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I'm not a 'cold-hearted cowboy assassin,' says cop who shot Don Dunphy

The officer who fatally shot Don Dunphy says it's been difficult to be publicly portrayed as a villain in the months since the shooting.

'How was he able to outfox a trained officer?' asked Dunphy family lawyer, Bob Simmonds

Bob Simmonds, the lawyer representing Meghan Dunphy, questions Const. Joe Smyth during cross-examination on Jan. 23 at the inquiry into Don Dunphy's shooting death. (CBC)

The officer who fatally shot Don Dunphy in his Mitchells Brook home in 2015 testified Tuesday that it has been difficult to have been cast as a villain in the months since. 

"The belief out in ... within the public that you are a cold-hearted cowboy assassin is extremely, extremely difficult to take," Const. Joe Smyth said during cross-examination at the inquiry headed by Justice Leo Barry.

Smyth, 38, says he had no choice but to shoot Dunphy after the 59-year-old pointed a rifle at him — an action that was strongly questioned Tuesday by a lawyer representing Dunphy's daughter. 

Smyth, a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer assigned to the security detail of the premier's office, drove to Mitchells Brook on Easter Sunday 2015 to ask Dunphy about Twitter posts that criticized then-premier Paul Davis and other MHAs.

On ​Tuesday afternoon, lawyer Nick Avis, who is representing the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary at the inquiry, asked Smyth about the shooting.

"Do you feel you used excessive force?" he asked.

Smyth defended his decision to shoot four times at Dunphy.

"No, I felt my life was in danger," said Smyth.

Avis asked if Smyth could have acted differently.

​"When you saw the rifle, did you feel you had time to reach Dunphy?" asked Avis.

 "No, the gun was pointed at me and I thought I was going to be shot," replied Smyth.

Avis asked Smyth if the incident had a long-term impact on him.

Smyth said that almost two years after the event, he is still not sleeping well.

Smyth grilled during cross-examination

A lawyer is arguing that Const. Joe Smyth's assertion that he didn't see a gun in Don Dunphy's Mitchells Brook home nor see Dunphy reach for it is unbelievable.

Bob Simmonds, who represents Dunphy's daughter Meghan, used two items — the chair Don Dunphy is reported to have died in and the gun Smyth says Dunphy pointed at him — to try to demonstrate that Smyth's version of what happened isn't plausible.

"What happened in those few minutes before you fired your gun? How was he able to outfox a trained officer?" Simmonds said Tuesday during a public inquiry into the April 2015 shooting.

 "Good question," replied Smyth.

Simmonds brought Smyth back to April 5, 2015 — the day of the shooting.

"There was no threat, no history of violence. You go Easter Sunday, you contradict how you introduced yourself?" asked Simmonds.

 Smyth replied "Yes." 

​"Something you said upset [Dunphy], he became more agitated, you were watching, next thing the gun was pointing at you?" asked Simmonds.

"Yes," said Smyth.

Simmonds suggested it is "unbelievable" that Smyth wouldn't have seen the gun or Dunphy reaching for it if it was on Dunphy's right.

"It came from his right, you didn't see it. He is somewhat disabled, first time you see it it's pointing at you?" he asked.

Smyth agreed.

​"That's what you want the inquiry to believe?" asked Simmonds.

"I want the inquiry to believe the truth," said Smyth

Meghan Dunphy gave an alternate theory of what she believes may have happened, when she testified last week. 

She believes her father may have raise a stick that he carried with him for protection and that Smyth mistook it for a gun and then shot Dunphy.

Smyth testifying since Jan. 9

Simmonds started his cross-examination of Smyth on Monday, arguing that Smyth should not have visited Dunphy at his Mitchells Brook home on April 5, 2015.

The RCMP investigated the police shooting of Dunphy. It concluded no charges were warranted against Smyth.

Smyth is due to testify for a sixth day on Wednesday.

Follow along updates through the day in our live blog.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Quinn

CBC News

Mark Quinn is a videojournalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

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