Nfld. & Labrador

Rumours he had ordered 'an assassination' followed Dunphy shooting, says former premier

Paul Davis is reiterating that he knew nothing of Don Dunphy or his controversial tweets before Dunphy was shot to death by a member of the premier's security detail.

Paul Davis says he should not have called Joe Smyth on day of fatal shooting

Former premier Paul Davis testifying at the Dunphy inquiry on Feb. 24, 2017. (CBC)

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Paul Davis says it was a mistake to call the police officer who fatally shot Don Dunphy to offer comfort hours after the incident happened.

Testifying at the judicial inquiry into the fatal shooting of injured worker Don Dunphy, Davis — himself a former cop — addressed swirling and sometimes bizarre conspiracy theories that quickly developed online, alleging that Davis had effectively dispatched someone to take care of a supposed opponent. 

"Very quickly there were rumours that I had ordered an assassination and that was a concern," Davis told Justice Leo Barry Friday at an inquiry into how Joe Smyth, a police constable who was assigned to Davis's security detail, shot Dunphy in his Mitchells Brook home in April 2015. 

Smyth earlier testified that he resented seeing himself depicted as a "hitman" in social media posts that doubted his explanation that he fired his weapon in self-defence. 

Meanwhile, Davis acknowledged he erred by getting in touch with Smyth in the aftermath of the fatal shooting. 

'Very quickly there were rumours that I had ordered an assassination and that was a concern.' - Paul Davis

"I tend to agree with Smyth that I probably should not have called him. It was still under investigation."

Davis said that he and Smyth didn't talk about the details of the shooting.

He testified on Friday that he knew at the time that Dunphy, 59, was alleged to have pulled a gun on Smyth, but he doesn't recall how he knew that.

Smyth, a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer, had gone to Dunphy's home in St. Mary's Bay to investigate tweets Dunphy had made about politicians.

Smyth has said that he shot Dunphy four times after Dunphy pointed a 22-calibre rifle at him. The RCMP investigated the shooting and concluded that Smyth used appropriate force and no charges were laid.

Rumours of assassination order

Davis, who served on the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary before entering politics, testified that when he called Smyth he didn't know that Smyth hadn't given police a statement about the shooting.

"I thought he was probably having the worst day of his life. I called to ask how he was doing," he said Friday.

Former premier Paul Davis took the stand at the Don Dunphy inquiry Friday, saying he shouldn't have called RNC Const. Joe Smyth following the Mitchells Brook shooting. 1:17

Inquiry co-counsel Sandra Chaytor asked Davis why he hadn't called Dunphy's daughter, Meghan.

"I knew we had a plan to offer condolences the next day," said Davis, who is now an MHA and leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party,

Davis reiterated that he knew nothing of Dunphy or his controversial tweets before the shooting.

I thought he was probably having the worst day of his life. I called to ask how he was doing.- Paul Davis

​He said he learned about the shooting around 3:30 p.m when he received a phone call from his chief of staff Joe Browne. Browne had retired as chief of the RNC before being hired to run the premier's office during Davis's tenure. 

"He told me there had been a fatality and that Smyth had been involved related to his duties," Davis said.

Davis said before 6 p.m. he called police with concerns about his security, and an extra person was put on the protective services unit.

Difficult day

During a scrum with reporters on April 6, 2015  Davis said 'the tweet appeared to be directed to me ... and the people that are most important to us, our families.' 

At the inquiry he said: "I don't think I can adequately describe how difficult a day this was for me and my family." 

Don Dunphy was fatally shot by RNC Const. Joe Smyth on Easter Sunday 2015.

Davis was driving with then-MHA Sandy Collins on April 2, 2015 when Collins posted a tweet that Dunphy responded to but Davis said Friday that they didn't talk about it.

​Dunphy's daughter has said she does not believe Smyth's account of her father's death and has told the inquiry that she lost confidence in the RCMP investigation.