Calgary police recover cannon stolen from Wild West theatre company

Maybe the neighbours called the cavalry.

That thought probably sprang to mind for listeners of the Calgary Eyeopener  on Friday, when Const. Jeremy Shaw revealed that the weirdest stolen item the police department has recovered — possibly ever — was a working cannon.

It was recovered recently in Bowness when police made a drug bust.

When Shaw first heard his Calgary Police Service colleagues had seized a cannon, it took him a minute to adjust his imagination.

"When somebody first told me of this story,  I thought Canon, like a camera type of thing, right?" he said.  

"And they said no — a cannon like boom!"

Guns of the Golden West

Turned out the cannon in question belonged to Guns of the Golden West, a Wild West re-enactment group that dresses in 1860s-era western wear and brings the 19th century back to life for a night, or a weekend.

"We have our period clothing as well as firearms that were used in the days of single action firearms," said Bob Wilson, the company's public relations officer, in an interview with CBC's Danielle Nermann.

"And we're most happy to hear that our cannon has been re-secured and that it will be coming home to us yet."

Calgary Police Service

Cabela's parking lot

The theft occurred in the parking lot of Cabela's during Stampede week last year, Wilson said. The cannon was stored in a trailer that had a chain wrapped around its axle.

Wilson received a call from a Cabela's retail manager.

"He says trailer's gone," Wilson said. "Someone came in, used a chisel, broke the tongue lock off, then hooked onto it with their vehicle ... and they drove away with it!"

The empty trailer

Two months later, the  police discovered the trailer on a street in northeast Calgary. 

It was empty.

"We just assumed it was all gone," Wilson said, although deep down, the group retained at least a glimmer of hope.

"What we kept in mind is that you don't go selling a cannon to just anybody," he said.

This week, Wilson received word that the cannon had been recovered.

"Apparently it was a drug lab or something that the police busted," Wilson said.

An engraving on the side of the cannon led the police to the manufacturer, which led, eventually, to the Guns of the Golden West.

Faux vintage

While the cannon has a vintage look, it's actually not a 19th century original.

There's also questions around whether it should actually be classified as a firearm or not, which Shaw says depends on the type of ignition system it has.

"If it has a very old ignition system of black powder and a wick, then perhaps it wouldn't be considered a firearm. But as soon as it has a percussion cap or a newer style of ignition, it may be considered a firearm," he says.

In a followup email, Shaw had more details about the mechanism.

"I'm certainly no cannon expert, but I understand that it does have a percussion cap and does use a centre-pin style firing mechanism similar to a shotgun. As such, it likely will be considered a firearm. So the owner may have to jump through some hoops to get it back, unfortunately."

The cannon's ignition system may have an impact on the people who were busted, he added.

"The people who are associated with that drug bust could be facing some sort of firearms infraction potentially as well," he said.

Trading cards and meat slicers

While a cannon is the weirdest item he recalls the police recovering, Shaw says it's far from the only oddball find.

There's the standard, run-of-the-mill items, such as laptops, snowboards and bikes, he said. There are also collectibles: stamps, coins and pocket cards.

And then it gets strange.

"There's an old gas mask that I'm looking into that looks like it's from a war period," Shaw said. "There's actually a meat grinder or a meat slicer. It's a really expensive meat slicer that would be in a restaurant."

What no one has been able to answer for him, Shaw added, is what exactly a cannon (or a designer meat slicer) is worth in Calgary's black market.

"Obviously, this is being traded in the methamphetamine circles. And you're trading a cannon for drugs or a meat slicer for favours of some kind, I suppose," he said. "So what's their exchange rate? I'm not entirely sure — but I suppose that's our drug unit's problem."

As far as advice for people who have had something stolen and want to see if the police have it, Shaw said the first step toward recovering your missing treasure is simple: report it missing.

"If you have become a victim, a) report your crime, and b) make sure we have an accurate description and serial numbers — as much as you can tell us," Shaw said. "So we have a better chance of making those matchups when we do recover this property."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.