This Day In The RCMP” to individuals interested in these historical notes.

In an effort to share his research to a large group, Larry has agreed to permit us to develop a webpage on our website. Each webpage will post Larry’s historical notations over the past week.

If you wish to contact Larry Burden or provide additional information about his research, please email him at

March 8th

1900-Members of the Lord Strathcona Horse receive an enthusiastic send-off on Parliament Hill as they depart for the Boer War. The unit includes seven officers and 26 men who are leave from the NWMP and are commanded by Supt. Samuel Benfield Steele 1849-1919.

1939-After having lunch #6369/ O.283 Inspector Robson Armitage was walking back to his office on Rideau Street in Ottawa when he heard two gunshots. Turning towards the noise he saw two men run from the Bank of Montreal and race down the street. 

Despite the fact he was unarmed and dressed in civilian clothing Armitage chased after the fugitives and caught one of the gunmen after he went down an alley and tried to climb a wooden fence. Though the robber threatened several times to shoot him, Armitage continued to wrestle with the gunman until he lost his grip on him. After freeing himself from the struggle the man raced away with Armitage still pursuing him until he was tackled a second time by the policeman near a warehouse. With the help of a citizen the gunman was finally subdued and turned over to Ottawa City Police Detective Sabourin.

The second robber was arrested a short time later and both men were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. On September 25, 1940 Inspector Robson Armitage along with five other police and firemen were awarded the Kings Police and Fire Medal. In receiving his medal for conspicuous gallantry, the Right Honorable Ernest LaPointe, Minister of Justice noted that Inspector Armitage’s actions were exceptional considering that he was unarmed and had knowingly chased down an armed man 25 years younger in age.

1990 –The RCMP accepts the blame for bungled Donald Marshall investigation in Nova Scotia.

March 7th

1898– #2412 Constable George Butler along with three other members left Edmonton to establish Peace River Landing Detachment. 

1993– Commendation awarded to #37077 Thomas Roy for safe arrest of armed and intoxicated man Lac La Martre, NWT.

March 6th

1911-#4817 Constable Edwin Smith was awarded $25 from the Fine Fund in recognition of his good work in searching for missing settlers north of Medicine Hat, Alberta.

1938– Stuart Taylor Wood. C.M.G. becomes the eighth permanent Commissioner and serves until April 30, 1951

Commissioner Wood had a distinguished family history including, General Zachary Taylor John Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States and Captain John Taylor Wood the famous Confederate Naval Commander, who is buried in Halifax Nova Scotia. Commissioner Wood’s father was appointed n inspector in the NWMP in 1885. Both he and his father were graduates of the Royal Military College in Kingston Ontario. Commissioner Wood was commissioned as an Inspector in the RNWMP in 1912. He served as a lieutenant in WWI and retired from the RCMP in 1951. Stuart Taylor Wood died in 1966.

1962– The RCMP investigates the bombing of an electric power pylon near Riondel BC. The investigation identifies the Sons of Freedom sect “The Doukhobors” as being the culprits.1986– Honour Roll Number 180.
#S/2886 Robert W.C. Thomas was murdered while working Highway Patrol near Powerview, Manitoba. 

At approximately 1:00 a.m. Special Constable Robert Thomas was patrolling with is partner #37371 Constable Reginald Albert Gulliford near Powerview, Manitoba 80 miles north of Winnipeg. They decided to check a vehicle that was parked at a service station with two occupants in the car and assumed that they had run out of gas. 

After a brief conversation with the driver the two policemen turned and walked back to their car when the driver suddenly got out of his car armed with a .303 rifle and shot Cst. Thomas in the back from only six feet away killing him instantly. Cst. Gulliford managed to pull his revolver and return fire but the gunman wounded him in the wrist and chest rendering him unconscious on the pavement.

After shooting the policemen the 46-year-old gunman Edgar Martin Olson and his female passenger drove to the Fort Alexander Reserve in search of Olson’s estranged common-law wife who had left him to live with her first husband Harry Fontaine. Arriving at the Fontaine residence, Olsen took them hostage and threatened to kill them both. While he held the pair hostage, one of the Fontaine children ran to a neighbor’s house and called the police. During the standoff with the police, Harry Fontaine succeeded in grabbing the rifle and striking Olsen with it, as the rest of the hostages ran out of the building the police rushed in and overpowered him. After arresting Olsen, the police discovered that he was out on parole for attempted murder. He was later convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He committed suicide six years later.

Special Constable Robert Thomas was buried in the United Church graveyard on the Peguis Reserve the community where he had grown up. Cst. Reg Gulliford recovered from his wounds and was eventually transferred back to his home Province of Newfoundland.

2017– Honour Roll Number 238

As a result of increasing numbers of asylum seekers illegally crossing the border into Canada along the Quebec/American borderline, the RCMP was forced to reassign many members from their regular duties to patrol the border. One of those police officers was 42 year- old # 57789 Constable Richer E. S. Dubuc.

On this day Cst. Dubec was responding to a dispatch and was travelling westbound in a marked police car on Route 202 near Roxham Road, Saint-Benard-de-Lacolle, ten kilometers from the border, when he lost control of the Chevrolet Tahoe he was driving and collided with a farm tractor at 6:20 p.m. After hitting the tractor, hisvehicle went off the road and slammed into an Elm tree.

He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition but died later. The driver of the survived the collision with minor injuries to his head and back.  

The 6’ 5” native of Joliette, Quebec and father of four children graduated from the RCMP Training Academy in June of 2009 and was posted to Codiac Detachment, in Moncton, New Brunswick. While in Moncton he became a member of the Emergency Response Team (ERT), where his former employment as a Paramedic was put to good use as the team’s Emergency Medical Technician.

Two months before his death he had been transferred to the Integrated Border Enforcement Team based in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

On September 10th, 2017, Constable Dubec’s name was added to the RCMP Cenotaph in a ceremony involving a memorial parade, the laying of wreaths, the reading of the names of the fallen members of the Force along with bagpipe laments, bugle calls and two minutes of silence.With the addition of Constable Dubec, the total number of fallen members since the creation of the North-West Mounted Police in 1873 became 238.

March 5th

1911– #4862 Alonzo White was awarded $25 from the Fine Fund to for his arduous work and hardship patrols in checking on the condition of settlers in the Wild Horse and Pendant d’Oreille Districts. 

1945– A Commendation is awarded to #13061 Constable William Ritchie for his prompt response and his rendering first aid to those more seriously injured than himself in train derailment near Zorre, Ontario.

2001– Honour Roll Number 196.

#32250 Constable Jurgen Siegfried Seewald age 48 was shot and killed on duty, while investigating a domestic dispute, in Cape Dorset, Nunavut.

Ziggy Seewald had been in the RCMP since 1975 and in 2000 had requested a transfer back to the Arctic from Bible Hill Nova Scotia to finish off his career. He had planned to retire in 2002. In October he was posted to the troubled community of Cape Dorset, well known for its violence due to drugs and alcohol. Around midnight on May 4th the police received a domestic abuse call from Barbara Ettinger complaining that her boyfriend Salamonie Jaw was drunk and causing problems. Cst. Seewald decided to attend the complaint himself and went over to the tri-plex. While there he found Jaw in a foul mood and he attempted to get him to sit down and shut up.  When Jaw refused to comply with Seewald’s commands, he got aggressive and when the policeman attempted to push him into a chair a fight broke out. Constable Seewald then resorted to using pepper spray in an effort to subdue him, but it had little effect on Jaw. As Seewald attempted to wrestle him towards the apartment door, Jaw grabbed a loaded shotgun and both he and the constable struggled for it. In the process Jaw pulled the trigger and shot Seewald in the abdomen and showing little emotion, walked out of the house. Constable Seewald was then moved to the local nursing station, but his wound was so serious that he died.

Salamonie Jaw had fled to a neighbor’s house and barricaded himself inside, so the Emergency Response Team was flown in from Iqaluit. After several hours of negations with the police, Jaw finally gave up and walked out of the house and was arrested. Three years later he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Ziggy Sewald’s body was flown back to his wife and adult children in Antigonish Nova Scotia where a huge funeral was held at St. Francis Xavier University attended by over 400 uniformed police officers and hundreds of local citizens. The man who had served in the northern communities of Hay River, Fort Liard, Cape Dorset and in Amherst, Antigonish, and Bible Hill, Nova Scotia as well as with the United nations in Yugoslavia was laid to rest in a little cemetery overlooking the Northumberland Straight at Arisaig Nova Scotia.

March 4th

1946 – As a result of the Gouzenko revelations the RCMP laid charges against Communist Member of Parliament, Fred Rose and 13 others for spying for the Soviet Union.

1969– The RCMP decides to replace the last remaining dog sled teams with snowmobiles.

March 3rd

1967– Brothers match a stolen car to its thief.  It is not uncommon for brothers to serve in the Mounted Police at the same time but seldom are they involved in the same case. On this day #19695 Cpl. Robert Fairhurst, a Forensic Identification specialist, attended to the Williams Lake, B.C. detachment to examine a stolen car for evidence. The car had been recovered by his older brother, #18343 Ronald Fairhurst. When the vehicle was examined Robert found a match stub in the car which he successfully matched to the match folder that his brother had seized from the suspect’s pocket!  

1971– At a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II invests Commissioner Nicholson as Bailiff Grand Cross of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. This was only the second time a Canadian citizen had accorded this honour.

2005– Honour Roll Numbers 206, 207, 208 & 209.

Constables #49673 Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon age 28, #48568, Lionide (Leo) Nicholas Johnston age 32, #51874 Brock Warren Myrol 29 and #48064 Peter Christopher Schiemann age 25were murdered while guarding the scene of a chop shop, on a farm near Mayerthorpe, Alberta. 

This was one of the greatest tragedies and losses to gunfire in the history of the RCMP resulting in the deaths of four members. Constables Peter Schiemann and Leo Johnston were the veterans of this squad and they only had three years’ service as compared to Anthony Gordon who had two and Brock Myrol who had only graduated from the police academy two weeks previously. This tragedy began on the afternoon of March 2ndwhen two bailiffs went out to the farm belonging to James Roszko to execute a civil order to seize a Ford truck. 

Roszko’s reputation for being short tempered and violent was well known in the area so the bailiffs contacted the Mayerthorpe Detachment and asked for a member ar attend to the farm to “keep the peace” while they seized the truck. When the bailiffs arrived at the property around 3:00 p.m. they found the main gate locked and saw a man they believed to be Roszko moving about the property. After calling out his name the bailiffs were confronted by two aggressive Rottweilers that rushed to the gate. While they waited for the police to arrive, they watched Roszko give them the finger get into his pickup truck and speed away from the scene.When #37858 Corporal James Martin, along with three other members from Mayerthorpe Detachment, arrived at the property they went in with the bailiffs. After pepper spraying the dogs and forcing them into a shed they accompanied the bailiffs who proceeded to search the property for the vehicle they had come to repossess. When the men entered a large Quonset building they discover an automotive chop shop and marijuana grow op. The scene was then secured so a criminal search warrant could be obtained and additional members were called in from Mayerthorpe and the neighboring Whitecourt detachment to secure the scene. While the search warrant applications were prepared, the Edmonton Auto Theft Unit was notified.At 8:40 p.m. the search warrants arrived and the criminal search of the property began. After being briefed on the situation, the Mayerthorpe Detachment Commander #39934 Sgt. Pinder arrived at the scene at10 p.m. and the RCMP-Edmonton Police Green Team arrived at 11:30 p.m. and dismantled the grow-op, seized 280 marijuana plants and left the scene at 04:30a.m.Throughout the evening the police receive several unconfirmed sightings of Roszko’s vehicle in the Mayerthorpe area. Constables Gordon and Johnston are then sent to guard the scene until morning.

At 9:10 a.m. Cst. Schiemann left the Mayerthorpe Detachment, and drove out to the scene arriving shortly before the two plainclothes Auto Theft members #35087 Cpl. Steve Vigor and #42788 Cst. Garrett H. Hoogestraat. When they get out of their car they observe two members on top of a shed sedating the dogs, then the four constables walk over to the Quonset while the Auto Theft men changed into their coveralls. 

Suddenly, gunfire was heard from inside the building and upon hearing the shots Cst. Vigor yelled to his partner to call in a 10-33 (Officers need assistance) and rushed toward the front of the building where he saw James Roszko armed with a Heckler and Koch Model .308-calibre rifle come out of the building. Roszko had assumed he had shot all of the police officers and was momentarily shocked to see the other policemen in the yard. He fired at Cpl. Vigor missing him and striking a police car. Cpl. Vigor immediately fired back and two of his shots struck Roszko in his left hand and right thigh. Roszko then staggered back inside the Quonset. As shots were being fired Cst. Hoogestraat backed his car to provide cover for his partner. After Roszko retreated inside the building the two officers called out to the members inside but no response was received from any of the men.
By 10:19 a.m. the property is crawling with members from the Emergency Response Team, explosive units, police dogs and a helicopter. At 2 p.m. an explosives unit robot equipped with a real-time video camera is sent into the Quonset and after fifteen minutes of searching the Emergency Response Team is given the order to enter the Quonset. The team members find the bodies of all four policemen and Roszko dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
In the subsequent investigation, the members at the scene discover that Cpl. Vigor had succeeded in hitting Roszko four times when he fired back at the gunman and that two shots hit him in the groin area, a third bullet hit a pistol Roszko had tucked in the front of his pants and the fourth round hit the rifle stock the gunman was using to shoot everyone.  

Immediately people began asking how a gunman could return to the farm and get the jump on four policemen; the answers were found in the examination of the scene. James Roszko had placed socks over his boots for silence and a white bed sheet that he was believed to have used as camouflage was found nearby in the snow-covered field.

Many questions still remain as to how and when he entered the building without being detected, but the fact is that he deliberately returned to the property and stalked the police officers and when the opportunity presented itself he murdered these young policemen in a cold, calculated manner and none of them had a chance. If it had not been for the tactical emergency response training of Cpl. Vigor enabling him to return fire with such accuracy there is a very real possibility that many more policemen would have been murdered that fateful day.

The news of the multiple murders of four young policemen had an immediate impact on people across Canada, and the entire nation was thrown into a state of shock. Canada is a relatively peaceful country and police officers are seldom killed in the line of duty. The outpouring of national grief was swift and moving, which speaks to the values of the Canadian people. Unlike many other countries in the world, where the shooting death of a police officer is just a local issue, in this country it is a national tragedy.

The memorial service for the four men was broadcast live to the world and thousands of law enforcement and emergency personnel from around the world attended in person. Across the country thousands more gathered together in police stations, fire halls and community centers across the land watching the service on TV. 

In recognition of his courage under fire on February 29th, 2008 Cpl. Stephen W. Vigor was awarded the Medal of Bravery by the Governor General of Canada.