Nfld. & Labrador

Don Dunphy shooting: Our audience's pick as top story of 2015

A fatal shooting that involved a self-described "crucified injured worker," two police forces, social media and political overtones has emerged as the audience's most compelling story of 2015.
Don Dunphy, seen during a 2011 interview with CBC News, was fatally shot on Easter Sunday. (CBC)

A fatal shooting that involved a self-described "crucified injured worker," two police forces, social media and political overtones has emerged as the most compelling story of 2015, according to a survey of CBC Newfoundland and Labrador's audience.

We asked our readers to pick the stories that mattered most to them over the last 12 months.

Without further ado, here are the results.

1. Don Dunphy shooting

A fatal shooting on Easter Sunday became one of the most compelling stories of the year, even though the circumstances of how exactly a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer shot and killed Don Dunphy, 59, have not yet been revealed. Joe Smyth, who revealed his identity to CBC News in December, travelled to Dunphy's home in Mitchells Brook, on the southern Avalon Peninsula, after staff in the premier's office flagged a tweet that Dunphy had posted through his personal Twitter account.

Smyth was sent because he had been assigned to the security detail for then premier Paul Davis. 

A candelight vigil was held in Mitchells Brook several days after Dunphy's death. (CBC)

The RCMP, which is investigating the case, said Dunphy was shot after he aimed a loaded rifle during a 15-minute conversation in which there was a "sudden and dramatic" change in the demeanour of the RNC officer's visit.

Dunphy, who described himself as "a crucified injured worker," had been fighting the workers' compensation system. The tweet — "Won't mention names this time, 2 prick dead MHAs might have good family members I may hurt" — was actually one of a series of messages that, when read together, presented a different context.

The RCMP investigation is still underway and is not expected to be completed until the end of January. The RNC has asked the Saskatoon Police Service to handle its internal review.

Dunphy's family and supporters expressed concerns about the investigation. The dearth of official detail over many months has fuelled speculation on social media, with some commenters even suggesting that Dunphy was purposely #killed4atweet, to use a hashtag that has been frequently used.

The new Liberal government has said it will call an inquiry into the shooting when the RCMP investigation is completed. Smyth, as well, told CBC News in a statement that he welcomes an inquiry.

2. Ron Hynes dies

Ron Hynes died in November. He was 64. (Jeffrey Dreves)

It was no secret that Ron Hynes was in poor health in recent months; the famed singer-songwriter had revealed that the cancer he fought a few years ago had returned — and this time had spread. Still, his death in November shocked the province and triggered an enormous outpouring of affection and support. 

3. Dwight Ball leads Liberals to landslide election win

The Liberal Leader spoke with the CBC's Peter Cowan shortly after his win was announced 3:09

Ball, a pharmacist and businessman from Deer Lake, took on the interim Liberal leadership when no one else wanted it, and won the job at a leadership convention when everyone seemed to want it. Ball helped take the Liberals away from a crushing deficit and the party systematically scored one byelection win after another, presenting a credible alternative to a Tory government that churned through leaders and seemed to be running out of steam. By the Nov. 30 provincial election, the Liberals won with the largest vote share in almost 50 years.

4. Captain's Quarters fatal shooting

Brandon Phillips, 27, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after Larry Wellman was killed at the Captain's Quarters hotel in St. John's. (CBC)

What appears to have been an armed robbery attempt took a fatal and tragic turn on Oct. 3, when Larry Wellman, a patron at the Captain's Quarters hotel near downtown St. John's, was shot while trying to intervene in the crime. Brandon Phillips, 27, has been charged with first-degree murder. The story has an unusual political overtone, as Premier Dwight Ball's daughter Jade has had a romantic relationship with Phillips.

5. Liberals sweep federal seats

All of Newfoundland and Labrador's seven federal seats went red in October, with the Liberals holding five seats and taking the two St. John's-area seats from the NDP.

6. Cantwell turns cyberbullying on its head

Torbay student Lynelle Cantwell's story travelled around the world. (Submitted by Lynelle Cantwell)

Cantwell showed remarkable maturity by responding to a nasty anonymous poll on social media site ask.fm that put her on a list of the "ugliest girls" at her Torbay high school. Her appeal to take the high road turned into a story that travelled around the globe, even earning the teenager a trip to a national young leaders' summit in Toronto.

7. Hard-of-hearing controversy at MUN

History student William Sears called out Memorial University professor Ranee Panjabi for refusing to wear an FM transmitter so he could hear her lectures. Panjabi said she had a guarantee from the university to not make such an accommodation for religious reasons. Sears later withdrew from mediation in frustration.

8. Trevor Pardy found guilty of ex's murder

When first responders arrived at Boggy Hall Place in St. John's on Oct. 1, 2011, they could not immediately tend to Triffie Wadman as she lay bleeding in the street. That's because Pardy, her former boyfriend, prevented them from doing so. After numerous delays leading to a trial, a jury convicted Pardy this fall. He has since filed an appeal.

9. Oil industry slump

The shakeout in the oil industry lasted throughout the year, and shows no sign of ending soon. Jobs have been lost in Alberta's oilsands, and the local industry has been feeling the squeeze with low prices. The Newfoundland and Labrador government's revenues have been slashed, with the province posting a whopping deficit of $1.96 billion just before Christmas.

10. Ryan Cleary switches colours

Then-premier Paul Davis welcomed Ryan Cleary to his team in late October, just days after Cleary lost his federal seat. (CBC)

Plenty of politicians have changed political stripes, but few have done it as flamboyantly as Cleary. Just days after losing his seat in October's federal election, the former New Democrat joined the provincial Tories to run with Paul Davis and the Progressive Conservatives in the November provincial election. He lost that race, too.

The next 10

11. Ches Crosbie, prominent lawyer, barred from running for Conservative Party of Canada in federal election.

12. Deficit financing: Tories avoid cuts in spring budget while posting an expected deficit of $1.1 billion; that number mushrooms to $1.8 billion by December.

13. Pension overpayments: Seniors shocked after province reveals it intended to collect almost $1 million it had mistakenly paid out.

14. Salmon Festival loses $667,000 in sparsely-attended concert featuring headliner John Fogerty.

15. Chris Hyndman, Newfoundland-raised TV host, found dead in August near his home; family believes he fell to his death while sleepwalking.

16. Labrador West feels the squeeze as iron ore industry is plunged into further turmoil.

17. Clifford Comerford dies after being stabbed in minivan transporting him to work at a chicken barn.

18. Rod Stewart rocks St. John's in July concert; photos of rock legend wearing sealskin coat go viral, but result in denunciation from singer's management.

19. Memorial University students protest "rotten" food served by contractor Aramark.

20. Chase the Ace event in Lourdes turns into phenomenal fundraiser for parish church.

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