This Blog will no longer publish due to sickness in our family.
June 29, 2012
'E' Div. Kamloops Memorial for Three Deceased Members 1962
'Friends Not Forgotten'
The outline which follows about the events of June 18, 1962 was sent to me my Troopmate, my Pit Partner, Ken Harrach.
On June 18th 1962 at approximately 09:00 in the morning, Mr. George Ferguson, a Provincial Game Warden, called the Kamloops RCMP to report that he and his partner had been threatened near the Provincial Government Administration Building by a gun-wielding man, later identified as George Booth. Booth suffered from mental illness but at the time, people in the community did not consider him to be dangerous. Booth spent much of his time alone in the bush and was known to be a good shot with his .303 rifle. His father claimed that Booth could split a match at 50 yards.
Cst Joe Keck, Regimental # 19233 (age 25), took the complaint from Mr. Ferguson and at 09:20 am and reported the incident to the Officer in Charge. Cst Keck and Cst Gord Pedersen, Regimental #20865 (age 23), went out to investigate the matter. Cst Donald Weisgerber, Regimental #20215 (age 23), was off duty but was in the office at the time and accompanied Cst Keck and Cst Pedersen in the investigation. Cst Keck and Pedersen were in their RCMP uniform with their sidearms while Cst Weisgerber was in plainclothes and unarmed.
When the 3 officers arrived at the downtown Administration Building, Cst Pedersen entered from the main entrance. Cst Keck and Weisgerber entered by a rear door and immediately spotted Booth pacing up and down outside the Motor Vehicle Office. Once Booth saw the police, he made a threatening gesture towards them with his rifle. This behaviour caused a higher degree of concern for the officers. Booth quickly left the building and the 3 police officers followed behind him. As the three officers followed him for 200 yards, they repeatedly called to Booth to stop and to drop his rifle. Booth did neither and continued walking. As he crossed the dried up bottom of Peterson Creek, Booth gestured at the police with his hand to stay away. When the officers persisted in their pursuit and continued to call to him, Booth pointed his rifle at them and yelled for them to leave him alone. This scene was witnessed by several elderly citizens who lived nearby.
When Booth went up on a timber roadway bridge over the creek, Cst Pedersen went down in the dry creek bed in an attempt to outflank Booth and cut him off before he could make it to the bush on higher ground. As Cst Pedersen got within 25 yards of the gunman, Cst Keck and Weisgerber made a move to close in on Booth on the bridge. At that point Booth opened fire on Cst Pedersen with 3 rounds from his rifle - 2 rounds hit him. The first one ripped across his back, cutting his Sam Browne cross strap. Cst Pedersen got off one shot in return before being killed by a shot to his head. During the exchange of gunfire, Cst Weisgerber who was unarmed, ran for protection behind a wooden gravel skid box on the side of the road. Cst Keck, armed with only his service revolver, ran for cover under the bridge. Booth kept shooting at the two of them as he ran back and forth on the bridge.
One of Cst Keck's shots hit Booth in the stomach, knocking him down and causing him to let go of his rifle. Cst Weisgerber, seeing Booth was wounded, raced towards the bridge to grab the gun. Before he could get there, Booth recovered and picked up his .303 rifle. As Cst Weisgerber ran towards him, Booth raised his rifle and shot him 3 times in the abdomen. Cst Weisgerber died at the scene within minutes of being wounded.
The shooting then stopped. In the silence, Cst Keck edged out from under the bridge to get another shot away. He had to lean out because his vision was hampered by the brim of his Stetson. As he did, Booth fired again and this time killed Cst Keck with a shot to the head. Booth walked off into the bush in the steep hills behind him.
Back at the detachment, S/Sgt d'Easum was unable to raise his three officers on the radio in the police cars so he went looking for them. He arrived at the scene within minutes after the officers were killed and was informed by witnesses that Booth had run into the wooded area. The S/Sgt notified his Superintendent and a massive search began for the killer.
Resources were called in from various areas in the subdivision and surrounding detachments. Because there were insufficient service rifles for this many members, officers were advised to arm themselves with large calibre hunting rifles. To help with the search a helicopter was called in from the nearby Kamloops Airport and within an hour a police service dog was set on the killer's trail.
Cpl Jack While, a marksman with a rifle, along with two other officers in the search party, drove up onto a high plain above the site of the shootings. By staying above Booth, they hoped to contain him in the immediate area. Cpl White was in plainclothes and for two hours, he and 2 other members cautiously worked their way down the slope towards Peterson Creek looking for Booth. Just before noon, one of the officers heard a noise over the crest of a hill in front of them.
The officer silently signalled to Cpl White but before anything could be discussed, Booth suddenly appeared before them, standing upright and pointed his rifle at them. Cpl White realized he did not have time to swing his rifle to shoot before Booth could fire so he fired a shot at the ground and it startled Booth who took cover as did the officers.
The officers could hear Booth working the bolt of his rifle to reload. Cpl White timed how long it took Booth to load another bullet into rifle. Booth fired a shot which hit a large rock and ducked down to reload again. Cpl White came up from behind cover, took aim and waited for Booth to expose himself to make his next shot. When Cpl. White saw Booth's head edging out behind the back side of a tree, he immediately fired and killed Booth.
The chase was over but the grieving had just begun. Three young wives were widowed. The entire community in Kamloops was paralyzed with shock. The nation shook its head in disbelief. On Friday June 22nd, 1962, a combined funeral service for the 3 fallen officers was held at the Kamloops Memorial Arena. 1500 citizens from all walks of life listened sombrely as Reverend Irving gave the eulogy over the flag-draped coffins. Each member's Stetson rested atop the Union Jacks (Canada's official flag was still 3 years away). After the service, thousands lined the streets as the bodies of Cst Keck and Cst Weisgerber passed in a procession to the Hillside Cemetery in Kamloops. Cst Pedersen's remains were taken to Vernon for burial in Pleasant Valley Cemetery.
The three RCMP officers had a great deal in common. They were young, trim, active and handsome. All had beautiful wives and were in the prime of their early manhood. Cst Keck and his wife Ann had a two year old son and they were expecting another child. Betty Pedersen gave birth to her son seven months after her husband's funeral.
'Maintain Our Memories'
J. J. Healy,