Easter is a bright, colorful holiday for many. Whether you celebrate in secular ways like easter egg hunts, or religious ways such as an Easter morning service, there's always a bright note to the holiday. It's a sign of renewal, of emerging from the darkness into the light.

Well, I'm here to ruin your Easter and examine the shadow of one horrifying Easter Sunday in Washington. It's an event that serves as a reminder that even as light shines on us, we must be ever wary of the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men.


The Easter Sunday troubles started at a Pullman dairy.

It was April 17, 1949. While many residents in Eastern Washington were in church service or spending time with their families, the McIntyre family - George, his wife Amsel, and their children Carol Yvonne (5) and George Jr (6 mo) - decided to leave their Pullman home to visit George's brother in Spokane. On the way, they stopped at the Milky Way Dairy to get milk for their children.

The family did not expect to run into Hyrum W. Kershaw, a man with whom George A. McIntyre had a violent dispute over the past year. A fight broke out between the two men, during which George allegedly bit Kershaw in the neck and drew a knife on him.

Expecting to be questioned by the police, the McIntyres returned home - but after hours of waiting, they left to enjoy a picnic in the St. Joe National Forest, returning home in the late afternoon and stopping at Harper's Union 76 Service Station for gas.

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The afternoon then turned deadly - starting with one police officer.

The Pullman Police had, in fact, been notified of the fight at the dairy earlier in the day, and had a warrant out for McIntyre's arrest. Officer Elbert Ross Claar, who had previous encounters with George, spotted the family's pickup truck at the gas station. Claar approached McIntyre and asked him to come to the station, but McIntyre refused.

As Claar returned to his vehicle for a night-stick, McIntyre returned to his truck for a .22 caliber pistol. McIntyre shot the officer three times in the chest, then clubbed him with the night stick several times in the head before fleeing in his pickup truck, leaving his wife and children behind. Claar was rushed to the hospital but declared dead on arrival.

aerial view of Washington State University, Pullman WA, in 1949
Washington State University Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)

McIntyre then turned his World War II training into a deadly firefight.

Having now killed a police officer, McIntyre returned home briefly to retrieve his German 8mm Mauser K98k sniper rifle, mounted with a telescopic sight, ammunition, and a set of binoculars. From there, he walked across Grand Avenue (Palouse-Pullman highway) and went into the brush-covered College Hill to set up a defensive position capable of seeing approaching officers.

The photograph above depicts the Washington State University (then Washington State College) in 1949, including portions of College Hill - the same area and year this horrifying event took place.

From about 4:10 pm to 4:35 pm, gunfire rang out across College Hill and the WSC campus. McIntyre fired down on approaching officers, injuring one and killing another. He then took the fallen officer's rifle and moved to the west side of the campus grounds to lie in ambush. A Pullman taxicab driver, Ernest G. Buck, stopped to investigate the chaos on the street, only to be shot and killed by McIntyre. Another bystander was shot twice but was allowed by McIntyre to leave. One more officer was then shot and killed when he stepped out of his car directly into McIntyre's sight.

During this confrontation, Pullman Police Department, Whitman County Sheriff's Department, Washington State Patrol, Moscow Police Department, and Latah County Sheriff's Department - along with armed citizens - began to close in on McIntyre's position. At 4:35 pm, one final round of gunfire was heard as McIntyre was seen to change position, and then fall. His body was found in a ditch at the bottom of College Hill.

In total, five dead: three officers, a taxi-cab driver, and the shooter himself.

It wasn't the bloodiest Sunday in all of history, but for a small college town in Eastern Washington, the event - known as the "Easter Massacre" - shook everything to its core. To this day, residents of the area still honor the fallen and keep gravestones maintained.

McIntyre's death was caused by three shots to the heart from an elevated position to the gunman. The identity of the shooter was never known or investigated, as the coroner's jury determined that it should remain a mystery.

So this Easter Sunday, take a moment to remember the brave officers and citizens who stopped a skilled gunman from taking even more lives that day. And if you stop in Pullman on a sunny weekend, perhaps stop to pay your respects to the fallen.

If you're interested in the full story, including McIntyre's childhood, brushes with the law, and the aftermath of the shootings - read the full history record on HistoryLink.

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