Gunman found guilty in deadly shooting of Abbotsford, B.C., police Const. John Davidson

The man charged with killing an on-duty Abbotsford, B.C., police officer nearly two years ago has been found guilty of first-degree murder.

Oscar Arfmann didn’t move as he sat on a chair in the prisoner’s box, listening to B.C. Supreme Court Justice Carol Ross deliver her verdict over nearly two hours.

Although Ross found the Crown had proven Arfmann intentionally shot and killed Const. John Davidson on Nov. 6, 2017, she held off on entering the conviction into the public record pending a psychological assessment which could lead to a hearing on whether he should be found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder.

Davidson, a veteran policeman and father of three, was shot and killed in the line of duty as he responded to reports of a stolen vehicle.

Dozens of Davidson’s colleagues, many in police uniform, sat shoulder to shoulder on three wooden benches in the packed courtroom listening to Ross’ verdict.

The 53-year-old officer’s widow and three adult children sat in the front row, next to Abbotsford police Chief Mike Serr and Davidson’s partner during his time with the department’s traffic unit.

“We all felt heavy. We all had hoped that we would be happy by the decision and feel that was a good result. And it was. But nevertheless, we lost a very good man,” Serr said outside the courthouse following the verdict.

“We in the Abbotsford Police Department lost an outstanding cop and great man, and again for us, it’s a huge hole.”

Davidson left behind a wife and three adult children. As an officer, he had a reputation for caring deeply about his job and the people he was tasked with protecting.

Moments before a sheriff led Arfmann to the prisoner’s box, one of Serr’s officers addressed the public gallery, warning them that Arfmann, who has been known to act strangely in court, might turn around to face them.

“Don’t engage him,” the officer said, pointing to the glass-enclosed prisoner’s box behind him.

“He will be right here. Just so you know, he does strange things. Don’t react to him. Just let him do what he does.”

The officers watched in silence as Arfmann walked into the court in red sweats, hunching his shoulders and stretching his arms.

He sat down, but did not look behind him.

‘I’ll show you what I have in store’

Arfmann had pleaded not guilty, leaving it to the Crown to weave together witness testimony, audio and video records and the abundance of physical evidence tying him to the scene.

Under the Criminal Code, the deliberate killing of a police officer counts as first-degree murder.

But Ross explained that she had to establish a number of things in her deliberations, primarily that Arfmann was the individual who fired a rifle at Davidson and that he knew Davidson was working as a police officer when he shot him.

Over two hours, the judge painstakingly detailed a series of events that started two days before Davidson’s murder, when Arfmann stole a black Mustang from an Abbotsford car dealership.

The Abbotsford Police Department unveiled plaque in Davidson’s memory on its wall of heroes on Nov. 6, 2018, one year after his death. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The dealership’s manager spotted the car parked outside a Quiznos on the day of the shooting and parked a truck behind the vehicle to stop it from leaving.

He and another witness confronted Arfmann when he returned to the stolen vehicle and told him police were on their way. 

According to one of them, Arfmann said, “I’ll show you what I have in store for the police.”

Arfmann then reached inside the vehicle and pulled out a rifle, firing two shots at the truck blocking the stolen Mustang.

2 rifle shots

A number of people called 911 at this point, and Arfmann fled in the Mustang.

He drove to a nearby business complex, where Davidson responded in a white truck with emergency flashers. 

Witnesses said they saw Arfmann shoot the officer. One said he stared in disbelief when Arfmann fired another shot into Davidson’s body as he lay on the ground.

Arfmann pictured in a court sketch from an earlier court appearance during his murder trial in B.C. Supreme Court. (Felicity Don)

Ross said an autopsy found that either one of the shots would have been fatal on their own.

As witnesses tried to tend to the wounded officer, Arfmann jumped back into the Mustang and drove away. He was finally stopped when two different police officers rammed their cars into the vehicle.

Arfmann was shot and injured at the scene. The rifle was seized.

Relief at verdict

To reach her verdict, Ross first established that the same black Mustang had been at all three scenes. She then established that Arfmann was its driver.

She found that there had only been one gun and that Arfmann had been the person who fired it.

The judge said the Crown had proven that Arfmann was expecting police because the men he confronted at the first scene told him they had called 911.

And, she said, Arfmann knew he was firing at a police officer because Davidson was dressed in full uniform when he responded to the call, and while the vehicle he was driving may not have been marked, he had turned on its emergency lights.

No motive was established for the killing, but the judge said that was not important given the weight of other evidence.

Ross has ordered an assessment done by Nov. 29 and has set dates for a hearing on criminal responsibility for February.

Arfmann’s lawyer, Martin Peters, said his client has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and may not have known what he was doing was wrong.

The 68-year-old is a retired truck driver who was hit hard by the loss of his wife. The court also heard that he had some history of hospitalization prior to the murder.

Arfmann showed little emotion at the verdict.

A sigh of relief was heard from the officers in the gallery who spent nearly two hours looking at the back of the killer’s head.