Nfld. & Labrador

How the Don Dunphy case differs from previous police shootings

Don Dunphy is the latest person in Newfoundland and Labrador to be shot by a police officer, although there are key differences from prior cases.
Don Dunphy, seen speaking with CBC News during a 2011 interview, was shot to death in his home on April 5. (CBC)

Man points weapon at officer, officer shoots to kill. It's an unfortunate but familiar story, but what happened in Mitchells Brook on Easter Sunday varies from other incidents in Newfoundland and Labrador that involved fatal shootings by police officers. 

In the last two decades, three other men have been shot and killed by police. All three deaths resulted in judicial inquiries and legislative changes.

The provincial government isn't saying whether or not it will order a judicial inquiry into the death of Don Dunphy.

An RCMP investigation has so far found that Don Dunphy pointed a .22-calibre rifle at a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer inside Dunphy's home in the Mount Carmel area on Sunday.

The officer shot and killed Dunphy, 59. 

There were no other witnesses. 

Prior cases

Similar scenarios have played out in the past, in different parts of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Nicholas Benteau was shot to death at his home in Point May in 1996. (CBC)

On March 2, 1996, the RCMP responded to a domestic disturbance at a home in Point May on the Burin Peninsula. Inside the home, Nicholas Benteau pointed a gun at an officer. Another responding officer shot Benteau in the back, killing him. 

On Aug. 26, 2000, the RCMP responded to a complaint that a mentally ill man was threatening children on the Bonavista Peninsula.

Three officers showed up at Norman Reid's home in Little Catalina. Reid charged at the officers with an axe. An officer shot him five times.

Norman Reid was shot and killed at his home in Little Catalina in August 2000. (CBC)

Just a few months later, on Oct. 16, 2000, Darryl Power was shot and killed by police in his mother's backyard in Corner Brook.

He was suicidal and had called 911 for help. When police arrived, Power came at them with knives and was killed. A judge later accepted testimony that Power brought about his own death in what is called "suicide by cop."

All three killings resulted in judicial inquiries (the Reid and Power cases were heard together) as well as changes to mental health legislation.

Darryl Power was shot and killed in his mother's backyard in Corner Brook in October 2000. (CBC)

In the 2000 shootings, a judge found that provincial services failed two mentally ill men, resulting in their tragic deaths. 

In all three killings, a judge found that police responded appropriately.

A judicial inquiry is not automatic when police kill civilians. It's up to the justice minister to order one.

In the case of Don Dunphy, police are still investigating what happened on Sunday and details are emerging about his background and mental health status.

Until all of that comes into focus, it's not likely that the justice minister will determine the need for an inquiry. 

About the Author

Amy Stoodley is a former reporter with CBC News in St. John's.


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