British Columbia

'We have lost John and nothing can change that': Abbotsford mourns fallen officer

After 24 years in policing, Const. John Davidson was killed in a shootout on Monday

Bethany Lindsay - CBC News

November 07, 2017

A woman places a photo of Abbotsford Police Const. John Davidson, who died in the line of duty, on a window at a makeshift memorial outside police headquarters in Abbotsford, B.C., on Tuesday November 7, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Const. John Davidson had a quirky sense of humour, wasn't afraid to speak truth to power and accomplished a nearly impossible feat for a middle-aged police officer — fitting in with a bunch of teenagers.

As Abbotsford residents struggled to come to grips Tuesday with Davidson's death in a shootout, those who knew the 53-year-old best are remembering an irreplaceable friend and colleague.

ADVERTISEMENT

Nicole Provost was a student at W.J. Mouat Secondary School when Davidson was the school's liaison officer, and she recalls him standing by the school's entrance, greeting the students one by one.

"He had unique relationships with all of them. He'd talk to the popular people — the football team — but he'd also talk to the dorks," Provost told CBC News. "He was just super fun and inclusive to have around."

She was still reeling from the officer's death and angry that his life could be ended so suddenly, but, she said, she was moved by the community's reaction.

"It's just been so cool to see how loved he is and it's just really apparent today. I loved him," she said.

Nicole Provost with Const. John Davidson, her high school liason, at her Grade 12 graduation. (Supplied)

'He wanted an outdoors life'

Outside the Abbotsford Police Department on Tuesday, a memorial to the fallen constable continued to grow, as local residents added flowers and handwritten cards dedicated to the man who'd spent 24 years as a police officer.

Davidson began his career in 1993 with the Northumbria Police Service in the U.K., according to Abbotsford police Chief Bob Rich. In 2006, he uprooted his family, bringing his wife and three kids all the way across the globe to B.C.

"He wanted an outdoors life. He wanted to try something new. One of his kids said, 'I think it was kind of an early mid-life crisis.' We were thrilled to have John Davidson join the Abbotsford Police Department," Rich said.

Const. John Davidson has been identified as the police officer who died in the line of duty Monday afternoon. (Abbotsford Police Department)

Davidson had a strong connection to the city's young people, developing outreach programs on safe driving and drug use. He was responsible for an 18-minute video called "Operation X" about the dangers of ecstasy, winning a 2012 Community Safety and Crime Prevention Award for his efforts.

Davidson was the high school liaison at Mouat from 2008 to 2012, taking time out of his day to coach sports teams and help with extracurricular activities. His picture still hangs in the halls of the school, where he is considered an "honorary Hawk," according to principal Jay Pankratz.

"He was one of those liaison officers that committed to becoming a part of the school. People can't say enough good things," Pankratz said. "People are in a bit of a fog today."

People pause at a makeshift memorial for Abbotsford Police Const. John Davidson, who died in the line of duty, outside police headquarters on Tuesday November 7, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

'A funny curmudgeon'

After his time working with students, Davidson moved on to traffic services, where he was named to Alexa's Team — a program recognizing officers who help take drunk drivers off the road. He also participated in the Cops for Cancer bike ride, a challenging nine-day tour through B.C.

Even though Rich was his boss, he considered Davidson a friend and regularly met with him for breakfast.

"I enjoyed John very, very much, because I knew exactly what he was thinking. He understood how to be respectful and still deliver a message. He was a funny curmudgeon some days and made people laugh," Rich said.

People pause at a makeshift memorial for Abbotsford Police Const. John Davidson on Tuesday Nov. 7, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The police chief said Davidson's partners and colleagues are devastated, but he's not letting anyone suffer in silence.

"My order is that you will get better, that you will ask for help … We lost John. We will lose no one else," Rich said.

"We have lost John and nothing can change that. John died doing what we asked him to do. We honour John by looking after his family. We honour John by looking after each other. We honour John by protecting this community."

Davidson is survived by his wife and three adult children. A 65-year-old Alberta man, Oscar Arfmann, has been charged with first degree murder in the officer's death.

With files from Anita Bathe

Start the day smarter
Get the CBC News Morning Brief, the essential news you need delivered to your inbox