It’s been 45 years since Red Deer’s first and only police officer was killed while on duty in the city.
Const. Dennis Shwaykowski was remembered on Wednesday by the National Police Federation and others. A social media post from the police officers’ union stated: “End of watch: April 6, 1977.”
Shwaykowski, a native of Dauphin, Man., had served more than seven years with the RCMP before being transferred to the City of Red Deer detachment in 1974.
According to local historian Michael Dawe, Shwaykowski had responded to a serious incident at Trapper Dave’s restaurant at Parkland Mall.
A 28-year-old man had become enraged after seeing his ex-girlfriend sitting with other men in the restaurant’s lounge. The suspect went home and returned to the restaurant with a loaded 12-gauge shotgun.
He began shouting and waving his gun around, making threats against his ex-girlfriend.
It was about 10 p.m. when Shwaykowski and another officer arrived at the scene. By this time, the volatile suspect had left the restaurant, but was still driving his half-ton truck around the mall parking lot.
Shwaykowski approached the truck and ordered the driver to stop and get out of the vehicle. When the suspect instead began to drive away, the 31-year-old officer jumped on the truck’s running board to try to get the driver to pull over.
Instead, the suspect began to speed as Shwaykowski gave him a couple of blows through the open truck window with his flashlight.
At a speed of 80 km per hour, the truck struck a landscaped island of rocks, damaging its left tire and throwing Shwaykowski from the running board.
When a fellow police officer arrived at his side, Shwaykowski was dead. He had hit his head on the rocks.
The suspect later turned himself in to police. He was initially charged with first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of criminal negligence causing death. He served a three-year sentence in a penitentiary.
A funeral service for Shwaykowski was held with a massive turn-out at Sacred Heart Church in Red Deer. An RCMP honour guard and officers from across the country were in attendance.
Shwaykowski was survived by his wife and three young children.
A plaque commemorating his service can be found in the Red Deer RCMP’s downtown detachment.
Dawe said that Shwaykowski was the first and only Red Deer RCMP detachment officer who was killed while on duty.
But another tragedy with a Red Deer connection happened during an RCMP raid on a suspected marijuana grow operation in Mayerthorpe, northwest of Edmonton, on March 3, 2005.
A suspect shot and killed four officers — among them, Const. Brock Myrol who was raised in Red Deer and wanted to make a difference to his country.