Three dead after local shootout!

Whether it was a certain town policeman’s own revolver that did some of the shooting, we may never really know but the boots of two other officers stood on display about 75 years ago in our downtown mortuary of those days as the kids stood outside and gaped at them.
The boots, as I remember this wild page from our past, had been worn by border officers slain by mistake when the gunman must have believed they were after him!
And our pioneer policeman Syd Wall, rightly or wrongly, still is being blamed for a strange shootout that went on for hours next to the highway at Barwick. The scene came to my attention years later when I visited that farm in a wartime quest for scrap iron.
The Fort Frances end of the disturbance started on the street between the jail and the railroad, according to most stories. Cst. Wall was moving a prisoner named Frenette when the man kicked Syd and evidently stole his handgun before he bolted for the railroad and there shot two uniformed victims when they boarded a passenger train headed west.
Then the chase was on and it became known that Frenette had dropped off the train about 30 miles down the line.
Surrounding a highway farm house, which when last I saw it still bore the bullet holes, there commenced a siege that kept the entire district alarmed.
I believe this occurred in springtime and everyone was nervously awaiting the outcome while only the police could send word out of that scene, our radio station not being founded yet.
It was said that at the height of the barrage, Frenette decided to escape and threw a bed mattress over his back while he ran through the bushes down a creek bank and towards the river.
His escape plan was foiled by all the flying bullets.
It may never be known which policeman, among everyone who came from all over, had cut him down. There was some suggestion whether Syd Wall actually had made the kill.
Of course, soon as this item is printed, there will be those with better memories contributing to this story because it’s part of our centennial history, too.
There were very few murders along our backtrail, though, so whatever of that sort occurred, it’s best to acknowledge that, occasionally, murders have occurred even in this quiet community.
I believe that house on the south side of the highway west of the Kenora junction is still standing and perhaps even occupied occasionally. Last time I was there, the old poplar trees around it still were bearing the scars of that big gun battle.
As for Syd Wall, who came originally from England, he stayed with the town police department until his retirement—and there never was a town policeman more alert for trouble.
He was carefully avoided by all the under-aged boys who were outside after the curfew hour or raiding crabapple trees or doing mischief on “Gate Night.”
When the boys collected in the back alleys after dark, they had better watch out for old Syd suddenly tearing past on his motorbike with one long leg stretched out to send them home in a hurry.
Syd became a great back-street watchman—and few had the temerity to ask him about that long-ago shootout.
He was town police chief briefly before Chief Berry when the police office was on Portage Avenue next to Gagne’s drug store and also could have served with our veteran chief, Louis Camirand, who came here to be the U.S. border patrolman on horseback.
I’m not sure whether the two officers shot on the train also were border police but others identified them as such, and their well-shined boots and leather leggings were displayed for days on Mowat Avenue opposite Green’s store.

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