Hamilton officer gunned down during bank robbery nearly 100 years ago

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Published June 28, 2024 at 1:44 pm

The Funeral for Detective William Clark, who was shot and killed after a Hamilton bank robbery in 1929 - via Hamilton Police Museum

Hamilton Police have marked the violent death of Detective William Clark nearly a century ago, one of only seven killed in the line of duty.

On June 27, 1929, Aldershot farmer Charles Long brought a shotgun to the Ontario Savings Branch at 316 Ottawa Street in a daring afternoon robbery. The site just north of Highway 8 is now a Discount Fabric Mart.

With his 12-gauge hand, Long robbed the branch of about $1,200, according to local historian Brendan Oliver. That $1,200 in 1929 would now be worth more than $21,000 in 2024 dollars.

As Long fled the scene, the bank staff sounded the alarm and quickly got the attention of Hamilton Police Constable Sam Nesbitt. Long led the Nesbitt and two civilians, Thomas Halcrow and Jonny Monk, on a chase for a couple of blocks.

He ended up hiding in the basement of a house at 242 Rosslyn Avenue North. When Nesbitt and his entourage reached the house, Nesbitt lit a match to see in the dark of the basement. Long suddenly confronted the Constable, bashing him upside the head with the butt of his shotgun.

Nesbitt retreated from the house stunned as several other officers, including Clark, arrived. The newly arrived force filled the house with tear gas but Long remained inside.

Clark and Detective John Bleakley put on gas masks and entered the home. As the entered, gunfire immediately erupted, ending with the deaths of Clark and Long.

Deputy Chief Ernest Goodman, promoted near two years earlier, was responsible for the resulting investigation. This investigation had a deep effect on Goodman according to the Hamilton Police Historical Society.

He ultimately pushed for a plaque in honour of Clark which still sits in the Central Station lobby. Goodman would later become the first Canadian-born chief of Hamilton Police.

Clark died at age 36 and left behind his wife and two children. He was the fifth Hamilton officer killed in the line of duty and the last for more than 33 years when Constable David Gregory was shot and killed in 1962.

Clark’s death followed that of Constable Fredrick Raynes who crashed his motorcycle in November 1925.

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