An Alberta author is digging into the Drumheller area’s history in his latest work about a brutal incident dating back to 1935.
Richard Mole has written a few books on Canadian History including the Rebel Women of the West Coast and The Chilcotin War. His latest work follows the path of a brutal crime spree that resulted in the death of four law enforcement officers.
“The book is really about the Prairies, it is a rather bloody episode of Alberta’s history,” said Mole.
“In 1935, four law enforcement officers were shot, stabbed, and killed by three disaffected men from rural southern Saskatchewan.”
He explains the men travelled by car from Bonito, Manitoba all the way to between Canmore and Banff on a robbing and killing spree where they were stopped.
“There, they were shot and killed by law enforcement officers in a blazing gunfight, It was like Bonnie and Clyde,” said Mole. The three men were killed in the battle.
While the crime took place miles away from the valley, Mole believes one of the police officers involved in the takedown of the three men, served as an officer in Drumheller just prior to the event, and in fact was involved in another shooting in the Rosebud area.
He is investigating whether George Comb was a member of the Drumheller RCMP Detachment and he approached The Drumheller Mail to comb through the archives to learn more of the officer.
So far, the story Mole learned was in the spring of 1935, a World War I veteran named David Knox owned a small farm in the Rosebud area, and because of the Great Depression, he quit paying his mortgage on his property. Bailiffs were at the gate to seize the property, and were accompanied by two RCMP officers.
“One RCMP officer got out of the car and opened the gate, as he turned his back to walk back to the car, ‘bang,’ the guy got him right between the shoulder blades and killed him on the spot,” Mole explained. “As they were dragging the officer to the car, ‘bang,’ the other officer went down wounded. They made it back to where there was a phone, and called Drumheller for back-up.”
Corporal Mike Moriarty was killed. Mole believes that Comb may have been one of the five officers that responded to the call, and wants to confirm which detachment he came from.
“They must have jumped in a car and roared out of there right away, because everything happened in one day,” said Mole. “They chased this guy, who had a rifle, to a neighbour’s property.”
They located Knox near a grainery at a neighbour’s farm and a shootout ensued for two hours. A posse of farmers arrived on the scene. After a long pause in the battle, one of the farmers drove up and discovered Knox dead.
His interest is on Comb as he may have been involved in both of the Alberta crimes. This is what he is trying to confirm.
He was excited to learn The Drumheller Mail had such extensive archives and is looking forward to finding more about Comb. He also knows that often much history is still alive through the memories of residents, and wonders if his queries may bring back some memories of the events or the officer.
“I’m happy to test out the newspaper’s system and find out one way or another; one, just confirm if Comb was there; two, what detachment was he from; and if so, whether he asked to be transferred, or was transferred, to Banff to be involved in his next shoot out in October.
“If this is true, 1935 was a hell of a year for this kid, he probably never drew his gun again in his whole career.”
Mole’s project is slated to be published in the fall of 2011 by Heritage House Press of Vancouver.