A B.C. Supreme Court judge has found Oscar Arfmann guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Abbotsford police officer John Davidson.
Madame Justice Carol Ross found the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Arfmann is the man who shot Davidson.
However, Arfmann could still be found not criminally responsible for the killing.
After delivering her verdict, Ross ordered a second psychiatric assessment of Arfmann to determine his mental state at the time of the shooting.
The order came after Arfmann’s lawyer submitted that his client suffers schizophrenia and was suffering from it the day Davidson was killed.
Davidson’s widow, two daughters and son were among those who packed a New Westminster courtroom to await the decision. Dozens of uniformed and plainclothes Abbotsford police officers also filled the gallery.
Arfmann sat in the prisoner’s box wearing a red sweatsuit, glancing back at the packed gallery and Davidson’s family.
After the verdict, Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr spoke outside the court.
“We lost a very good man. John’s family, Denise lost a husband, Drew, Fay and Dina lost a dad. John’s family in the UK lost a son and lost a brother, that void is never going to be filled, that hole will always be there,” he said.
“We in the Abbotsford Police Department lost an outstanding cop and a great man. So we went through a whole wave of emotions, we’re certainly happy that its a guilty verdict, first-degree, that means a lot to us. But there’s never really full closure to this. ”
The Alberta native was accused of fatally shooting Davidson in the back and the neck on Nov. 6, 2017 during a dramatic shootout, in what Crown described as an “ambush.”
Arfmann was arrested in a stolen black Ford Mustang with a rifle and ammunition inside. Crown alleges Davidson, a 24-year veteran, was responding to a call about that same stolen Mustang when he was shot by Arfmann.
Over the course of the trial earlier this year, the court has heard from several witnesses who identified Arfmann at the scene of the shooting, but none who actually saw him pull the trigger.
Crown defended witnesses’ reliability in its closing arguments, calling them honest and credible people who did not embellish or become tainted from media coverage, and saying minor differences in their recollection shows they didn’t collude on their testimony.
Defence had countered there was no evidence linking the accused to Davidson or any member of the Abbotsford police.
It further argued the witnesses were tainted by media reports, and that the “hole in the doughnut” of Crown’s case was testimony and evidence that provided suspicion, but not proof.
Arfmann did not testify during the trial, and no evidence was presented in his defence.
Defence argued their client’s mental health was an issue, despite Crown arguing Arfmann had already been deemed fit for trial.
At the time of Arfmann’s arrest, his family said he had been struggling with mental health issues.
If found guilty, no sentencing hearing will be necessary in Arfmann’s case, as a first-degree murder conviction automatically delivers a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The court has previously heard that Arfmann was arrested driving a stolen black Ford Mustang the day of the shooting.
Const. Shawn Alton, the APD officer that rammed the Mustang prior to Arfmann’s arrest, testified that he saw the stock of a rifle inside the suspect vehicle.
Larry Siefert, a witness whose dash cam caught video played in the trial, previously told the court he’d heard gunshots in the area. The video depicts what Crown says is Arfmann holding a rifle.
Another witness, Corey Thomas, managed the Abbotsford car dealership Arfmann is accused of stealing the Mustang from.
Thomas told the court he’d seen the Mustang from across the street the day of the shooting, and boxed it in with his pickup truck.
He testified that when he and his boss confronted Arfmann, the accused replied, “I’ll show you what I have in store for the police,” and shot the truck twice before fleeing.
Arfmann did end up briefly taking the stand earlier in the trial, when an officer escorting Arfmann out of the prisoner’s box testified he heard the accused dispute a witness’s testimony on what the shooting suspect was wearing at the time.
During the “voir dire” process, Crown and defence argued over whether Arfmann had said “what a dangerous f–k I must be” or “it sure as f–k wasn’t me.”
Ultimately, Madam Justice Carol Ross threw out Arfmann’s statement, calling the evidence “inadmissible.”
Fallen officer remembered
Davidson’s murder shocked the Abbotsford Police Department and the community at large, leading to an outpouring of support for the police.
The U.K. native’s funeral drew thousands of people to the streets of the city, where a police motorcycle squad and pipe band led a procession to Abbotsford Centre.
The celebration of life saw thousands more first responders, friends and family members — many from the U.S. and U.K. — pay their respects.
Coverage of the procession and memorial were watched by viewers throughout the country and around the world who were affected by the fallen officer’s death.
A plaque was unveiled bearing Davidson’s name at Abbotsford’s Wall of Heroes one year after his death.
The APD embarked on fundraising efforts for the Davidson family. Officers have also embarked on the Cops for Cancer bicycle ride fundraiser in honour of Davidson, who was a regular participant.
—With files from Rumina Daya, Jon Azpiri and Amy Judd