Constable 'died protecting you and me': Abbotsford, B.C. police chief
Published Tuesday, November 7, 2017 8:44AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 8, 2017 8:12AM PST
A constable who died in the line of duty Monday is being remembered as a family man, an "amazing friend" and a hero.
Const. John Davidson was wounded in a shooting in Abbotsford, B.C. and died in hospital, leaving behind his wife and three adult children.
The 53-year-old has been described as a family man, amazing colleague and friend. He'd served as an officer for 24 years, starting his career in the U.K. with the Northumbria police.
He left the force of about 3,000 officers and moved his family to Abbotsford, and a force about a tenth of the size.
"All of them came out here to a place they knew nothing about. He wanted an outdoors life, he wanted to try something new," Chief Bob Rich said Tuesday.
Davidson worked in the department's patrol, youth squad and traffic sections.
During his time as a school liaison officer, he made an 18-minute video about ecstasy, and travelled to the city's schools to educate teenagers about the risks. He brought with him a young girl who had lost a friend to overdose, and the presentations were "truly moving," the chief said.
He and a fellow officer won a provincial crime award for the project.
"He is so connected to youth in our community and I want to try and paint a picture of that," the chief said.
As a liaison officer, Davidson took part in a local school's Terry Fox run and led the force's junior police academy during spring breaks.
He recognized again later when he moved to the force's traffic team. The constable was honoured multiple times by Alexa's Team for his work to take impaired drivers off the streets.
The chief's last chance to shake Davidson's hand was when the constable completed the Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley fundraiser – nine days of cycling through Vancouver Island, northern B.C., the coastline and the Fraser Valley to raise money for children's cancers.
"He was so ecstatic to be involved," Rich said, adding that Davidson was an incredible athlete.
"He was so thrilled that he could take part in this ride and contribute to these kids' lives. He was so thankful for the opportunity. And it sort of really brings home who I want you to understand John Davidson to be."
The Canadian Cancer Society said Davidson sent organizers an email after the ride about what it meant to him and that it had changed his outlook on life. A representative said she remembers him as sincere, humble and with a great sense of humour.
"When someone devotes his life to the service of the community it's horrible to end his life that way," Faye Wightman told CTV News.
The chief repeated what he said the day Davidson died: that the constable is his hero and the community's.
"We ask our police officers that when somebody is putting people's lives in danger, when there's an active shooter, we no longer wait for cover, we no longer set up teams. The first person in goes. John Davidson was the first person in, and away he went. And he died protecting you and me."
The investigations into Monday's events are ongoing.
The incident began around 11:30 a.m. Monday near the Fraser Valley Auto Mall, where a witness called 911 to report what he believed to be a stolen vehicle. The witness tried to block in the car, and the suspect got out and started shooting at the caller and other shoppers, Rich said.
Officers arrived at the scene and tried to arrest the suspect, but Davidson was shot and the suspect fled. The stolen vehicle was apprehended a few blocks away, and the suspect – an Alberta man in his 60s – was wounded in a shooting.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is leading the probe into the officer's fatal shooting. B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office, the provincial police watchdog called in event of a police-involved incident that results in death or serious injury, was also called to review the case.
Oscar Ferdinand Arfmann, of Alberta, has been charged with murder Davidson's death.
Community mourns fallen officer
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said he'd met the officer previously, and described Davidson as a family man who was "much beloved" by the community and his colleagues.
"Life will be forever changed for them, and it's very tragic what happened here," he told CTV News.
"We see this in other communities. I never dreamt that it would happen here but it has and we now need to deal with it."
Residents of the community he loved left a growing memorial outside the Abbotsford Police Department, honouring his sacrifice.
Const. Ian MacDonald arrived at work early Tuesday to find flowers, cards, stuffed toys and candles outside the door of the station.
"I've always said that we work in an absolutely amazing community," he said.
"We lost a friend, we lost a hero, and we lost a family member yesterday, but in so many ways our family has grown."
MacDonald thanked the force's "family" of B.C. police officers, saying every department and detachment in the province had reached out to their Abbotsford counterparts in the hours after they lost one of their own.
"We had boots on the ground that came out and supplemented our numbers yesterday while we were dealing with this horrific incident. Officers from all over the Lower Mainland came out and deserve thanks for helping our community," he said.
A few hours after Davidson's death, a massive motorcade escorted the fallen officer's body to a hospital in New Westminster. First responders joined the motorcade themselves or stood in salute on bridges and roadways along the route.
"It was amazing… This is tough slogging for us but certainly it's aided by the support we're receiving," MacDonald said.
Members of the public left their messages of gratitude to both the officer who died and those who put their lives at risk to protect the community.
On Tuesday morning, the department posted a photo of the vigil and a message of thanks on Twitter: "In the deepest darkness there can be light. We see you. So many of you. Thank you for being there for us."
Abbotsford police also received messages from leaders including Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who expressed their deepest sympathies.
When asked how officers return to work after a difficult day like Monday, MacDonald said, "I don't know. You get in your car and you come out here. It's what you do."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and Maria Weisgarber, and CTV National News' Melanie Nagy