March 6th, 1986 will never be forgotten in my mind and in the mind of many others. It was on that day, that S/Cst. Rob Thomas and Cst. Reg Gulliford, were needlessly gunned down in Powerview, Manitoba. S/Cst. Rob Thomas was fatally shot through the back and was killed instantly on that night shift in March. Rob’s son, to be born in the near future, would never meet his Dad. He has grown to be a find young man.
On that night, Reg and Rob had stopped to see if a motorist at a closed service station was in need of assistance. They were just trying to be helpful in small town Canada. Rob got out of the passenger side of the police truck and was walking toward the stopped car. Suddenly the driver’s door swung open and a rifle came out. Rob turned to get back to the police truck and as his hand touched the door, a shot rang out. Reg watched in horror as Rob’s eyes rolled back and Rob was dead before he hit the ground. I will never forget how upset Reg was as he related this story to me at his bedside of ICU in the St. Boniface hospital in Winnipeg. The feeling of helplessness, guilt and second guessing is hard to put behind you when you are looking into your young partners eyes as he passes away. Watch your policing partner die. It is absolutely horrible. Nobody ever gets over that image. Every RCMP Member who was at that Detachment was permanently scarred by this tragic event.
Reg jumped out of the driver’s side for cover and drew his service revolver. Rifle shots rang out and Reg returned fire. Reg was shot and hit the ground. The shooter walked toward the police vehicle to finish him off with a couple more shots. Then the shooter got back in his car and left. Reg was left bleeding to death in the parking lot.
Through the quick and heroic efforts of local citizens and the first responders, Reg was evacuated to emergency medical care. His injuries were so severe he literally died and was brought back to life. His loyal wife, a nurse at the receiving hospital held his hand all the way to the trauma unit.
After many months and many surgeries later Reg was lucky to survive. He would never recover completely and nor would his family, friends and colleagues. Reg worked hard to get back to work, but would never see another day, back in the patrol car. He managed the severe injuries to his body and never regained full use of his leg.
Throughout this medical miracle, Reg endured endless X-Rays to assist is in his recovery. He passed away over 20 years later while still an active RCMP Member. He managed his injuries and adapted to his physical and mental changes. He eventually battled a rare form of cancer that was related to radiation exposure. This exposure was from the endless X-rays to help him recover. I cried as I stood by his graveside on that cold January in our home town. Memories of March 6, 1986 still fresh in my memory. His death was directly related to that fateful night on March 6, 1986.
Reg and I would chat in his hospital room about our teenaged years, our days in university, our families, teenaged hockey adventures and our work days in the bush. Reg would lift the dressings on his belly to show me the cellophane covered window to his intestines. They had to keep him open to clean out infection and lead bullet fragments , as they were located during medical procedures. Reg was as tough as nails and as gentle as a lamb. A big strong guy with massive hands, but still his Mudder’s boy. My heart ached but my face could never show the pain to a man who was bravely enduring so much. Rob was a kind and considerate young man who was looking forward to a bright future and growing his family.
I attended Rob Thomas’s, regimental funeral at the First Nations community of Peguis, Manitoba on a cold March day. Tears were frozen on the faces of the toughest of police officers. Such a senseless loss of life and a terrible tragedy for the families involved. These police offices were just looking to help someone out on a cold March nite. But, as the saying goes, no good deed should go unpunished. In the spirit of his aboriginal upbringing, Rob’s father lead the community and spiritual healing.
Please remember Rob and Reg for the their choices to serve their community and country. Rest in peace good men, as your children and grandchildren are good people and your spouses continue to honour your memory. There and many others who will forever remember your sacrifice.
Please remember all those who had their lives turned upside down on that cold March night the hamlet of Powerview, Manitoba. Remember that theses police officers were just trying to be helpful in a quiet small town. Remember the ultimate sacrifice they made.
Rest in peace Rob and Reg. Your memories and our respect for your ultimate sacrifice will live forever in all who knew you two brave police officers. God bless you.
Blue lives matter, all lives matter. That is why Rob and Reg were out there on that cold March night.