On the night of May 28th, 1913 Constable James Archibald was assigned to walk a one-man beat on Powell Street. There had been a recent rash of commercial burglaries in the area. Therefore, Constable Archibald was extra diligent in patrolling the commercial areas on his beat. The burglary suspects would later be identified as Herman Clark, Frank Davis, Joseph "Blackie" Seymour and William Hamilton. On that night Constable Archibald did not return at the end of his shift and despite a search by other police constables, he could not be found. The search continued the next morning in daylight. Tragically, his body was soon found in a vacant lot, near Powell Street. He had been shot three times.
Later investigation and testimony at the trial revealed the following circumstances of his death. At 01:30 he was walking past the office of Hastings Shingle Mill No.2 in the 1300 block Powell Street. Herman Clark and Frank Davis were just coming out a side door after burglarising the premise. Clark lit a cigarette and Constable Archibald saw the flash from the match. He walked toward the area where he saw the light. He approached cautiously holding his flashlight in his left hand and revolver in his right. His flashlight illuminated the two suspects and he asked them what they were doing. Clark replied they were just looking for a place to sleep in the bushes. Constable Archibald was suspicious of their story and detained them for further investigation. In order to search them properly he needed both hands so he re-holstered his revolver. He searched Clark first and quickly found a pry-bar hidden in his pocket. He realised at this point that he was in a dangerous situation as he was outnumbered by two burglary suspects. He reached for his revolver to arrest them. However, Clark and Davis were both also armed with revolvers and Clark drew his first. He shot Constable Archibald three times from point blank range, he died immediately. Clark and Davis then quickly ran away but returned a few minutes later to hide the evidence. They hid Constable Archibald's body in the nearby bushes. They also took his revolver and flashlight, which they threw in a nearby mud-hole along with their burglary tools.
However, they unknowingly left behind valuable evidence, in the form of a crudely made black cloth mask, next to the body. Later that same day, Detectives Levis and Tisdale arrested the two suspects, along with Seymour and Hamilton. An informant's tip led police to their hideout in a nearby waterfront shack. A search of the shack revealed a match to the mask found beside the body. A piece of black material was found with the outline of the mask cut from it.
All four were lodged in the City Jail and were interrogated by Detectives Levis and Tisdale. As they were all facing the death penalty, the co-accused Joseph "Blackie" Seymour and William Hamilton quickly decided to give "Kings evidence" and were granted immunity.
They provided evidence to the investigators regarding where the murder weapon was hidden and also testified at the trial. On November 6th Clark and Davis were found guilty. His lordship Justice Morrison sentenced them "to be hanged by the neck until dead."
They were hanged on May 15th, 1914, in the provincial jail in New Westminster almost a year after the murder.Addendum
During the investigation a background check of Clark revealed he had escaped from Folsom Prison in California on July 29th, 1912, where he was serving a twelve-year sentence for first-degree burglary.
Ironically, Detective Levis, one of the arresting officers, would also be killed in the line of duty almost a year later.
The following is a poem which was published in the "Vancouver Daily Province" May 28th, 1913, author unknown.
JAMES ARCHIBALD-Hero, Vancouver Police Force.
Don't think that our heroes are all of the past,
That they live but in song and in story,
As long as the name of "A Briton" shall last,
Our sons will win honor and glory,
And not only then-when the "war-drum" may beat-
Do some merit Victoria's Cross-
In this city of peace stay the din of the street,
While we mourn a brave hero-our loss,
A wreath for "James Archibald-Hero of Peace"
Who answered when "Duty" did call-
For a moment the tumult of Vancouver cease-
As in silence we follow his pall.
Then! -a cheer for our policemen-their children and wives,
Of such men our Vancouver is proud.
When "Duty" doth need it, they'll give up their lives
For the careless and confident crowd.
"For the crowd"-who are careless and rugged and cold,
(We're not great on "Emotions" out West.)
But we know the right color and valor-and gold,
We can value "what comes thro the test."
Then a wreath for a hero who gave up his life,
Who answered when "Duty" did call,
And remember, my brothers, his children and wife
Have a claim on us, boys-one and all.
James Archibald: policeman, husband, father, son. "We Shall Never Forget You.""All the stories and words on this site were written from the heart, by Sgt. Steve Gibson. They are the result of research and interviews by Cst. Tod Catchpole with families and friends of the officers killed in the line of duty. For the sake of authenticity, the stories appear exactly as written and have not been edited by the site creators. While the Vancouver Police Department stands by the stories, visitors to this site should accept that they may contain minor factual inaccuracies."