This week I received an email inquiry about something that happened before my time in Carleton Place, Ontario. Always on the lookout for a good local historical story I was on a mission to find out more.
I am trying to find the location of a police shootout on Nov 17, 1945 involving my uncle, Detective John (Ab) Cavan that occurred right in Carleton Place at “ a fence at the home of Robert O’Meara located on the town line off Bridge St.” Would you be able to identify where this shootout occurred ???
We would like to visit the “scene of the crime” Thank you.
Immediately I contacted my historical super heroe friend Jennifer Fenwick Irwin at the Carleton Place & Beckwith Museum. She confirmed the location after talking to Blaine Cornell, son of the local police chief at that time. Cornell was happy to help as he said it brought back memories of being frightened as a child, when his father was called to assist.
This story solely belongs to Detective John Cavan who joined the Ottawa Police force in 1930 and Detective Robert Bayne who first became a beat cop in 1928. On a foggy night on the 19th of November in the year 1945 30-year old David Huard attempted to blast his way out of a blind alley just a breath away from the Townline East Road in Carleton Place. Huard had made history escaping the Ottawa Nicholas jail in October and it would not be until Sept 11th, 1951 until another man William Weslew attempted to scale those walls once again.
Word on the street was Huard had been on a Wellington Street crime spree with his gang and had robbed Brewers Retail of $1,162 in cash and then turned to the small drugstore of Dalton E Joynt where a lighter was taken and on to the drugstore belonging to George M. Nichols where he relieved them of $25-35 dollars of narcotics. (Heroin cocaine and opium as well as a few less known narcotics)
Cavan and Bayne spotted Huard’s license plate and tried to flag him down. Huard was having none of it, and along with his brother-in-law Charles Grandmaison, Grandmaison’s wife and another woman in the back seat; the Bonnie & Clyde chase began at Gladstone and Preston Street in Ottawa. Similar to an action movie they carried on from Gladstone Street to Parkdale, south to Carling Avenue and then sped west towards the Prescott highway.
Traveling at death defying 75-80 mph Huard swung off and headed towards Richmond Road, making a series of twists and turns on to various streets until he finally hit the Carleton Place highway after a 100 mile chase still pursued by the detectives.
Lanark Street Carleton Place
Huard didn’t go through Carleton Place quietly, plowing his car into a fence at the home of Robert O’Meara thinking it was the side road leading to Almonte. According to Blaine Cornell it was the dead end of Carleton Street which runs parallel to Lanark street off of Townline East. With the detectives hot on his trail Huard jumped from his car and began to shoot.
The shoot out was fierce and after Huard nearly missed hitting Detective Cavan, so Cavan returned fire at Huard. The escaped convict fired again and his second shot barely missed the detective. Cavan now fearing for his life pumped three more shots into Huard until he fell at his feet. Detective Bayne covered the other occupants sitting inside the car who were unarmed but feared they would suffer the same fate as Huard.
Where the car finally stopped Carleton Street-
It should be noted that Detective Cavan only had 5 bullets in his gun and he made 4 of them count on the escaping desperado. Dr. J. A. Johnson of Carleton Place was called to the scene but Huard was already dead and taken to the local undertaker parlor, Patterson and Sons, and then later to the Civic Hospital in Ottawa. Dr. J. A. McEwan coroner of Carleton Place said an inquest would be held into Huards death.
When Huards clothes were searched he had about $347 dollars on him as well as some loose change. On a tip the police found the rest of the Huard’s gang at a local Hull Hotel the next day and all of them had been registered under assumed names. The women were let go after their luggage was searched, but a picture of one of the women with Huard in Montreal was seized.
Detective J.A ‘Ab” Cavan and Detective Robert Bayne were awarded the King’s medal. Police Chief J. P. Downey said of Detective Cavan’s narrow escape:
“Thank God our man is safe. I guess it just wasn’t his time to go!”
And so this completes the story that has been seldom heard. Thanks to all who participated in solving this mystery and the Cavan family now feels everything has been narrowed down close enough for the family to visit the site in a few weeks.
And now you know the rest of the story…
Robert Irvine–The police chief at the time was Chris Irvine, Herb Cornell was a constable and became chief upon the death of Chief Irvine some years later.