Nfld. & Labrador

RCMP accused of tunnel vision in combative exchange about Don Dunphy investigation

An RCMP officer vigorously defended police on Wednesday, in the face of accusations that investigators made up their minds in the Don Dunphy case.

RCMP witness says he believed Smyth's account soon after shooting

RCMP Const. John Galway testifying at the inquiry into Don Dunphy's death on Feb 1, 2017. (CBC)

An RCMP officer involved with the investigation into Don Dunphy's shooting death vigorously defended the way police handled the case Wednesday, in the face of accusations investigators made up their minds too quickly.

Const. John Galway, the RCMP's family liaison on the case, testified at the judicial inquiry into Dunphy's death Wednesday.

The RCMP were called in after Royal Newfoundland Constbulary Const. Joe Smyth shot and killed Don Dunphy in his Mitchells Brook home on Easter Sunday 2015.

Smyth was the complainant … the victim.- John Galway

Smyth was there to speak with Dunphy about his social media posts — tweets that criticized then-premier Paul Davis and other MHAs.

Smyth says he fired at Dunphy four times after Dunphy pointed a rifle at him.

Tunnel vision?

Galway said that on the day of the shooting, he quickly began to believe that Smyth had acted in self defence.

"The evidence was that Dunphy pointed a gun. Smyth was the complainant … the victim," he said.

Galway bristled when Dunphy family lawyer Bob Simmonds pressed him, suggesting police accepted Smyth's account too quickly.

Lawyer Bob Simmonds is representing Don Dunphy's daughter, Meghan, at the judicial inquiry into her father's death. (CBC)

"Very early on you accepted Smyth's version," said Simmonds.

"The information I had was that the man in the house in Mitchells Brook pulled a gun on Const. Smyth and Const. Smyth had fired," responded Galway.

"We accepted it unless there was evidence that suggests it was wrong."

Inquiry Comissioner interjects

Justice Leo Barry, the judge leading the inquiry, questioned that approach.

"You said the RCMP accepted Smyth's version until there is evidence to the contrary, but shouldn't you start with the conclusion that it's criminal until the evidence shows it isn't?" he asked.

Justice Leo Barry is leading the judicial inquiry into Don Dunphy's death. (CBC)

Simmonds asked Galway if other members of the RCMP shared his view on what happened.

"Would you agree that right from the start you felt this is what had happened and that was the vision — call it tunnel vision — all along?" asked Simmonds.

"All I can tell you is what I think," said Galgay.

"But I do not believe there was tunnel vision."

Simmonds disagreed.

Anytime I've had a client who is taken in and detained they aren't allowed any such luxury as that.- Bob Simmonds

"The way officer Smyth was handled is indicative of the police's tunnel vision with respect to this," he said.

Simmonds, a defence lawyer, suggested Smyth received special treatment from the police — treatment anyone else who just shot and killed a man could not expect.

"Officer Smyth is brought back to the detachment, there four RNC officers there who say they aren't going to interfere but are there to support," he said.

"Anytime I've had a client who is taken in and detained they aren't allowed any such luxury as that. That is not a normal occurrence in an investigation."

Almost a year and a half after the April 5, 2015 shooting, The RCMP concluded no charges are warranted against Smyth.

The inquiry is scheduled to continue Thursday with testimony from a member of the Protective Services Unit assigned to handle the premier's security.