An RCMP officer told a B.C. provincial court he had little time to react before he shot a Vancouver Island man who emerged from his vehicle gesturing in a way that suggested he might be armed.
Const. David Pompeo is accused of aggravated assault for shooting William Gillespie in the shoulder during a traffic stop on Sept. 18, 2009.
Testifying in his own defence Monday, Pompeo told Judge Josiah Wood that when Gillespie emerged from his vehicle the man seemed to have a "thousand-yard stare" and he couldn't tell if Gillespie was high on drugs, planning to attack or thinking nothing at all.
He was blatantly ignoring my commands to comply.' —Const. David Pompeo
"I remember thinking that he was really close to me and that I couldn't hesitate," Pompeo said.
Pompeo and his partner had been driving an unmarked pickup truck when they pulled over Gillespie for suspicion of driving while prohibited. The court heard that after seeing the lights of Pompeo's ghost car, Gillespie had pulled his sedan into a friends Chemainus, B.C., driveway and stopped with a skid.
Pompeo told the court Gillespie got out of his vehicle without being told to do so and made "blatant movements and gestures making me to believe he was armed."
A dark road
Gillespie took his vehicle down a very dark road and the officers didn't have reliable radio signals to communicate with dispatch, Pompeo testified.
But the officer said it was really Gillespie's behaviour that put him on high alert.
"I was dealing with somebody who blatantly ignored commands at gunpoint," Pompeo said.
"It was concerning because I was pointing a firearm at him and he didn't appear to be listening to anything I was saying."
The statements are in stark contrast to Gillespie's earlier testimony at the trial, where he said he was ordered out of the car and complied fully with Pompeo's instructions.
Gillespie told the trial last week he was getting down on his knees and was reaching in front of him to get on the ground when the officer fired his weapon.
'Threat cues' explored
The officer, who had just over four years of experience at the time of the shooting, walked the judge through segments of his training as they related to how police assess and react to various situations, including what he called "threat cues".
"There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dealing with suspects," Pompeo said. "Everybody perceives things differently and no two situations are exactly alike."
The court heard Pompeo had been warned by his partner that Gillespie was a heavy drug user and had a criminal record that included robberies and violence.
"He didn't appear to be high on drugs but the look on his face ... was just a blank stare."
Pompeo said Gillespie got to within five or six feet of him before he fired his service pistol.
"He was blatantly ignoring my commands to comply while he was advancing at gunpoint," the officer said. "I was under the impression that he was retrieving the means with which to cause me bodily harm, or worse."