ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
RCMP Constable David Pompeo breathed a huge sigh of relief and broke into tears in a Duncan courtroom on Wednesday after his conviction of aggravated assault was overturned in his retrial.
It took Justice Lisa Mrozinski 90 minutes to read her final judgment in the seven-year-old case in which Pompeo was found guilty in 2013 of aggravated assault for shooting an unarmed man, William Gillespie, during a traffic stop in 2009.
She said in her opinion, after considering all the evidence, any person standing in Pompeo’s shoes would “have a reasonable doubt” Gillespie didn’t have a weapon on him during the incident, particularly considering Pompeo’s experience and training.
An obviously relieved Pompeo, wearing a neck brace in court after being involved in a work-related accident last month, hugged his wife and a number of supporters in the packed courtroom after hearing the verdict in his retrial, which began in November.
Pompeo and his partner pulled Gillespie over in Chemainus on suspicion of driving while prohibited in 2009.
The trial heard that Pompeo fired his service revolver because he thought Gillespie was reaching for a gun, and the bullet struck Gillespie in the neck where it is still lodged.
While the Crown was looking for a sentence of two years less a day in jail, Pompeo was sentenced in 2013 to two years probation and 240 hours community service.
But the BC Court of Appeal set aside the conviction in 2014 and ordered a retrial of the case after concluding, among other issues, that the presiding judge in the trial erred in excluding expert evidence from a witness.
The expert witness said Pompeo’s use of force was in accordance with his training, and was necessary.
Gillespie, who was in the courtroom to hear Mrozinski’s judgement on Wednesday, said he has had panic attacks every day since the incident, and is afraid of the police all of the time.
He said he can’t get a job in the community as a result of the case and is considering moving elsewhere.
“I don’t think he’s very sorry for what he’s done,” Gillespie said of Pompeo after the court ruling.
Pompeo referred questions to his lawyer Ravi Hira.
Hira said he’s “grateful” Mrozinski carefully considered and assessed all aspects of the case before reaching her judgement.
“In my decades of defending police officers, I find it unusual for a policeman like Officer Pompeo to continue to work selflessly in these difficult circumstances as he has for the past seven years,” Hira said.
“I would urge the Attorney General to revisit how police officers are treated and charged in these situations in B.C. People who put their lives on the line 24/7 deserve more careful assessments.”