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100 years ago: Late-night gunbattle claims life of Colville police chief

UPDATED: Sun., Oct. 8, 2017, 9:45 p.m.

 (Nathanael Massey / The Spokesman-Review)
(Nathanael Massey / The Spokesman-Review)

The Colville police chief, John Wanenwich, was shot and killed by two burglars during a nighttime gunbattle in a Colville alley.

Wanenwich was hit by two bullets but lingered long enough to tell his story before he died. He said he heard a dog barking in a strange manner behind Barman’s Department Store. He walked to the rear door and realized something was wrong.

“Immediately upon turning into the alley, a shot came from behind me, taking effect in my shoulder,” said Chief Wanenwich. “This shot was evidently from the lookout, who was in a tree behind the store. In an instant, the burglar came to the rescue and the battle opened. I emptied my revolver and as many as a dozen shots were fired. As soon as I had fallen, the two men fled under cover of darkness down the alley. I could not describe them. I was alone.”

Authorities were still hunting the two burglars. They discovered that they had rented a hotel room in Colville. The room was searched and police found a quantity of safe-cracking material, including nitroglycerine and paraffin wax.

Police also believed that one of Wanewich’s bullets had found its mark, since blood was found on the sidewalk leading to the railroad tracks.

“Every peace officer in the county was notified and posses were sent in pursuit.” The Spokane County sheriff and two deputies departed for Chewelah to assist in the pursuit.

Wanenwich was described as “a model peace officer” who was popular in the town.


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