Two U.S. border agents who were shot — one of them fatally — during a bloody fight with a Canadian gangster in 1936 will receive belated recognition for their valor.
The officer who died, Charles Flachs, will be honored at ceremony May 8 in Olympia, but the date of a Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor ceremony honoring both of them is pending.
Flachs and Leroy Pike, the wounded agent, are among 11 law enforcement officers involved in “historical” cases who were recently approved to receive the Medal of Honor for extraordinary action while on duty. A total of 295 officers have been so recognized since the honor was authorized in 1994, with the first ceremony held two years later.
However, the Medal of Honor ceremony in Olympia on May 8 is jampacked with recognition for 10 contemporary cases, so the 11 “historical” recipients will have to be recognized by their local agencies, at family presentations, or at a future ceremony.
Michael Severance, a retired Seattle police officer who researches Medal of Honor cases, said he has found one surviving family member on Flachs’ wife’s side of the family, but has not yet found any direct descendents of Pike.
Flachs will be honored in Olympia during a May 8 ceremony for officers killed while on duty. That ceremony by the Behind the Badge Foundation is held in conjunction with the Medal of Honor ceremony, for which death while on duty is not a requirement for a medal.
On May 28, 1936, Pike was a Customs inspector and Flachs was an Immigration inspector at the Pacific Highway crossing in Blaine when a Vancouver-to-Seattle bus stopped for inspection. Aboard sat Edward “Wyoming” McMullen, a fugitive criminal who, when questioned by Flachs, said he was “James Arthur Fraser” and had accidentally left his ID behind in Vancouver. Suspicious, Flachs referred the man to Pike to be searched.
McMullen feared his real identity would become known, and for good reason. He was a member of Norman “Red” Ryan’s notorious gang of thieves, robbers and killers who rampaged through Ontario during the 1920s and ’30s. Wanted for questioning about his possible involvement in a botched liquor store robbery that left a constable, Ryan, and a second criminal dead, McMullen was trying to sneak to safety in the United States.
Fearing arrest and deportation, McMullen pulled out a pistol and began firing. Pike, who was unarmed, began grappling with McMullen. One bullet creased Pike’s arm and another bullet grazed his rib cage. When Flachs and a third officer entered the room, a bullet fatally struck Flachs in the heart.
While still in Pike’s desperate bearhug, McMullen pointed his pistol over his shoulder to shoot Pike in the face. Pike deflected the gun as McMullen fired, sending the bullet crashing through McMullen’s skull. He died two days later in a Seattle hospital.
Flachs, who served with the U.S. Army during World War I, was buried at Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery at Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park, in Seattle.
Pike survived his wounds and retired from Customs in 1949. He served as mayor of Blaine for a few years in the mid-50s, then moved to King County. He is buried at Greenacres Memorial Park, Ferndale.