Nfld. & Labrador

5 lingering questions in the fatal shooting of Don Dunphy

A Newfoundland community remains in shock, and there are still plenty of questions, after a man was fatally shot at a home Sunday afternoon, in an incident involving a member of Premier Paul Davis's security detail who responded to a perceived threat on Twitter.

Man, 59, in Mitchells Brook, N.L., had licence to grow medical pot and was often visited by police

Don Dunphy, seen in a 2011 interview with CBC News, was fatally shot Sunday. Police are investigating a tweet the Newfoundland and Labrador man wrote a couple days before the shooting at his home, during a confrontation with the premier's security staff. (CBC)

A community on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula is still in shock after a man was fatally shot at a home Sunday afternoon, in an incident involving a member of Premier Paul Davis's security detail who responded to a perceived threat on Twitter.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer was in Mitchells Brook that afternoon investigating last week's tweet.

Don Dunphy, 59, was killed by the RNC officer. On Tuesday, the RCMP confirmed that Dunphy was shot after he aimed a loaded .22-calibre rifle at the officer.

However, some townspeople say Dunphy was familiar with the local members of the RCMP and it was unlike him to be violent with police, leaving questions about exactly what happened.

1. Why did the officer show up alone on Easter Sunday?

The plainclothes officer showed up alone in an unmarked car at Dunphy's home. On Monday, RNC Chief Bill Janes said that the officer, who worked for the force's protective services unit, was on a regular shift and had been assigned to "investigate as needed." Davis revealed that the complaint had been turned over by a member of his office to the police, although he had not been aware of it. 

As for travelling alone, Const. Steve Curnew told CBC News on Tuesday that it is "not uncommon" for officers to make investigative visits on their own. RNC officers on patrol often work alone, and plainclothes officers do not always travel in pairs when they conduct investigations.

The RCMP said Tuesday afternoon the investigating RNC officer had conducted a routine risk assessment prior to visiting Dunphy's home, and determined it was a low risk situation that didn't require another officer to accompany him.

Nonetheless, the incident has raised questions in the Mount Carmel area, where Dunphy lived. 

"If Donny was a threat, why would they send in one plainclothes officer instead of having somebody else with them?" asked Susan Parrott, an area manager.

2. Did RNC inform the RCMP?

The area of Mitchells Brook isn't covered by RNC jurisdiction; the RCMP polices the rural area. The RNC member informed the Holyrood RCMP detachment that he would be visiting an area resident as part of an investigation, the RCMP said Tuesday.

Parrott said Dunphy was familiar with the members of the local RCMP detachment because he held a licence to grow medical marijuana. The RCMP would regularly call on Dunphy to check in and, she said, they would enter his home and chat with him. Parrott said she wonders if things would have ended differently if the local RCMP had gone along.

3. How many shots were fired? Did Dunphy fire a weapon?

Neighbours told CBC News they heard multiple gunshots fired at Dunphy's home during the incident on Sunday afternoon.

It remains unclear whether Dunphy fired the weapon he pulled on the officer inside his house. RNC Chief Bill Janes would not confirm Monday which weapons were fired, or how many times. On Tuesday, RCMP Sgt. Greg Hicks said police will determine as part of the investigation which guns were fired and how many times.

4. Was Dunphy expecting a police visit?

Although Dunphy had a licence to grow medical marijuana and previously had been visited by members of the RCMP at his home, it's not known if he was expecting police to drop in on a different matter. It's not clear if the RNC contacted Dunphy before arriving at his residence Sunday afternoon.

5. Who was Dunphy tweeting about?

The RNC was investigating a perceived Twitter threat after getting a report from one of the premier's staff members who manage his social media accounts. The tweet in question said, "Won't mention names this time, 2 prick dead MHAs might have good family members I may hurt."

However, that tweet is the last in the full series of tweets Dunphy sent to the attention of Davis and MHA Sandy Collins. It was the last tweet that caught the attention of a member of the premier's office staff, prompting the RNC officer's visit to Dunphy's house. 

On Tuesday, Dunphy's Twitter account was deleted. 

Here are the relevant tweets that Dunphy had sent on Friday: 

  • @SandyRCollins @PremierOfNL @ShermanDowney is that why u can't c problems of seniors & injured workers,the sun is in your eyes,put #nlpoli — @sculpen
  • @SandyRCollins @PremierOfNL @ShermanDowney put on sun glasses & take out the ear plugs u might c & hear ppl crying for help,but why #nlpoli — @sculpen
  • @SandyRCollins @PremierOfNL @ShermanDowney but why would u care after putting in hard time getting that poor mans MHA pension,I hope #nlpoli — @sculpen
  • @SandyRCollins @PremierOfNL @ShermanDowney I hope there is a God,I think I c him work on two garbage MHAs who laughed at poor ppl #nlpoli — @sculpen
  • @SandyRCollins @PremierOfNL @ShermanDowneywon't mention names this time,2 prick dead MHAs might have good family members I may hurt #nlpoli — @sculpen

[Read the original thread here]

Reading the full thread, it isn't clear who Dunphy is talking about — and it appears Dunphy is referring to two previous MHAs who are dead.

The RCMP is still investigating the fatal shooting, and an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.


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