British Columbia

Killer of Abbotsford police officer faces sentencing in B.C. court

More than two years after killing an on-duty Abbotsford police officer, Oscar Arfmann will be forced to reckon with the impact of his actions Monday as he stands before Const. John Davidson's friends and family.

Oscar Arfmann instructed lawyers not to pursue mental disorder defence despite psychiatrist report

Const. John Davidson leaves his wife and three adult children behind. His family had the chance to deliver victim impact statements at Oscar Arfmann's sentencing.

More than two years after killing an on-duty Abbotsford police officer in cold blood, Oscar Arfmann will be forced to reckon with the impact of his actions Monday as he stands before Const. John Davidson's friends and family.

A New Westminster B.C. Supreme Court judge will sentence the 68-year-old for first-degree murder after offering Davidson's loved ones a chance to give impact statements.

The Abbotsford police force has also invited members to attend the hearing.

Although they have no way of knowing how many will attend, a wall of uniformed and plain clothes officers packed the public gallery when Justice Carol Ross delivered her verdict last October.

Abbotsford Police Sgt. Judy Bird says the department along with the city itself continues to mourn.

"There are instances that leave a mark on a community and this is one of them," Bird said.

"We will proceed to move on as a department and we just appreciate everyone's support through this long journey."

Damning account of events

In a verdict that took more than two hours to deliver, Ross found the Crown had proven without doubt that Arfmann intentionally shot and killed the 53-year-old police officer on Nov. 6, 2017.

Arfmann pleaded not guilty, forcing prosecutors to tie him to a damning account of events woven together through a combination of witness testimony, video, audio and physical evidence.

Oscar Arfmann was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Abbotsford police officer Const. John Davidson. (Geordon Omand/The Canadian Press)

A psychiatrist later found that Arfmann — who continued to deny that he committed the murder, even after the verdict — was suffering from psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia at the time of the shooting.

But Arfmann told his lawyers he wanted to be sentenced and Ross saw no reason — against the killer's will — to pursue a verdict that might have found Arfmann to be not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder.

Shooting caught by dashcam

The incident that led to Davidson's murder started when the manager of a car dealership spotted a black Mustang that Arfmann stole two days earlier.

The manager and another witness confronted Arfmann and parked a truck behind the vehicle to stop it from leaving. Arfmann responded by firing two shots into the truck — an action caught by the dashcam of a passing vehicle.

Witness's dashcam footage shows Oscar Arfmann holding rifle

3 years ago
Duration 0:47
New dashcam footage obtained by CBC News shows the events leading up to when convicted killer Oscar Arfmann fatally shot Abbotsford police Const. John Davidson.

A number of people called 911 and Arfmann fled in the Mustang.

Davidson responded to the call in a white truck with emergency flashers, coming across Arfmann in a nearby business complex. The officer got out of his vehicle and Arfmann shot him. He fired again as Davidson lay on the ground.

The killer then fled in the Mustang. He was stopped when two different police officers rammed their cars into the vehicle. Arfmann was shot and injured before his arrest.

Accused's right to control defence

Davidson leaves behind a wife and three adult children.

Arfmann's lawyer said the retired truck driver had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had some history of hospitalization prior to the murder.

The psychiatrist who examined Arfmann after he was found guilty believed he was capable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions despite likely having psychotic symptoms at the time of the shooting.

But the doctor said that it was also possible to infer that "Arfmann was unable to rationally contemplate the moral wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the offence."

Arfmann made it clear he wanted to be sentenced for first-degree murder, setting up an unusual inquiry in January as the judge had to decide whether the court should pursue a not criminally responsible verdict on its own accord.

Crown prosecutor Wendy Stephens said there is very little precedent on the issue, but the question speaks to the fundamental right of an accused to control their own defence.

But Stephens also said the evidence suggested Arfmann knew that what he was doing was wrong at the time he shot Davidson and fled the scene.

Arfmann faces an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole for at least 25 years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now