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Artifacts donated of city officer who killed ‘Red’ Ryan

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Troy Shantz

Personal items belonging to the Sarnia police officer who killed Norman “Red” Ryan have been received by the Sarnia Historical society.

“There’s personal mementos, there’s family connections, there’s also pictures I’ve never seen before of Sarnia Police officers standing outside of Sarnia City Hall,” said Society president Ron RealeSmith.

“It pretty much encapsulates all of the memorabilia that relates to the killing (of Red Ryan) … we now have it all at the Sarnia Police station.”

Sergeant George Smith’s effects were donated by his daughter, Sheila Smith.

Among the treasures is commemorative medal given to Smith by King George VI after he ended Ryan’s life.

Norman “Red” Ryan was a notorious bank robber who met his match in 1936 during an armed Sarnia liquor store robbery that went bad.

Known as Canada’s Jesse James, he pulled off numerous daring robberies in the early 1900s that terrorized bankers and shopkeepers across Southern Ontario and Quebec and sent him to prison several times.

But in the 1930s Ryan appeared to have turned over a new leaf. He released a book, publicly denounced his life of crime, was paroled and found new fame and status among Toronto’s elites.

But it was a ruse. Despite the outward appearances Ryan continued to plan and execute robberies in his spare time.

On Victoria Day weekend, 81 years ago, Ryan and his gang arrived in downtown Sarnia determined to rob a liquor store in the former Taylor’s Furniture building.

A brutal gunfight erupted that claimed the lives of Ryan, his sidekick, and Sarnia Police officer Jack Lewis.

Sergeant Smith was credited with firing the bullet that ended Ryan’s lengthy crime spree.

RealeSmith said pictures of the artifacts and corresponding story will be posted on the Sarnia Historical Society website at

The Society is also looking for a way to publicly display the collection.

“Sheila (Smith) said she wanted to make sure it got donated and that it could be cherished and displayed,” RealeSmith said.

“So that’s what we’ll be doing.”





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