Editors Note:  The following is a release from the Medicine Hat Police Service

 

During the early morning hours of July 26, 1969, members of the Medicine Hat Police Service were called to the Savings Centre Grocery, located at 391 Aberdeen Street, to investigate a break and enter.

Twenty-five year old Constable Pat Flinn was the first officer to arrive on the scene and was confronted by Raymond Bradley and Victor Roeder, who were armed with a shotgun and .22 rifle. Cst. Flinn was forced to surrender his handgun and was taken hostage by the two gunmen and as back-up police officers arrived on the scene, they too were taken hostage.

In those days there was little to no training regarding hostage situations and there was no tactical team support. In total, five police officers were taken hostage, along with six civilians, who had inadvertently walked into the situation.

At one point, Victor Roeder held the barrel of a handgun to the neck of Constable Roy Funk and pulled the trigger. The bullet traveled up through Cst. Funk’s mouth and exited out the right side of his jaw. The bullet travelled through the crest of Cst. Flinn’s hat, dislodging it from his head.

A moment later, Bradley, in possession of Cst. Clayton Stobbs’ handgun, placed the barrel against Stobbs’stomach. In those days, officers sometimes kept the first chamber empty and when Bradley pulled the trigger, it clicked on the empty cylinder. Cursing the gun thinking that it had misfired, he aimed at a police car and fired a shot through the window, then swung around and aimed at Cst. Funk and fired a shot. The bullet smashed the wristwatch of Cst. Funk’s left wrist, traveled through the wrist, shattering the bone and penetrated the plate glass window behind his head.

When Chief Sam Drader arrived at the scene, he attempted to secure the release of other hostages by offering to be a hostage for their escape.  The Chief’s offer was refused and he joined the others at gunpoint.

Sgt. Norm McLeod then arrived on the scene and Roeder started firing with two handguns as he ran across the intersection towards Sgt. McLeod, who returned the fire. During this time Cst. Bill Onslow arrived with a shotgun and fired twice at Roeder, one shot hitting him in the upper chest, killing him.

Eventually the remaining gunman, realizing his partner in crime had met his demise released all of the civilian hostages, but continued to hold the police officers, threatening to kill them.  Chief Drader eventually negotiated with Bradley to release the other hostages in exchange for himself as hostage and driver of a getaway car.  Leaving the scene in a police car, Chief Drader accompanied Bradley to the Flats area where they picked up Bradley’s wife, Janet and his father-in-law.

After a period of time, the four drove back to the scene, at which time Chief Drader managed to escape taking the keys from the car. Bradley, finding himself surrounded by police with no avenue of escape, surrendered.

On February 9, 1970, Raymond Maxwell Bradley entered guilty pleas to; Robbery with Violence and Cause Bodily Harm with Intent to Wound. He was sentenced to four and a half years, concurrent on each charge and was paroled on August 6, 1971.

Thinking back on the events of that day 50 years later, retired S/Sgt Flinn reflects “The thing I remember the most was standing in the grocery store with two armed men pointing their guns at us and watching tear gas containers skipping down the road past us.  One of the bad guys shot my partner right in the face at point blank range, while we stood a foot apart.  I didn’t realize until later that the reason my hat flew off was because one of the bullets that hit my partner went right through the crest of my cap”

Many things have changed in the years since the Aberdeen Street shootout.  Immediately following the events of that day, the MHPS recognized the need for improved equipment and resources, which resulted in a better radio system and firearms and enhanced training for the officers.  The officers who were not physically injured, including Cst Flinn, were required to report for duty the next day.  It would take several years more before there was an understanding of the impacts of post-traumatic stress on first responders.

“Fifty years ago today, it was also Stampede week, and officers responded to a call not expecting problems, but then a major event happened that changed their lives forever” reflects current Chief Andy McGrogan, “in policing, you always must be prepared for the unexpected.”