The family of fallen Abbotsford police officer Const. John Davidson was in the front row of a packed courtroom gallery as the trial of an Alberta man accused in his death got underway in New Westminster on Monday.
Oscar Arfmann, 65 at the time of the shooting, is charged with first-degree murder, accused of killing Davidson in a shootout as police attempted to arrest him on Nov. 6, 2017 for allegedly stealing a car.
Arfmann, clad in a black sweatshirt and dark pants and sporting long, greying hair, entered an emphatic plea of not guilty.
“We’ve waited a long time for this trial to start, the original trial date in January got put off, so for it to get going, for the police department, for the city of Abbotsford, for all the citizens, the family – certainly, the Davidson family — it’s good to get it going, it’s good to start hearing the evidence,” said Abbotsford police Insp. Tom Chesley.
The court heard graphic details of the shooting Monday.
The Crown, describing the shooting as an “ambush,” asserted that Arfmann shot the 53-year-old constable — the first officer on the scene — from behind as he exited his police vehicle.
“The issue at trial is the identification of Oscar Arfmann as the person who shot and killed Const. Davidson,” said Crown prosecutor Theresa Iandiorio.
The court heard that the first bullet passed through Const. Davidson, becoming lodged in a nearby building.
The Crown told the court that at least one person will testify they saw Arfmann stand over Davidson and shoot him a second time while he lay face-down on the ground.
The Crown alleged that Arfmann then drove away in a stolen Mustang. The Crown said he was arrested the same day with a rifle, ammunition and knives found next to him in the same vehicle.
Davidson was rushed to hospital, where he died a short time later.
In a statement, the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) said the city’s officers have “looked forward to the commencement of the trial.”
“The trial will move the entire community into another phase of healing. A number of citizens and police officers will be called on to give difficult testimony,” said spokesperson Sgt. Judy Bird.
At the time of his arrest, Arfmann’s family said the Alberta native was struggling with mental illness in the months leading up to the incident.
Davidson’s death sparked a national outpouring of support, and his line-of-duty funeral attracted thousands of mourners.
Arfmann’s trial was originally set to begin on Jan. 21, but the date was changed to May 21, then to Monday.
The trial is slated to last eight weeks and hear from as many as 30 witnesses.
-With files from Sarah MacDonald, Rumina Daya and Emily Lazatin