Constable William Leslie Nixon MM
Edmonton Police Service
End of Watch: Sunday, August 31, 1919
Tour of Duty: Not available
Badge Number: Not available
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Not available
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: Not available
Constable Nixon was the first Edmonton Police Service officer killed by firearm.
The night of August 29th / morning of August 30th Constable Nixon was walking his beat in the vicinity of 101 Street and 104th Avenue. just two short blocks west of present day City Hall. He had completed a routine report on the 101 Street call box at approximately 2:30 a.m. While checking near the Twin City Transfer Company, 101 Street and 104 Avenue, Constable Nixon approached a man loitering near the building. The man pulled a revolver and fired once, striking Constable Nixon's side below his left arm. Constable Nixon fired three distress shots giving the standard emergency signal before passing out. A patron of a nearby diner heard the shots and called the police. The time was approximately 3:00 a.m. Other police officers rushed to the area, finding Constable Nixon unconscious. He was transported to the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
The Morning Bulletin, the local Edmonton Newspaper, noted that Constable Nixon regained consciousness. During that time Constable Nixon described his shooter and stated that the man had fled on foot westbound down 104th Avenue after the shooting. Robert Scott, Nixon's friend, joined William in his hospital room. By 10:30 p.m., Constable Nixon stated he was feeling much improved and encouraged his friend to go home and sleep. At 1:30 a.m., Constable Nixon summoned his nurse and asked that Robert return to the hospital immediately. Constable Nixon was very weak and advised his friend that he planned for the worst. At Constable Nixon's request, both men sat in silence. By 4:00 a.m., Constable Nixon was listed in critical condition and at 6:50 a.m., Sunday August 31, 1919, Constable William Leslie Nixon died at the age of 32. He had never married.
September 1st, W. Barnsley Hughes, coroner, determined that Constable Nixon had died at the hands of persons unknown. The ensuing manhunt is worthy of any modern movie.
Every available police officer and volunteers from Constable Nixon's Regiment began an arduous effort to identify and capture the killer. Investigations focussed on a recently released prisoner, John Guddard Larson, who had been identified through photographic line-up as the man responsible for a series of armed robberies. Larson matched the description Constable Nixon gave of his killer. Detectives learned that Larson had purchased a train ticket on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line for Mountain Park and left Edmonton at 10:30 a.m., Sunday August 31. Mountain Park is now a ghost town, but at the time was an active coal mining community located south of Cadomin, Alberta.
Edmonton Police Chief Hill determined that speed was of the essence to catch up to Larson and approached famed pilot, Wop May and asked Wop and his brother Court to re-assemble their Curtis Jenny bi-plane, named the "City of Edmonton" to pursue Larson. Wop, Court, and every available mechanic worked overnight to do so. Detective James Campbell, the first known police officer to use an aircraft for police business, took off with Wop May at 3:30 p.m. September 2, 1919 flying west toward the mountains. There were no airfields constructed yet. Wop put down near Edson to refuel and was advised that the terrain west of there was more rugged which would prevent him from being able to land. Detective Campbell transferred to the train riding into Mountain Park. On September 4th, he located and arrested Larson for Constable Nixon's death. Chief Hill received a cable advising of Larson's arrest. At 7:30 p.m., Detective Campbell, assisted by Constable McElroy of the Alberta Provincial Police, escorted the handcuffed Larson to the train station. The three boarded the railway speeder and set off for Edson. The pilot also assisted with the apprehension of the murderer of Constable Edgar Millen, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in 1932.
The speeder was enroute to Edson, travelling down a steep slope at a good clip when the handcuffed and desperate Larson threw himself from the car disappearing into the dense woods and heavy rain. Detective Campbell wired Chief Hill of the escape and a new search team set out after Larson. On September 6th, Larson was recaptured returning to a wooded cabin. The fugitive and his escorts successfully completed their journey back to Edmonton. His wait for trial was, however, not without further incident. At 3:00 p.m., September 25th, Larson was shackled and handcuffed when he complained to Constable Little, his guard, that his leg shackle was too tight. As Constable Little stooped to check, Larson viciously slashed Constable Little's neck with the sharpened edge of a metal cup, narrowly missing his jugular vein.
In the ensuing trial for murder of Constable Nixon, attempted murder of Constable Little and numerous robberies, Larson was convicted of attempted murder and the robberies. The lack of modern forensic techniques, coupled with the death of the sole eyewitness to murder; Constable Nixon, resulted in a finding of not guilty for Constable Nixon's murder. Larson was, none-the-less, sentenced to life imprisonment. Constable Nixon is survived by a brother and a neice.