Nfld. & Labrador

'Facts shrouded in twisted interpretation': Const. Joe Smyth lashes out at retired Judge Riche

The public inquiry into the shooting death of Don Dunphy continued Wednesday with another day of questioning for the police officer who shot him.

Const. Joe Smth says he fired in self defence after Dunphy pointed a rifle at him

Const. Joe Smyth prepares for his 6th day on the stand at the inquiry into the shooting death of Don Dunphy. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer who fatally shot Don Dunphy had harsh words for a retired judge who was hired by the RCMP to oversee the police investigation into the April 2015 shooting.

"Everything he said publicly was false and how he portrayed me ... extremely difficult," said Smyth, referring to comments David Riche made to the media in September, 2016.

"He gave some facts but they were shrouded in his own twisted interpretation."

Lawyer Jerome Kennedy told a public inquiry into the shooting on Wednesday that Riche was the first person to suggest Smyth waited 12 minutes before calling police after the shooting.

"That led to erroneous theories of what I was doing after the shooting," said Smyth.
Justice David Riche at the Inquiry into Don Dunphy's death. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

His comments about Riche came as he was questioned by Kennedy, who is representing him at the inquiry, about the long-term impact the shooting incident has had on him.

Smyth explained that he received treatment from a psychologist after he had trouble sleeping and said that when he did sleep he had recurring nightmares about being shot himself.

He also said criticism in the media and on social media was very disturbing, especially since some of it targeted his wife and then 5-year-old child.

The stress forced him to take a leave from work.

Riche has been sitting in on testimony at the inquiry but wasn't present Wednesday.

Questions about training

A lawyer representing a coalition of Mitchells Brook area residents suggested Wednesday that Smyth was ill prepared to visit Don Dunphy on that fateful Easter Sunday.

Smyth, who worked with the then-premier's security detail, went to St. Mary's Bay to investigate what he has called "disconcerting" tweets posted by Dunphy on social media.

Cletus Flaherty asked Smyth why he didn't speak with Dunphy's daughter, Meghan, before the visit, and why he didn't do more to determine if Dunphy was mentally ill or if he was suicidal,

Smyth said he hoped to get more information about those issues by interviewing Dunphy.

"What de-escalation techniques were you trained in?" asked Flaherty, who is the third lawyer to question the officer at the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Smyth's shooting of Dunphy.
Lawyer Cletus Flaherty has agreed to represent the Don Dunphy Community Coalition for free. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"I asked him to calm down, told him I wasn't there to arrest him," replied Smyth.

"You say you were prepared — but a disabled, old man was able "to get the jump on you," said Flaherty, who represents the Don Dunphy Community Coalition.

At this point, Jerome Kennedy, Smyth's lawyer, objected to the tone of Flaherty's question, calling it "sarcastic."

Justice Leo Barry agreed and cautioned Flaherty.

"Would you not agree you were unprepared?" Flaherty asked.

"No, if I wasn't prepared I wouldn't be here," replied Smyth.

"It's by the grace of God that he didn't shoot you, would you agree? said Flaherty.

Smyth agreed.

'We shouldn't limit free speech'

​Tom Williams, the lawyer representing former premier Paul Davis, also questioned Smyth on Wednesday.

"Did you ever get directives from Davis or his chief of staff, Joe Brown?" asked Williams.

"No," Smyth replied. 

Davis was premier when Dunphy was killed. 

​Williams asked why the protective services unit monitors social media posts

"We shouldn't limit free speech but there is a boundary where it becomes harassment and abuse," said Smyth.

​Smyth said it wasn't uncommon for members of the protective services unit to visit people whose social media posts had raised concerns.

Smyth said the work of the protective services unit did result in some charges being laid. He said a person was charged for illegally entering then-premier Danny Williams's home, and that a person was charged with criminally harassing Tom Marshall while he was premier. 

Smyth said Kathy Dunderdale received more critical posts than other premiers, and noted they could be inappropriate or sexually explicit, "perhaps because of her gender."

The premier's phone call

Davis called Smyth hours after the shooting had taken place.

"It was only to express concern for me," Smyth said.

"None of the details of the shooting were discussed." 

He also said Davis knew nothing of the visit to Mitchells Brook before it happened and that he never discussed the details of shooting with any of the premier's senior staff, including Brown. 

Wednesday marked the sixth day of testimony for Smyth, who has said he saw the barrel of a rifle pointed at him from the right side of a chair Dunphy sat in, and that Dunphy continued to aim the weapon at him after he fired the first of four shots.

The RCMP investigated the shooting death and determined that no charges were warranted against Smyth.

One of the investigating officers, Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe was on the stand Wednesday and is expected to answer more questions on Thursday.

Follow along updates through the day in our live blog.