In August 1886, 125 years ago, the first permanent North West Mounted Police (RCMP) post was established at Red Deer at Fort Normandeau.
In the succeeding decades, there has been only one instance where a local police officer lost his life while on duty. The police officer was Const. Dennis Shwaykowski, who was killed in an incident at the Parkland Mall on April 6, 1977.
Dennis Modest Nicklos Shwaykowski was born on Aug. 25, 1945 at Dauphin, Manitoba. He was with the RCMP for more than seven years when he was transferred to the Red Deer City Detachment in 1974.
At 9:50 p.m., on Wednesday, April 6, 1977, the Police received a call about a serious incident at the Trapper Dave’s restaurant in the Parkland Mall.
A 28 year-old man from Penhold had broken up his girlfriend about three months previously. He had subsequently made serious threats of violence against her.
That evening, the man spotted his ex-girlfriend in the lounge at Trapper Dave’s with three other men. Enraged, he went home and collected a loaded 12 gauge shot gun and .308 rifle.
He returned to the restaurant and began waving his gun around. By the time Shwaykowski and his partner Const. David Guy arrived, the man had left the lounge, but was still driving his half-ton truck around the Mall parking lot.
Shwaykowski approached the truck on foot, ordered the driver to stop and to get out of his vehicle. As he got closer with his flashlight, Shwaykowski recognized the suspect.
Unfortunately, the driver refused to get out of his truck and began arguing with Shwaykowski. The suspect began to drive away, but Shwaykowski jumped on the truck’s driving board and tried to get the man to stop.
As the man continued to speed up, Shwaykowski began to pull on the man’s shirt through the window and then gave him a couple of blows with his flashlight.
As the truck accelerated to 80 km per hour, it headed towards a landscaped area of rocks and spruce trees in the middle of the mall parking lot.
The truck bumped on the rocks, damaging the left front tire and rim. Shwaykowski was thrown from the running board.
Const. Guy had been running after the truck to assist. However, by the time he arrived at the parking lot island, he found that Shwaykowski had hit his head on the rocks and had died immediately.
The suspect took off, but by the time he reached the Summit Esso station at 7111 Gaetz Ave. he started to gain control of himself again.
He pulled into the service station and asked a staff member in the restaurant to call the police.
The man was sitting in his truck, extremely upset, but now cooperative when police arrived. The loaded shotgun and rifle were still on the seat beside him when he was arrested.
The man, Stanley Hicks, was originally charged with first-degree murder, but he later pled guilty to a charge of criminal negligence causing death. He subsequently served a three-year sentence in a penitentiary.
Shwaykowski was survived by his wife Linda and three young children. His funeral at Sacred Heart Church was a massive one. There was a special RCMP guard of honour as well as large numbers of RCMP and other police officers from across Canada in attendance.
Shwaykowski was buried in the Birchwood Cemetery at Swan River, Manitoba.
On May 4, 1978, a small memorial plaque, with photo, was unveiled by the City of Red Deer.
On Sept. 9, 1992, more than 200 people attended the official unveiling of a much larger black marble memorial plaque. This second plaque is now in the front foyer of the current RCMP City Detachment station.
On Saturday, March 5, the new RCMP City Detachment building on 45 St. will be officially opened.
There will be public tours of the new building in the afternoon.