Throwback Thursday: Toronto Police Constable shot and killed in Cabbagetown – 1973

Constable James Lothian

This week’s look back in time is of a sad incident that occurred in the neighbourhood on January 10 1973. 28 year-old Toronto Police Constable James Lothian (pictured) spotted a speeding vehicle running a red light and pursued it until the car ran into the rear of another vehicle on Amelia Street near Rawlings Avenue. After leaving his cruiser, Constable Lothian was shot and wounded by one of the occupants of the vehicle, David Brian (Duke) Holmes. Lothian later died in hospital, leaving his wife Norma and their son.

A number of hours later, police surrounded a rooming house where they tried to negotiate the surrender of the suspects. Current Cabbagetowner Doug Fisher lived across the street from the rooming house at that time and remembers the evening vividly.

“I lived in an apartment on Madison Avenue in the Annex. We woke up late at night with red lights flashing inside our room. When I looked out of the window, I saw police officers lining the street behind trees and cars. I could hear their negotiations and radio messages. It became obvious that they were focused on one house across the street and that they were after someone on an upper floor.

After trying for a considerable time to get these three people to come out peacefully, they fired a tear gas canister through a transom window into the apartment. Immediately after, I heard the shots that killed both men. At first, the police reacted as if the men were shooting at them. Eventually, they went into the room and found the girl and the bodies.

I had no idea at the time why all of this was happening. I did know that I had heard shots and that there were dead people.”

Holmes (who was described at the time as a “crazed drug addict” and “drug dealer”) had attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head but it wasn’t until Walter McVicar (one of the other vehicle occupants) shot him an additional two times that he died. McVicar then turned the gun on himself. A third occupant of the vehicle involved in the original pursuit, a 17 year old girl, was charged with murder but was later found not guilty.

Toronto Police Service Honour Roll (torontopolice.on.ca)

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