Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr says the guilty verdict in the Oscar Arfmann trial brings mixed emotions for the department and the family of slain officer Const. John Davidson.
Serr said they are grateful that Arfmann – whose name he does not use, instead referring to him as “John’s murderer” – was convicted on Thursday of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Davidson on Nov. 6, 2017.
But he said there is some “heaviness” about the hearing that will occur in February to determine whether Arfmann is “not criminally responsible (NCR) due to a mental disorder.”
“That’s something we were prepared for. This was not unanticipated. It’s certainly hard that we know that we have to go through this process again,” Serr said, speaking outside of the courthouse at the conclusion of the proceedings on Thursday afternoon.
Serr said the trial has been particularly difficult for Davidson’s wife Denise and his three grown children – Drew, Fay and Dina.
They were in court every day of the trial, which ran from late May until Aug. 2, and had to listen to “some incredibly difficult testimony,” as well as witness Arfmann’s ongoing lack of emotion and refusal to acknowledge his guilt, Serr said.
He said he’s not sure if the guilty verdict is “justice” for Davidson and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).
“I don’t know if there’s ever justice. I’m pissed off. I lost a very good police officer, and the city lost a very good man, and this decision, although we’re very happy that it’s a guilty verdict, nothing will bring John back, nothing will fill that void for his family or for any of us, and that will always weigh heavy.”
The three rows in the courtroom in New Westminster were packed for Thursday’s proceedings with fellow APD officers in uniform, civilian members and officers from other agencies.
Serr said the APD is a “strong and proud” department and they wanted to be there for each other.
He thanked everyone who contributed to the guilty verdict, including all the officers at the scene and involved in the investigation, the first responders, the 911 dispatchers, the witnesses, other police agencies who stepped in, Crown counsel, and the community as a whole.
Serr said the reason he does not mention Arfmann by name is because he wants the focus to be on Davidson.
“I want to remember Const. John Davidson, who died as a hero, who raced in to a very dangerous situation to protect others. John’s murderer ambushed John. He shot John in the back and then, as John laid on the sidewalk, he executed John again, and that’s not the person who I want to remember in this,” he said.
Arfmann is next due back in court on Feb. 3, when the NCR hearing will take place. It has been scheduled until Feb. 28.
His lawyer, Martin Peters, said outside of the courthouse on Thursday that there was a reason that an NCR defence did not come up during the trial.
“Our approach to this case, as directed by our client, was that he didn’t do it … Those were the instructions we received so that’s how we conducted the case,” Peters said.
After Justice Carol Ross rendered her guilty verdict, Peters filed a motion for Arfmann to have an updated psychological assessment conducted. He said Arfmann has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
In previous discussions with a psychiatrist, Arfmann was not cooperative, but Peters said he hopes the guilty verdict will result in him opening up.
“Mr. Arfmann, to date, has not been prepared to admit that he committed any offence, and I think that’s what he told the psychiatrist. He said, ‘I didn’t do it,’ ” Peters said.
Peters said that the guilty verdict was a “good decision.”
“I think she (the judge) reviewed the evidence very carefully, and I’m not prepared to be critical at all of the way she approached the evidence and the conclusion that she arrived at,” he said.
Ross agreed to Peters’ motion for a psychological assessment to be completed – by Nov. 29 – and for the subsequent hearing to take place.
An NCR ruling would mean that the judge believes that Arfmann did not have the capacity to appreciate his actions and know right from wrong at the time of the offence.
Individuals who receive such a ruling fall under the mandate of the BC Review Board, which conducts an assessment to determine whether the person should be detained in a hospital, discharged in the community under certain conditions or discharged without conditions.
If the conviction stands, Arfmann receives an automatic life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.