On the evening of August 6, 1933, Constable George Lenhard was cycling his beat in the outlying area of Regina’s northeast side. The district was mostly warehouses, small industries and open prairie, an area so large that Constable Lenhard needed a bicycle to cover it. He’d been riding his bicycle along a cinder path from Winnipeg Street to the railway tracks just west of the Canadian Liquid Air plant, when he noticed three men whose actions appeared suspicious to him.
Donald Campbell, a teenager out for a stroll with a lady friend, Ardyce Aney, happened to be close enough to see and hear what happened next. Getting off his bicycle, Constable Lenhard told the men to stop. One of them refused, and when Lenhard repeated his order to halt, the man drew a gun and pointed it at him, telling him to ‘stick ’em up’.
At this point, Donald said that the constable was still holding onto the handlebars of his bicycle. He heard the constable say, “what… ?” as he moved around toward the wall of the building. The gunman, his revolver still trained on the constable, moved with him. Just as Lenhard reached the wall, the gunman shot him. Constable Lenhard tried to draw his service revolver from beneath his tunic but was shot two more times.
Donald watched as the three scattered, the shooter running west to the railway tracks and then turning south on the ties. The other two went east. Donald ran to Winnipeg Street, knowing he’d find a policeman there. Meanwhile, Lenhard managed to crawl along the side of the wall to one of the doors of the building, throw one leg over the ledge a few feet from the ground and pushed up the steel vertical sliding door, already open a few inches. An acetylene operator saw Lenhard collapse on the floor and ran to his aid. The constable muttered two words, then died. It was the day after his twenty-eighth birthday.
Inspector Fred Toop received word of the shooting at 9:50PM that night. His first action was to press a button that rang a gong four times to call the patrol wagon out. Next, he called an ambulance and directed it on where to go, then called the hospital and told them to prepare for an emergency operation. He instructed the sergeant on duty to call all officers on and off duty that could be immediately located and called the chief constable.
At this point, the patrol wagon was in front of the police station. Toop dispatched a member of the force from the wagon to pick up two detectives that were close by, then rushed the patrol wagon to the scene and had the constable taken to the hospital. Upon his return to the police office, he sought out the cooperation of the mounted and railway police, while every available officer was being hurried to the outskirts of the city. They wanted to block off all exits and catch the gunmen before they could escape Regina. City, mounted and railway police launched an intensive search for possible suspects, while the highways and trains were watched night and day.
An inquest was opened under Coroner W. A. Thompson the following day, on August 7, 1933. The autopsy revealed that three bullets had struck Constable George Lenhard. One entered through his right arm just below the armpit and exited at the front. Another entered fairly low down on his back, exiting through his left breast just over the heart and severing a pulmonary artery. The last bullet entered through his right breast and exited at his back, having touched the top corner of his heart.
The funeral was held on Wednesday morning, August 9, 1933 and was led by Reverend Fr. P. F. Hughes. A ten block procession led the hearse on its journey to the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Cathedral and afterwards to the Regina Cemetery. Members of the Mounted Police and Regina City Police marched ahead of the hearse, led by the salvation army band, followed by members of the Regina street, railway and fire departments, a detachment of the Moose Jaw city police and representatives of the trades and labor council. Prominent citizens followed behind the hearse in autos. Thousands of citizens lined the streets, their hats off as the procession went by.
On the same day of the funeral, it was announced that a $1000 reward would be offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the three men responsible for the murder.
Countless tips were phoned in by alert residents throughout southern Saskatchewan. G. H. Burns at 1431 McIntosh Street told police that at 8:40PM on Sunday, August 6th, while driving across the CPR crossing at Elphinstone Street, he nearly knocked over a man whose description matched one of the gunmen.
Rumors abounded. Were they ‘dope fiends’? Bandits? Transients? Many believed that Lenhard had caught the criminals in the act of burglary, and startled, they’d shot him. Still others wondered if there was any connection between Lenhard’s shooting and the robbery of the confectionary in the Grand Theatre over the same weekend. And on July 29th, two men had attempted to smash their way into the vault of the Robert Simpson Western Limited store. Could that be connected as well?
Even more outlandish were the rumors that the gunmen were members of the Sankey kidnapping gang, fleeing justice in the U.S. to seek refuge in Saskatchewan. The leaders of the gang, Verne Sankey and Gordon Alcorn, were from Saskatchewan. But the description Donald Campbell and Ardyce Aney were able to give of the gunmen, although scant, didn’t match anyone from the Sankey gang. They had described the shooter as tall, heavy set and about twenty-eight-years-old. The other two appeared younger and smaller. All three were dressed shabbily in dark clothes, similar to ‘hobo types’.
The most credible theory was that the men were transients who’d come to the city for the 1933 World Grain Fair, which ended just before the murder. This of course also made the police’s job that much more difficult. The city had a massive influx of visitors, any of whom could be the shooter.
The case went cold. Almost a year later, on Wednesday, April 25, 1934, Matt Kowalchuk was held in Regina for questioning in connection with the murder. Kowalchuk was the alleged member of a gang of freight car robbers and had been sought for weeks in the belief that he might be able to throw important light on the murder. It doesn’t appear that he was able to offer much help in the matter however, because not long after he was escorted to Portage La Prairie where there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
On May 21, 1934, a memorial bronze plaque and accompanying portrait was unveiled and hung in the city police station. A monument of red and white granite was also erected at the head of Constable George Lenhard’s grave. Both read: “In memory of Constable George A. Lenhard, who was fatally shot in the discharge of his duty August 6, 1933. Erected by the citizens of Regina.”
His murder was never solved. He was the first police officer to be killed in the line of duty in Regina.
*At the Coroner’s Inquest into his death, the jury recommended that officers wear their gun outside their tunic and the department implemented this suggestion. They believed that having the gun beneath his tunic had cost Constable Lenhard the ability to defend himself, as he was one of the force’s top marksmen.
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Information for this story came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Aug 8, 1933, Aug 9, 1933, Aug 10, 1933, Aug 12, 1933, Oct 24, 1933, April 25, 1934, April 28, 1934, May 22, 1934, June 26, 1934, Dec 10, 1977, Aug 15, 1981
If you’d like to read more stories of historical Saskatchewan true crime, check these out:
Dead in His Bed: Murder in Wakaw
The Man on the Fence: The Murder of Michael Kaminsky
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