An emotional ceremony was hosted in Shaunavon on August 11 to salute the memory of Cpl. Ole Larsen on the 30th anniversary of his death while on duty.
The Larsen family joined with a contingent of RCMP and police force representatives in dedicating a plaque in Cpl. Larsen’s memory three decades after he was fatally shot when serving as a member of the two-man RCMP detachment in Climax.
“Ole will never be forgotten, nor his ultimate sacrifice,” said Chaplain Allan Higgs, a now retired RCMP chaplain who presided over a chapel service at Depot for Cpl. Larsen when he was a first year chaplain with the RCMP. Higgs was honoured to be involved in the ceremony then and again 30 years later to remember Cpl. Larsen’s ultimate sacrifice of dying in the line of duty.
“Every police officer knows from the day they receive their badge, they are only one call away from encountering the same fate Ole did August 11, 1981. Thank God those results are infrequent.”
Last Thursday’s ceremony was one of a series of recognition events recently held by the RCMP F Division’s Slain Police Officer’s Fund.
“Three years ago the Slain Police Officer’s Fund began to erect memorial plaques at each detachment where members were killed while on duty,” explained Staff Sgt. Dean Bridle, who was speaking on behalf of the Slain Police Officer’s Fund. “It is our intention to have this project completed within the next few years in order that we may honour those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice through their service to the citizens of Canada.”
Cpl. Larsen’s plaque joins another plaque outside the front door of the Shaunavon RCMP detachment, with a memorial plaque placed last year in recognition of Sgt. Arthur J. Barker who died March 16, 1940 as the result of gunshot wounds suffered while investigating a complaint at the Grand Hotel.
F Division Commanding Officer, Assistant Commissioner Russ Mirasty, was on hand to help unveil Cpl. Larsen's memorial plaque.
“Ole obviously touched many people, either directly or indirectly. He had a great influence on many people,” Assistant Commissioner Mirasty said, noting the two had met at a training course two years before Larsen’s death.
“When we come together here today it really is about the Larsen family, but particularly about Ole and making sure that we never forget,” he said.
“We never truly forget, and I certainly don’t, of the members that I’ve known or heard of across the country during my 35 years on the force. But I think sometimes we just let their memory slip to the back of our minds and I think it’s days like this, and as well as the plaque that we will put up here today, that will ensure that we never forget – on a personal level but also on an organizational level – the ultimate sacrifice that members paid, have paid, and unfortunately may have to pay as time goes on. But we will not forget.”
Cpl. Larsen was fatally shot by Keith Sipley on Main Street in front of the Climax Hotel a day after Sipley was removed from his wife’s home after a prolonged argument between the couple.
Sipley, who departed very angily and became distraught at this turn of events, told a friend he was going to have another discussion with Cpl. Larsen about the matter.
Late on the evening of August 10, Sipley made several screeching power turns with his car in front of Larsen’s home. An unarmed Larsen, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, got into his cruiser and chased Sipley’s car several times around the village streets with his lights and siren on. Sipley came to a stop in the middle of the street in front of the Climax Hotel, and Larsen stopped bumper-to-bumper with the stopped vehicle and turned off the siren. As Larsen walked towards the stopped car, Sipley stepped out of his vehicle and shot the unsuspecting corporal several times at point blank range with a .22 rifle. A badly wounded Larsen stumbled back to his cruiser and turned his lights and siren back on in an attempt to rouse some help. Two witnesses standing outside the hotel reported the Sipley followed Larsen back to the police vehicle, and shot him twice more through the closed car door as Larsen lay across the seat.
Cpl. Larsen was taken to the Border Union Hospital but his injuries were too severe to be treated on scene. He stayed alive for a short time, but died at 2:25 a.m. just as an ambulance plane from Regina was landing to transport him to a larger hospital.
Sipley fled the scene eastward towards Orkney, and then turned south before he damaged his vehicle on a rough prairie trail. Sipley walked across the border into the United States and stole a farm truck before killing himself. He had dictates a rambling final message into a portable tape recorder found at the scene. One chilling statement on the tape noted: “I don’t know what made me do it. I wish to God it never happened.”
Cpl. Larsen’s widow Lindsey Larsen spoke on behalf of the family, with daughters Karen and Kirsten also in attendance at the ceremony. She extended a thank you from the family to all those who attended to honour the memory of her husband, who was so needlessly taken from his family 30 years ago.
“With the actions of a disturbed young man, two families’ lives were irrevocably altered,” Lindsey Larsen said. She noted that her husband was just 36 when he died and only just beginning to see his potential as an administrator and a policeman.
The loss to the family was devastating, as his daughters were just nine and seven at the time of his death.
“The fact that he was taken from them made a great void in their lives.”
“I hope that Ole is never forgotten, and this dedication goes a long way in keeping his memory alive in this part of Saskatchewan. He loved this province and he loved the people who have made it so special to us. Ole died far too young, but he will always be a part of our lives.”