A surprising verdict in a Duncan courtroom has freed a Mountie previously convicted of aggravated assault and left the victim of the shooting in shock at the court’s decision.
Seven years ago, Cst. David Pompeo shot Bill Gillespie in Chemainus, critically injuring him after the known violent offender failed to stop during a traffic stop. But even though Gillespie was on his knees and unarmed Wednesday a judge ruled Pompeo was in his rights as an officer to shoot in that moment that’s changed the course of both men’s lives.
Walking free from the Duncan courthouse there’s an obvious smile on Cst. David Pompeo’s face. For the first time in 7 years he is walking away from shooting and badly injuring a suspect during an attempted traffic stop on a rural Chemainus road.
“These are people who 24/7 put their lives on the line and in my opinion are in many cases being charged against a different standard,” says Cst. Pompeo’s defense Ravi Hira.
But what is vindication for the officer is an overturn of justice for the victim of the shooting, who says he expected Pompeo to be found guilty for aggravated assault like he was in the first trial, before a re-trial was ordered.
“Yeah I’m a nervous wreck,” says Bill Gillespie.
Gillespie says he can’t put the shooting behind him.
“I just keep waking up everyday with panic attacks and you just gotta face the day. “Are you scared?” “Yeah I’m afraid all the time of the police. All the time.” “Will you stay here?” “I don’t know I don’t think so. I think I’m gonna move away.”
This case centres around a dark night on Chemainus’ Henry Road on September 18th 2009. When Gillespie, a known drug user who was previously convicted of a violent armed robbery in Chemainus, was pulled over by Pompeo and his partner. Gillespie continued on down the road and then pulled in to a friend’s driveway. When finally stopped, out of his car and on the ground, court heard while Gillespie layed on his stomach he continued trying to reach in his pockets even when Pompeo told him three times to “get your hands out of your pockets.”
Justice Lisa Mrozinski ruled that considering all Pompeo knew of Gillespie, and Pompeo’s training to spot threats that, “I am not convinced that a reasonable person in his shoes would have waited to see if Gillespie was going to produce a weapon.” Pompeo’s defence says the seven years that have followed the shooting should be a lesson to all.
“To revisit the way charges are approved against police officers in British Columbia. Certainly some recent cases would suggest that some changes are required,” says Hira.
Cst. David Pompeo has remained working for the RCMP, but in an administrative role over the past seven years. Today’s acquittal clears the way for him to return to active duty.