Constable Leonard George Slater (1941 – 1973)
story by retired Constable M. Lahaie
On the 1st of December 1973, at approximately 10:30 p.m., a Constable with the North Bay Police Service responded to a reported incident of a man with a gun in a downtown parking lot. In less than four minutes, Constable Leonard George Slater, a fellow officer and a shooting suspect all lay wounded. Moments later members learned that Constable Slater had succumbed to his wound and paid the supreme sacrifice.
On that night, a local resident, Camille Joseph Ethier, 24 years of age, had been drinking at a North Bay tavern. He became upset, when he observed his friend’s girlfriend with another man. Ethier left the tavern and walked across Oak Street to a municipal parking lot. He opened the trunk of his car, removed and started to load a single shot 12 gauge shotgun. A companion attempted to convince him to put the gun away. Ethier paid no heed to his companion.
Constable Gord McCourt was on duty that evening. He had parked a police van on Oak Street, adjacent to the parking lot. A citizen approached Constable McCourt and stated that he had seen a man with a shotgun in the parking lot.
Constable McCourt drove into the parking lot and observed Ethier standing with the shotgun laid across the door handles of a parked car. The second man fled at the sight of the officer. Constable McCourt notified the police dispatcher that he was going to check out a gunman and gave his location. Constable Len Slater, who was booking a prisoner at police headquarters only 2 ½ blocks away, was advised of the incident by the Duty Sergeant. Constable Slater immediately left the police station to assist Constable McCourt.
Meanwhile, Constable McCourt began to approach the gunman on foot. Ethier responded by pointing the shotgun at the officer. Constable McCourt took cover behind a parked vehicle and drew his service revolver. He ordered Ethier to drop the shotgun. Ethier replied by moving around the car and ordering McCourt to drop his gun. McCourt circled the car, keeping out of Ethier’s view and attempted to reach his patrol van. As he reached into his van to obtain the radio microphone, Ethier fired. Constable McCourt was struck in the left shoulder by a single shotgun blast. Notwithstanding Constable McCourt’s wound, he fired four shots, from his service revolver, as Ethier fled. Constable McCourt finally reached the radio microphone and advised the police dispatcher that he had been shot. Constable Norm Shillington, also on patrol, heard the radio transmission and immediately responded. Several other officers also responded from Police Headquarters. Constable Slater was the first officer to arrive at the scene. He stopped his vehicle on Oak Street, adjacent to the parking lot. Constable Slater called Constable McCourt on the police car radio asking for his location. Constable McCourt turned on the flashing roof lights of the police van.
Constable Slater, gun drawn, exited his police car, and walked towards Constable McCourt’s vehicle. Ethier who observed Slater approaching, hid behind a vehicle in the parking lot. As Constable Slater walked by the vehicle, Ethier fired a shot. The shotgun blast struck Constable Slater in the back of the head. Ethier then walked towards Constable McCourt’s location. At this time, the second back up police unit driven by Constable Shillington, entered the parking lot.
As Constable Shillington attempted to bring his police vehicle to a stop, Ethier aimed his shotgun at the officer and fired. Shotgun pellets struck the car window. Shillington jumped out of the right passenger door and took cover behind the right fender. He fired a shot from his service revolver at Ethier, striking him in the throat. Ethier fell to the ground but got up and ran, hiding behind a parked vehicle. Ethier exchanged shots with Constable Shillington. Constable Shillington approached the parked vehicle and located Ethier on the ground, face down. Within seconds, other back up officers were on the scene.
Officers immediately relayed Constable McCourt to hospital in a police vehicle. Constable Slater and Ethier were transported by ambulance. Shortly afterwards, the officers were notified that Constable Slater had succumbed to his injury. Constable McCourt and Ethier would survive their wounds. Constable McCourt would be partially disabled due to his shoulder injury.
On April 20, 1974, Camille Joseph Ethier was convicted of Non-Capital Murder in the slaying of Constable Leonard Slater. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Charges of Attempted Murder, in relation to Constable Shillington were adjourned sine die (not proceeded with).
Constable Gord McCourt returned to his duties with the North Bay Police Service. He retired several years later and died in 1991 after a lengthy bout with cancer. His son, Wally McCourt, is a Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Toronto Police.
Constable Norm Shillington, is now Sergeant Shillington. He is still active with the North Bay Police Service. Many other involved officers have since retired. Constable Leonard Slater was born in 1941 and raised in Bracebridge, Ontario. He had a great love of the North. He moved to Toronto in 1960, and later joined the Ontario Provincial Police. He was posted to # 5 District Traffic from May 1964 until September 1968. Eager to return to the North, he joined the North Bay Police Service in October of that year. At the time of his death, Len was married and the father of a 12 year old son and two daughters aged 8 and 10. In his five years with the Service, Len obtained a reputation for being firm but fair and was well thought of by his fellow officers, and the members of the community.
A full police funeral, attended by officers from across Canada, and communal service were held as a tribute to Constable Slater.
This page is dedicated to Constable Leonard Slater, who paid the supreme sacrifice.