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Dum Dums And Buns: The New Westminster Bridge Shootout

January 15, 2017

On December 21 1934, Vancouver bank robber and jail-breaker James Grant, accomplice John Garvey,  and getaway-car driver William Riley, were captured by police on the Fraser River Bridge in a spectacular shootout.


The bullet-riddled car, windscreen shattered, tires a bit splashy, after running into a barrage of police fire on the Fraser River Bridge. White circlea indicate bullet holes.

Dangerous And Armed

James Grant, 23, had escaped custody in Vancouver on December 14 while awaiting trial for robbery with violence. On the lam he went on a hold-up spree that included robbing a bank in Vancouver.

Reports stated the men were armed with a .32 automatic pistol and a .38 revolver, and for more deadly impact:

“The bullets in their weapons had been converted into ‘dum dums.’”

Bridge Stake-Out

Learning that the three desperadoes would try and make a run for the United States border, police kept watch on the approach to the Fraser River Bridge.

The old bridge, now overshadowed by the Pattullo Bridge and used by trains only, formerly had an upper level deck roadway for vehicles and pedestrians.

Once they crossed the river, mounted the concrete pavement of the Pacific Highway, and opened her up, the motorcar would be making a 20-minute dash to the frontier.

About a dozen heavily armed police officers were involved in the stake-out organized by Chief Constable John Cameron of Vancouver and Chief Peter Bruce of the New Westminster police.

A plainclothes detective stationed at the north end of the bridge spotted the bandits’ car and immediately flashed a signal.

At the south end , the off-ramp was blocked with a car and a flank of officers armed with revolvers and sawed-off shotguns spread out alongside the roadway. (One report said both sides.)

Friday Night Shoppers Watched As Outlaw’s Car Feasted On In Police Ambush

When Grant’s car refused an order to stop and instead surged ahead, it was met with a crackling hail of bullets that brought the vehicle to a halt.

The three men were pulled from the car, miraculously uninjured. Reporters later counted 19 bullet holes in the vehicle.

More astonishing was this matter of fact observation by a reporter:

“Fortunately, the bridge was almost free of traffic at the time of the shooting.”

This all took place around 7 o’clock on a Friday night.

Loot from the bank robbery was found in the car. Grant and Garvey pleaded guilty and before the year was out, were each dealt 10 lashes to start off 10 years in the Penitentiary.

Taken To Another Level: The Bridge Bun Toss

As exciting and dramatic as was this take-down, it was arguably upstaged by a stroke of comic genius.

“One pedestrian, a Chinese, was given a bad fright when he saw an officer running toward the Grant car with drawn revolver.

The Chinese threw a parcel over the side of the bridge, and when recovered later by the police, it was found to contain buns.”

We kind of fancy the Chinese gentleman playing this straight the whole way through.






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