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Parnell, Sheriff Levi M.
End of Watch:
Sunday, April 17, 1949
Whitman County S.O.
The following story recaps the incident later known as the “Easter Day Massacre,” after a gunman kills a Pullman police officer, the Whitman County Sheriff, one of his deputies and a bystander. The suspect also wounds two other sheriff’s deputies and another bystander before he’s shot and killed by a posse.
On Easter Sunday, April 17, 1949, at about 1000 hours, George McIntyre and his wife had stopped at the Milky Way Dairy in Pullman to buy milk for their two children. McIntyre and his family were traveling north to Spokane to visit his brother.
While at the dairy, McIntyre got into an argument with a part-time employee, Hyrum Kershaw. Kershaw whistled at McIntyre’s dog as the family left the dairy, causing the dog to jump from the truck. McIntyre walked back towards Kershaw and they got into a fist fight. After the two exchanged punches, McIntyre pulled a knife on Kershaw. The McIntyre’s figured that the police would want to talk to them, so they returned home. Kershaw telephoned Pullman Police Chief Arthur Ricketts.
Kershaw and McIntyre had a long history that dated back to July 1948 when Kershaw witnessed McIntyre driving recklessly on the campus of Washington State College. At the time, Kershaw jumped onto the running board of McIntyre’s truck, reached inside and tried to turn the ignition off. There was a struggle between Kershaw, McIntyre and his wife, Amsel. She was six months pregnant and was hit in the abdomen three times. After that incident, McIntyre went to the Pullman Police Department to pay the traffic fine where he displayed a rifle at Officer Elbert Claar and Kershaw after the three argued. Chief Ricketts arrested McIntyre and he was eventually convicted of 2nd degree assault and sentenced to probation.
By about 1300 hours on Easter, Pullman PD had not contacted the McIntyre’s so they decided to drive to the St. Joe National Forest for a picnic instead. The family returned to Pullman around 1530 hours, but they decided to continue their trip and drive to Colfax. McIntyre realized he was low on gas, so he returned to Pullman to buy more.
At about 1555 hours, Officer Claar spotted McIntyre’s truck at the Union 76 station on Main Street in Pullman. Officer Claar had a warrant for McIntyre’s arrest for a probation violation which stemmed from the earlier incident with Kershaw at the dairy. Officer Claar got out of his patrol car, walked up to McIntyre and told him of the warrant. McIntyre refused to accompany Officer Claar to the police station, so Officer Claar went back to his patrol car and retrieved his baton. At the same time Officer Claar was retrieving his baton, McIntyre grabbed his .22 caliber pistol from inside his pickup. When Officer Claar returned, McIntyre shot him three times in the chest. Officer Claar slumped to the pavement, drew his pistol and fired twice. However, McIntyre found cover behind the patrol car and was not hit. As Officer Claar lay on the pavement, McIntyre grabbed the baton and clubbed Officer Claar in the head several times. McIntyre left his family behind and sped away from the scene in his truck. An ambulance was dispatched for Officer Claar, but he was dead on arrival at Finch Memorial Hospital.
McIntyre drove to his house at 1506 Grand Avenue where he retrieved a German 8mm Mauser K98k sniper rifle with a telescopic sight, ammunition and a pair of binoculars. He left his house on foot and crossed SR-27, the Palouse-Pullman Highway and walked up the west side of the brush-covered College Hill. From this vantage point, McIntyre could watch his house; he could see the highway and defend himself.
A BOLO was broadcast by Pullman PD for McIntyre and his truck. Whitman County Sheriff’s Deputies Gilbert Gallagher and Clarence Davis, who had been in Colfax looking for McIntyre, received the call about the shooting and returned to Pullman in separate patrol cars. Deputy Gallagher and Deputy Davis arrived in the area of McIntyre’s residence and took up separate positions. As Deputy Gallagher drove past the house, he spotted a man he believed was McIntyre. It was actually McIntyre’s business partner, Robert Jordan, who was looking for McIntyre. The deputies held their positions and called for reinforcements to make an arrest.
At about 1615 hours, McIntyre fired two shots from College Hill through the windshield of Deputy Davis’s patrol car, sending shards of glass into his arm. Deputy Davis radioed that shots were fired and he moved his patrol car. Deputy Gallagher was parked at NE Railroad Road at the bottom of College Hill and was unaware that McIntyre was behind him. As he exited his patrol car, armed with a Winchester 30-30 Model 94 rifle, Deputy Gallagher was shot once in the back and died. McIntyre raced down the hill and retrieved Deputy Gallagher’s rifle before returning into the brush.
About ten minutes passed and McIntyre remained lying in wait on the west edge of the Washington State College campus, overlooking Grand Avenue. Two automobiles pulled up on NE Maple Street. One car was driven by Ernest Buck, a local taxi driver and the other was driven by James Roberts, the proprietor of Milky Way Dairy, along with his wife, Edythe. These men were bystanders, attracted by the sounds of gunfire, who were unaware of the imminent danger. Buck was wearing a flat cabdriver’s hat, which was similar to a police officer’s hat. As the two men looked down at Grand Avenue, McIntyre shot Buck once in the back and Roberts twice in the leg. McIntyre rolled Buck down the hillside and shot him again where he died. McIntyre pointed his rifle at Roberts, whose right leg was shattered. Roberts insisted that McIntyre let him go. McIntyre told Roberts to get out of the area, so Edythe Roberts, with the help of a Washington State College student, loaded Roberts into their car and she drove him to Finch Memorial Hospital.
At this point, officers from the Pullman Police Department, Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol, Moscow (Idaho) Police Department, Latah County (Idaho) Sheriff’s Office and several armed citizens had converged on College Hill to search for McIntyre.
At about 1630 hours, Sheriff Pete Parnell was driving down Grand Avenue to join in the manhunt when the windshield on his patrol car was struck by a bullet. Sheriff Parnell exited his car on what he thought was the protected side. Instead, he was directly in McIntyre’s sights. McIntyre fired once and hit Sheriff Parnell in the left side. The bullet struck Sheriff Parnell’s heart and he died instantly.
Whitman County Sheriff’s Deputy James Hickman was following Sheriff Parnell when McIntyre opened fire. Deputy Hickman began to drive away, but he was wounded when a bullet pierced the roof of his patrol car and creased his skull.
Around 4:35 p.m., the posse spotted McIntyre changing positions in the brush and they opened fire. McIntyre fell and the shooting stopped. Officers took potshots in his direction, but there was no return gunfire. After a short period of time a group of officers approached McIntyre’s dead body, which was lying in a shallow ditch at the bottom of College Hill.
The incident was dubbed the “Easter Day Massacre.” Deputy Davis was appointed Whitman County Sheriff to complete Sheriff Parnell’s term in office. Chief Ricketts was removed as chief of Pullman PD and replaced by Officer Archie Campbell because of the department’s handling of the incident.
It was later determined that Pullman PD’s lack of training, which included only an occasional trip to the pistol range, was partially to blame for the incident.