Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nothing to get fired up about

Hidden machine-gun was just an old toy

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SHOOT -- it may not have been a Tommy gun, but it may have once belonged to a boy named Tommy.

The machine-gun buried in the rubble of what was once the Shanghai Restaurant on King Street in Chinatown turned out to be a toy.

A photo sent to the Free Press Tuesday evening, and shared with Winnipeg police, showed what appeared to be a submachine-gun on the second floor as the iconic building was being torn down.

A United Way employee took the photograph. Sherman Reimer said he had no idea he had captured a gun in the photos he took.

"We were watching the building coming down and I grabbed my camera and snuck in a few shots for posterity," he said.

The photo showed a machine-gun, tucked away from view near the bottom of a cabinet. It was exposed when the wall next to the cabinet was torn away by the demolition crew.

The demo was stopped and on Wednesday, two dozen bystanders gaped through the fence as several officers hunted for the machine-gun.

The Shanghai, dating back to 1883, was a town hall until the City of Winnipeg built its gingerbread house city hall, then the headquarters for the Christian temperance movement. Over the decades, before it turned into a Chinese restaurant, the building housed a corset factory, a tinsmith and a dance hall -- gambling tables were discovered upstairs -- which suggested a machine-gun could've been stashed in the building.

City auctioneer Andy Kaye said a real Tommy gun, a symbol of organized crime during the 1920s and '30s, would be worth $5,000 to $10,000.

But during the search, a piece of the toy gun was retrieved, ending speculation it might have been a Thompson submachine-gun from decades ago.

"We're happy it's been recovered and the fact that it was a toy gun," Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Eric Hofley said.

Demolition boss Wayne Imrie said sifting through buckets of rubble cost his company thousands of dollars but now he's got a story to tell.

"It was a blast," the demolition boss said, standing metres from the debris where the item was recovered. "People were like a bunch of sparrows on a fence here, looking. We were all squinty-eyed."

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2012 A4

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