Cpl. Leonard Victor RALLS – July 5, 1932

Reg. # 6177, Cpl. Leonard Victor RALLS

July 5, 1932, near Foam Lake, Saskatchewan               Age: 44 years

Cpl. RALLS was born August 4, 1887 and engaged in the Royal North West Mounted Police on September 9, 1914 at Prince Albert, Sask.  He was stationed at Macrorie, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Laird, Sask.  He took his discharge as time expired on September 8, 1917.  During World War I, he enlisted with the 29th Light Horse, serving overseas with the Electrical Engineers Division of the Royal Engineer Volunteers.  He re-engaged with the RNWMP on February 20, 1920, again at Prince Albert.  He was stationed in the Division Office at Prince Albert.  Cst. RALLS took his discharge time expired on February 19, 1923 in order to join the Saskatchewan Provincial Police (SPP).  He served with the SPP from March 2, 1923 to May 31, 1928.  Upon the absorption of the SPP by the RCMP in 1928, he was retaken on strength of the RCMP on June 1, 1928.  He was stationed at Foam Lake.

Over the years the people of the Canadian West developed a strong sense of trust and appreciation for the RCMP.  Many western farmers and villagers lived great distances apart in semi-isolation, and their special police force represented a treasured source of security.  These hardy westerners could contend with almost any peril or hazard except lawlessness.  For that, they relied on the police.

Consequently, when any of their policemen were attacked, the citizens were quick to respond with their support.  No better example of this can be cited than in the case of Cpl. Leonard RALLS.

During the spring and summer of 1932, break-ins and store robberies were occurring in towns along Highway #14 (now 16) that runs northwest from the Manitoba border through Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and on to Saskatoon.  In an attempt to put a stop to these robberies, the RCMP sent out extra night patrols to stop drivers and check their cars along the highway.

At 1:40 in the morning of Tuesday, July 5, RCMP Cst. M.V. NOVAKOWSKI of Yorkton Detachment tried to stop a dark blue plymouth sedan on Highway #14, but was cut off every time he tried to pass it.  When the occupants began to shoot at him, NOVAKOWSKI stopped at the village of Sheho and telephoned ahead to Cpl. Len RALLS of the Foam Lake Detachment and asked him to set up a roadblock.

RALLS drove down to the bridge on the highway at Foam Lake and parked his car across from the creamery so that it blocked the road.  When the Plymouth sedan came along, RALLS signaled for it to stop.  There were three occupants in the car and, in the darkness, one of them slipped out and hid behind the nearby creamery building.  As RALLS started walking towards the Plymouth, two of the fugitives opened fire on him from different directions.  RALLS fired back as he retreated to his car, but he had already been badly wounded.  As he lay on the ground, the fugitives tore the ignition wires from the police car and pushed the vehicle into the ditch.  Then they scrambled back to the Plymouth, which they had recently stolen, and drove off.

Cpl. RALLS called out for help and was able to attract the attention of Sandy Baird, who lived close to the creamery.  Seeing how badly RALLS was wounded, Baird got out his car and lifted the corporal into the back seat to take him to the doctor.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Baird, not knowing who was hurt, called RALLS’ home to advise the local police of the shooting.  Katherine RALLS answered the phone and soon learned that it was her husband who had been hit.  At Mrs. RALLS’ request, Sandy Baird agreed to pick her up as he drove by to the local doctors.  When they got to Dr. Somer’s place, and helped Cpl. RALLS to his feet, the officer seemed to rally, but he immediately weakened and collapsed, saying, “It’s too late.  I’m finished.”

In the doctor’s office, RALLS was laid out on the examining table; it became obvious that he was mortally injured.  He had a gunshot wound just below his heart and another in his ribs.  Before he died, he turned to his wife and said, “They’ve got me,” and then to the others, “They went east.”  Cpl. RALLS passed away at 4:30 in the morning.

By 6:00 am, the word of his death had spread and the search for his killers began.  Insp. W.J. MOORHEAD came in from Yorkton to Foam Lake to take command of the manhunt.  Regina radio station CKCK was used to alert all available resources.  RCMP began to arrive from detachments across the province.  Expert trappers volunteered their services to help track the fugitives.  By Wednesday morning, three airplanes were flown in to help scour the thickly wooded countryside.  By 1:00 pm, 70 armed farmers joined the 50 RCMP in the hunt for the escaped killers.

The first break came when the posse discovered the fugitives’ car and its contents of stolen goods in the bush near the village of Lintlaw.  Several sightings were reported by farmers, of whom the criminals demanded something to eat.  On Thursday morning, the killers stole three horses from a farm near Kelvington and the police posse moved closer and closer to the quarry.  Around noon, Cst. Joe PARSONS and Wadena town policemen, who were a little ahead of the posse, crept up on the three horses tied to a tree on the Johnson farm a half mile west of Kinloch.  A man later identified as 17 year old Mike Kurulak, walked over to the horses and was arrested without a struggle.  Leaving Cst. HAYES with the prisoner, Cst. PARSONS moved quietly towards the farmhouse.  When the two other men came out of the house, PARSONS ordered them to surrender, bu they went for their guns and shot their way into the bush and escaped in different directions.

The bulk of the posse soon arrived and, undeterred by this new turn of events, split in two and went after each man separately.  From the captured Mike Kurulak, the authorities learned the identities of the other two fugitives.  One was 37 year old Bill Miller and the other was Mike’s 24 year old brother, Bill Kurulak.  Both had criminal records and had done time in the Prince Albert Penitentiary.

On Friday, July 8, Bill Kurulak was captured at 4:00 in the morning without a struggle.  He had arrived at the Adams farm, four miles south of Green Water Lake, and asked for a place to sleep.  Mr. Adams gave him a bed and then went out to the neighbours and called the police.  This Kurulak was arrested quietly while he slept . . . with a loaded revolver under his pillow.

Bill Miller was not such easy prey.  He was sighted several times Friday morning and, each time, fled under an exchange of gunfire.  It was in this part of the chase that the airplane was particularly effective.  It flew low overhead and, when it spotted Miller dashing from one wooded thicket to another, circled back so the spotter could drop written notes of direction to the main core of the posse.

The main battle to capture Bill Miller occurred nine miles northeast of Kelvington, Saskatchewan.  Lake Friday afternoon, Miller was surrounded in a large bush and a major gun fight took place.  After a heavy exchange of gunfire, Miller stopped shooting.  The posse cautiously waited for a period of time, and then slowly entered the woods where they found Miller lying dead.  He had been wounded seriously in two places.  One shot had shattered his right leg, another had torn a hole in his abdomen.  He had died; however, from a self-inflicted wound to the head.  His revolver was still in his hand.  In the cylinder were five live shells and one spent.

Cpl. RALLS was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Prince Albert on Thursday, July 7, while the man-hunt continued for his killers.  He was survived by his wife, Katherine, and their four children, the oldest of whom was 12.  Cpl. RALLS was cited as a brave man who had served his country for 18 years as both a policeman and a soldier of the Great War.

Cpl. RALLS’ death, and the subsequent capture of his killers, brought forth editorials from newspapers across the country that echoed the strong sentiments of the nation.  Extracts follows:

“. . . Once again Canada has served notice on sundry gangsters and would-be gangsters that Canada is no safe place for them.  Once again the “Scarlet Riders of  the Plains” have met a situation with that quiet determination which generally always is rewarded with success.”                                                 Prince Albert Herald

“. . . Western Canada’s historic police force has never failed in even the sternest tests of duty. It has never faltered, never wavered.  Its courage is proverbial and one of its proudest traditions and this tradition is further enriched by the sacrificial death of Corporal Ralls in behalf of law and order.”                 Regina Leader Post

“. . . Considering the reputation of the force for “getting its man” alive if possible but dead if necessary, that (killing Ralls) was a reckless thing to do . . . for the police never abandon their quest until they run down their man and the ends of British justice are fulfilled.”    Victoria Colonist

“. . . The point to be stressed is that from the moment the policeman was slain the whole countryside was aroused and was bent upon capturing the criminals.  There was no escape for them.  The law was stronger than they were and got them.  In the countryside as in the cities and towns crime is futile in Canada.  The Saskatchewan affair is a shining example in proof.”  Montreal Gazette

William Kurulak was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.  He was hanged at the Regina Jail on December 29, 1932.  Mike Kurulak was convicted of manslaughter and given 15 years in jail.

In 1959, a street in Depot Division was named “Ralls Lane”.  In 2008, a local Park in Foam Lake was renamed in Cpl. RALLS’s honour.  The project was spear headed by the Foam Lake Legion & Elks Club.  In attendance was the eldest grandchild of Corporal Ralls, Carolyn Owens with her husband David Owens.  Carolyn and David’s two daughters were also present – Tammie Owens, and Laura Dear with husband Jay and their two children Carmel and Rita.  Carmel and Rita were the great-great grandchildren of Leonard Ralls.

(Single Page Personnel File review conducted.  -Photo of 2008 dedication ceremony is available)