MEDICINE HAT – Medicine Hat Police Service (MHPS) recognized the 50th anniversary of the legendary shootout on Aberdeen Street that left one suspect dead, five police officers and six civilians captured as hostages and a policeman shot in the face.
The shootout happened on Aberdeen Street in Medicine Hat on July 25, 1969, and officers survived to tell their stories.
“The thing I remember the most was standing in the grocery store with two armed men pointing their guns at us and watching tear gas containers skipping down the road past us,” said S/Sgt Flinn last week as he reflected on the events of that day 50 years later.
“One of the bad guys shot my partner right in the face at point-blank range, while we stood a foot apart. I didn’t realize until later that the reason my hat flew off was because one of the bullets that hit my partner went right through the crest of my cap.”
During the early morning hours of July 26, 1969, members of the Medicine Hat Police Service were called to the Savings Centre Grocery, located at 391 Aberdeen Street, to investigate a break and enter.
Const. Pat Flinn, 25, was the first officer to arrive on the scene and was confronted by Raymond Bradley and Victor Roeder, who were armed with a shotgun and .22 rifle.
Const. Flinn was forced to surrender his handgun and was taken hostage by the two gunmen. And, as back-up police officers arrived on the scene, they too were taken hostage.
In those days there was little to no training on hostage situations and there was no tactical team support. In total, five police officers were taken hostage, along with six civilians, who had inadvertently walked into the situation.
At one point, Victor Roeder held the barrel of a handgun to the neck of Const. Roy Funk and pulled the trigger. The bullet went through Const. Funk’s mouth and exited out the right side of his jaw. The bullet travelled through the crest of Const. Flinn’s hat, dislodging it from his head.
A moment later, Bradley, in possession of Const. Clayton Stobbs’ handgun, placed the barrel against Stobbs’ stomach.
In those days, officers sometimes kept the first chamber empty and when Bradley pulled the trigger, it clicked on the empty cylinder. Cursing the gun thinking that it had misfired, he aimed at a police car and fired a shot through the window, then swung around and aimed at Const. Funk and fired a shot. The bullet smashed the wristwatch of Const. Funk’s left wrist, travelled through the wrist, shattering the bone and penetrated the plate glass window behind his head.
When Chief Sam Drader arrived at the scene, he attempted to secure the release of other hostages by offering to be a hostage for their escape. The chief’s offer was refused and he joined the others at gunpoint.
Sgt. Norm McLeod then arrived on the scene and Roeder started firing with two handguns as he ran across the intersection towards Sgt. McLeod, who returned the fire.
During this time Const. Bill Onslow arrived with a shotgun and fired twice at Roeder, one shot hitting him in the upper chest, killing him.
Eventually, the remaining gunman, realizing his partner in crime had met his demise released all of the civilian hostages but continued to hold the police officers, threatening to kill them.
Chief Drader eventually negotiated with Bradley to release the other hostages in exchange for himself as hostage and driver of a getaway car. Leaving the scene in a police car, Chief Drader accompanied Bradley to the Flats area where they picked up Bradley’s wife, Janet and his father-in-law.
After a period of time, the four drove back to the scene, at which time Chief Drader managed to escape taking the keys from the car. Bradley, finding himself surrounded by police with no way to escape, surrendered.
On Feb. 9, 1970, Raymond Maxwell Bradley pleaded guilty to robbery with violence and causing bodily harm with intent to wound. He was sentenced to four and a half years, concurrent on each charge and was paroled on Aug. 6, 1971.
Many things have changed in the years since the Aberdeen Street shootout. Immediately following the events of that day, the MHPS recognized the need for improved equipment and resources, which resulted in a better radio system and firearms and enhanced training for the officers.
The officers who were not physically injured, including Const. Flinn, were required to report for duty the next day. It would take several years more before there was an understanding of the impacts of post-traumatic stress on first responders.
“Fifty years ago today, it was also Stampede week, and officers responded to a call not expecting problems, but then a major event happened that changed their lives forever,” reflected current Chief Andy McGrogan. “In policing, you always must be prepared for the unexpected.”
Retired Sgt. Roy Funk and S/Sgt. Patrick Flinn are both still enjoying a long and deserved retirement.
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