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PRINT EDITION
Murder charge laid in death of Abbotsford police officer
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By ANDREA WOO, MIKE HAGER, WENDY STUECK
  
  

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017 – Page A5

ABBOTSFORD, B.C., VANCOUVER -- Constable John Davidson spent a 24-year policing career in the United Kingdom and Canada building a reputation as an officer with sense of humour and ability to strike up a rapport with anyone - even those on the wrong side of the law.

A 65-year-old long-haul truck driver has been charged with Constable Davidson's murder.

Profiles of the two men emerged on Tuesday as investigators began the early work of piecing together what led to the daylight shooting that has left both police and residents reeling in Abbotsford, a community in B.C.'s Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver.

Oscar Arfmann, 65, has been charged with first-degree murder.

The daylight shootout began with a report of a possible stolen vehicle. Constable Davidson, 53, and other officers responded to the incident, unfolding in the parking lot of a shopping complex.

"He's this community's hero," Abbotsford Police Department Chief Bob Rich said at a news conference Tuesday.

"We train our police officers, we ask our police officers, that when somebody is putting people's lives in danger, when there's an active shooter, we no longer wait for cover, we no longer set up teams. The first person in goes. John Davidson was the first person in and he went. And he died protecting you and me," Chief Rich said.

"He was the only person here that actually spoke the Queen's English," Chief Rich said with a chuckle.

"The rest of us, we're pretty commoner. He was somebody who could really tell me what he thought. ... He understood how to be respectful and still deliver a message."

Mr. Arfmann appeared in Provincial Court briefly on Tuesday and was remanded into police custody in hospital. Neither investigators from the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) nor the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. had been able to speak with him yet. Police have not specified the nature of his injuries.

At the time of the shooting, Mr. Arfmann didn't have a valid drivers licence, Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spokesman Corporal Frank Jang said on Tuesday. A valid firearms licence had expired in 2015, Cpl. Jang added.

He said investigators do not have information on where Mr. Arfmann was living.

Mr. Arfmann's family emigrated from postwar Germany when he was a toddler, according to his first wife, Hope Elizabeth Arfmann, of Edmonton. She married him as an 18-year-old and the pair had a tumultuous relationship until she divorced him three years later, she said on Tuesday.

Mr. Arfmann lived the majority of his life in Alberta and it is unknown what he was doing in British Columbia, although his sister lives in the Metro Vancouver area and his father retired in Vernon, according to his first wife.

Over the past year, Ms. Arfmann said she had been receiving strange calls asking about her former husband that appeared to be about debts he owed.

According to Alberta court records, an Oscar Arfmann was fined $1,000 and received a 12 month licence suspension for an impaired driving offence on May 16, 2016, in St. Paul, Alta.

Mr. Arfmann remarried soon after their divorce, to a woman who died after a stroke in 2013, she said.

Constable Davidson was remembered for his bravery and community service. He began his career in Britain in 1993 and moved to B.C. in 2006. He is survived by his wife and three adult children.

Chris Coburn roomed with Constable Davidson for a gruelling nine-day Cops For Cancer cycling tour of the Fraser Valley in September and said his strength and enthusiasm never wavered.

"He was so engaging when he went into the schools - he would not back down from anything," said Mr. Coburn, a DJ at a local country radio station that had done five previous Cops for Cancer cycling tours. "We had to do some pretty silly songs like Brown Squirrel Shake Your Fluffy Tail where we were wriggling our Lycra-clad butts in the air and he did it.

"A lot of these tough cops are not into that kind of stuff and are pretty reticent to do it, but he was the perfect teammate."

On his fundraising page for the tour, Constable Davidson wrote that he had no problem "making a complete fool of myself for this great cause so if there is anything you need me to do to earn your support, other than cycle my arse off, then don't hesitate to ask."

He also mentioned that he planned to put all the pent-up anger and energy from 24 years of policing into the fundraising effort.

He wound up raising $7,000 for pediatric cancer research and treatment.

Friends and members of the public who interacted with him say the man with the amiable Scottish accent did not come across as a Type A police officer.

Last week, Warren Banks was on the way to buy Halloween candy when Constable Davidson pulled him over midafternoon for driving with expired insurance.

Mr. Banks, a guitarist for the rock band The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, said he did not know why he was being pulled over, but had no idea how the officer would react to him wearing his Halloween costume of a cult leader in a hooded brown robe with an arcane symbol.

"He comes up and starts chatting to me like we're old friends," Mr. Banks recalled.

When it was clear Mr. Banks didn't know his insurance had recently expired, he said Constable Davidson said he would give him a lesser ticket and wouldn't impound his car.

Constable Davidson then offered to drive Mr. Banks to the nearest insurance office so he could renew his coverage and walk back to his car.

As he left the cruiser, Mr. Banks told Constable Davidson "It was a pleasure to be arrested by you, you're a really nice guy."

"He just laughed and said, 'you're not under arrest.' " Mr. Banks said he was dumbfounded on Tuesday morning when he saw a photo of Constable Davidson attached to a news story about his death.

"He was an amazing guy - I only knew him for 20 minutes but for that 20 minutes he made such an impact."

Associated Graphic

People pay tribute on Tuesday at a makeshift memorial for late Abbotsford, B.C., Constable John Davidson, who died in a daylight shootout early Monday.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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