The last Sunday of September is dedicated to the observance of both the Alberta and Canada Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial Day. Flags were at half staff on Sunday, September 27 in honour of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
This is the story of Drumheller’s fallen officer, Corporal Michael Moriarty.
Michael Moriarty was born in Castlegregory, a small village on the southwestern coast of Ireland.
Prior to immigrating to Canada, Moriarty served with Glasgow City Police in Scotland between 1908 and 1911, and the London Metropolitan Police from 1911 to 1913.
After immigrating to Canada, Moriarty joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) in 1914, serving until 1917 when he left to join the Saskatchewan Provincial Police.
He joined the newly-formed Alberta Provincial Police in 1918 until the provincial force was dissolved and became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1932. Moriarty was re-engaged in service in the RCMP as a Mountie.
He served as acting corporal in 1933 and became an official corporal the following year in 1934.
On April 26, 1935 Cpl. Moriarty was killed while attempting to serve a court summons to Rosebud man, David S. Knox.
According to an archived copy of The Drumheller Mail dated May 2, 1935, Knox’s lease had expired when the property, owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, was sold.
On March 25, bailiff David Oliver of Drumheller went to Knox’s residence with a court order of eviction, but Knox pointed a rifle at Oliver and demanded him to get off the property.
Knox made threats to “kill any policeman who set food in his farmyard.”
Cpl. Moriarty and another officer, Constable Roy Allen, went to the residence on April 25, 1935 to serve Knox with a court summons for unlawfully pointing the firearm at the bailiff, but Knox could not be found on the property despite a search of the property.
The summons was nailed to the door of Knox’s residence by Cpl. Moriarty, but Knox failed to appear at court the next day.
Cpl. Moriarty and Cst. Allen returned to the farm on April 26 to serve Knox with another summons.
The farm gate was shut across the road and Cpl. Moriarty stepped out of the vehicle to open the gate and let Cst. Allen through.
As Cpl. Moriarty closed the gate, with his back turned to the house, Knox fired a shot from the window of his home. The bullet hit Cpl. Moriarty in the back of the shoulder, tearing through his chest, dropping the corporal.
Cst. Allen attempted to provide assistance, but Knox continued to shoot as the officer fled the scene.
Cst. Allen was able to make a call for reinforcements from a farm, approximately three-quarters of a mile from the Knox residence. Five RCMP officers, along with a number of armed farmers, arrived as reinforcements.
They followed Knox approximately four miles west where he had taken shelter in a granary. Knox shot at the officers and farmers from a granary window and used a large haystack next to the building as cover.
The ensuing gunfight lasted for two hours.
Archived newspapers from the time of the incident had conflicting reports of how Knox died--some claimed Knox died as a result of being pinned or run over, others claimed Knox was killed by police gunfire.
G.C. Duncan, proprietor and publisher of The Drumheller Mail at the time, commented on the events saying, “The manner in which Mr. Knox met his death was speculative, until evidence placed before the jury at the coroner’s inquest proved almost conclusively that he died from a bullet discharged from his own rifle--whether suicidal or accidental will never be known.”
Knox was laid to rest in Drumheller. Cst. Allen and Cst. Gillespie were in attendance.
A funeral was held at St. Anthony’s church for Cpl. Moriarty where he received full police honours.
Cpl. Moriarty was unmarried at the time of his death, and his only family in North America was a brother in Buffalo, New York. At the request of his brother, the corporal’s body was sent to New York for burial where he received last rites on May 7, 1935 at the Holy Cross cemetery in Lackawanna, New York according to The Calgary Daily Herald.
A road at the training division Depot is named after Cpl. Moriarty and his name is included in the Cenotaph and Book of Remembrance.