February 11th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 6
Looking Back - John Kinnear
Usher, Bailey, Kyslik and Wynn - Fallen Heroes
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald contributor photo
Alberta Provincial Police barracks in Bellevue-circa 1920
The senseless murder of Constable David Matthew Wynn in a St. Albert, Alberta casino this January 17th once again reminded us all of the fact that police officers put themselves at risk every day and that sometimes it goes terribly wrong. And that there are low-life dangerous people walking amongst us that have no respect for the law.
This has been the case forever and no matter how far back one looks one will always find this reoccurrence of fatal attacks or confrontations with the law that takes the life of a peace officer. It is always interesting to hear people comment: “I never thought something like this would happen in my neighbourhood.”
So in our neighbourhood, so to speak, we in fact have had such a tragic occurrence. Recently while doing some research on the famous Bellevue Cafe shootout of 1920, I came across an August 8th, 1920 Lethbridge Herald article that opened with a most profound editor’s statement. It speaks to us all from ninety five years ago just as those who wrote about Wynn spoke to us all in January. It opened with this bi-line and reads:
“Policeman Died Soldier’s Death
The two policemen, who gave up their lives in the hunt for the bandits, met a soldier’s death, fighting for the maintenance of law and order. The policeman’s life is full of danger, though it is rarely the public recognizes this fact. They must deal with dangerous characters at the risk of their lives. There are those who think the guardians of the law have an easy life, but tragedies like that at Bellevue must make us realize that while the policeman’s labours may sometimes be peaceful and unexacting, he never knows when he will be called upon to rush into conflict, where death may be the toll.
The two men who fell in the performance of their duties on Saturday, were public servants, and Alberta, in the case of the Provincial Policeman, and the Dominion in the case of the Mounted Policeman, must recognize the sacrifice made by these men by providing properly for the dependants they have left behind. They deserve this recognition fully as much as the soldiers who gave up their lives in battle.”
The Bellevue Cafe shootout unfolded in such a rapid fashion that, like St Albert, it was over in seconds. It is a complicated story with many versions of what happened inside that cafe but the ultimate ending is undisputed. Constable Ernest Usher of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Constable Fredrick William Edwards Bailey of the Alberta Provincial Police were dead as was the Russian train robber George Arkoff.
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According to Monica Field, Area Manager for Alberta Culture, and a person who has researched this story a great deal, there was another unfortunate loss of life in this story. That was Special Constable Nick Kyslik, killed the next day while on a manhunt for the murderous Bassoff . According to the account entitled: “Great Canadian Train Robbery” written by Terry Halden, in The Tombstone Epitaph: “Special Constable Nick Kyslik and his partner A.P.P. Constable Hidson were searching an abandoned cabin near the railroad tracks when a freight train rumbled past. Kyslik must have seen something on the train, for he started running for it. In the twilight, Hidson saw the figure running for the train and figured they had flushed the bandit from the cabin. He yelled, “stop,” but with the noise of the train, Kyslik didn’t hear the command. Hidson fired, and Kyslik pitched over dead.”
Usher and Bailey’s names can be found on the Alberta Police and Peace Officers’ Honour Roll of fallen officers. So can Kyslik’s. There are a total of 99 men and women on that list and soon Constable David Wynn’s name will be added to this heart breaking roster.
Twenty eight year old Constable Bailey was the son of a well-known farmer in the Macleod district and had come from Leicestershire, England twenty one years earlier. At the time of the shooting he had just been transferred to the Bellevue barracks to replace Constable Marjerison who was transferred to Taber. Majerison had just turned over the keys to the barracks to Bailey and left an hour before the shooting occurred! Bailey had a wife and two children aged two and four.
Twenty nine year old Constable Usher, the first victim of Bassoff’s gun, had been with the RCMP for five years and had also just been moved to the Bellevue barracks. Usher and Bailey had not been at Bellevue twenty four hours before they were killed!
It was reported that about seventy five rounds were fired off in that shootout with bullet holes found in the café booth, windows and display cases. The awful part of this story is that Constable Usher had no less that fourteen bullet holes in his body, four of which were in his pistol arm between the wrist and elbow. The Herald contained the following comment: “The bandit, who was killed, had a bullet hole in the top of his head and another through the right arm and shoulder. This man stood leaning against the wall of the building and emptied both of his revolvers into the bodies of Constable Usher and Bailey as they lay on the side walk at the entrance of the restaurant before he sank down dead himself from the shot which entered his head at the top.”
Constable David Wynn was only forty two years old and left behind a wife and three sons. Every time this type of thing happens it leaves an enormous hole in people’s lives. We react with anger and frustration. Police officers, like our RCMP, are there for us in every aspect of our lives. They are the thin blue line that protects society from good and evil, chaos and order. We must always remember that.

Author’s Note: Two years after the Bellevue disaster, on September 21, 1922, Alberta Provincial Police Constable Stephen Oldacres Lawson was killed in Coleman in front of the APP barracks there.
February 11th ~ Vol. 85 No. 6
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