UPDATED: Cowichan Mountie charged with aggravated assault in relation to Gillespie shooting
An RCMP constable has been charged with aggravated assault in relation to the 2009 police-involved shooting of Chemainus resident Bill Gillespie.
Const. David Pompeo, of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, appears in Duncan Provincial Court on June 7 to answer to the charge.
The incident dates back to Sept. 18, 2009, when two plainclothes Street Crew members conducted a vehicle stop of a car with two occupants in Chemainus.
According to a police media release, “Const. Pompeo discharged his service pistol once, striking one of the subjects. This subject was hospitalized at the time and has since been released.”
A separate code of conduct investigation is ongoing, according to the media release sent out on Friday morning.
Sgt. Grant Hamilton of the Victoria Police Department explained a code of conduct investigation is an internal RCMP investigation into the incident.
It is separate from the criminal investigation that was completed in December 2010.
The report of the criminal investigation was sent to Crown counsel, which laid the charge against Pompeo on Thursday, May 12.
Chris Considine, a Victoria-based lawyer, explained the difference between aggravated assault and a common assault charge.
“Aggravated assault is an assault in which a person wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant, and that is an indictable offense punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment,” said Considine, who stressed he was not commenting on the Pompeo case itself.
He also explained that charges against RCMP officers are rare, “in the sense that, considering the number of officers in the country, there are few officers ever charged with a criminal offense.
“I suspect that because there was an injury that is the reason why Crown may have charged, but I’m only speculating.”
Considine did emphasize that personal judgments in the community should wait until the matter is settled in court.
“One shouldn’t condemn the police officer simply because he’s faced with aggravated assault (charge) — he’s still entitled to the presumption of innocence and all the usual defenses that would apply, such as self-defence, reasonable force, etcetera.”
Pompeo, who had 4 1/2 years of service at the time of the incident, is “currently assigned to administrative duties and is not operational,” the RCMP statement noted.
Gillespie, meanwhile, filed a civil lawsuit against Pompeo, as well as the other constable at the scene when Gillespie was shot, and B.C.’s solicitor general, in February. Within the lawsuit he’s seeking financial compensation because he says his gunshot injuries have left him in near-constant pain and prevent him from working.
Gillespie has long-maintained that he’ll be vindicated in court, but admitted he was surprised that Pompeo was charged with aggravated assault so soon after the file was forwarded to a Crown prosecutor in Victoria.
“And we’ll see where this takes us, this court process,” he said.
“But no matter what the outcome is, I’m going to be in pain for the rest of my life, and I know I won’t be able to work, I won’t be able to earn a living like I used to.
“I’m just happy to be alive.”
Bill Gillespie was behind the wheel driving his friend, Dale Brewer, home after an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting about 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2009.
Police said members of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP attempted to pull Gillespie over in the 3000 block of Henry Road, but the driver failed to stop.
Gillespie did pull into Brewer’s driveway at 3020 Henry Rd. where a pair of plainclothes officers, from the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment’s Street Crew, yelled at the men to get out of the car, put their hands up and get on their knees.
There are varying reports of what happened after that, however there’s no argument the police officer discharged his weapon, hitting Gillespie once in the upper body.