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Trial could hinge on cop’s reason to open fire

Bill Gillespie waits outside the Duncan courthouse Tuesday during a break in the trial of police officer charged in connection with his 2009 shooting.  - Andrew Leong
Bill Gillespie waits outside the Duncan courthouse Tuesday during a break in the trial of police officer charged in connection with his 2009 shooting.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

That Bill Gillespie was shot by RCMP Const. David Pompeo on the night of Sept. 18, 2009 on Henry Road in Chemainus does not appear to be under dispute.

What Crown counsel is intending to prove is that the shooting wasn't warranted.

Pompeo's trial on a charge of aggravated assault got underway Tuesday morning in the Duncan courthouse, with Judge Josiah Wood presiding.

"This case is with regards to Mr. Gillespie, who was subjected to an injury by being shot by a firearm by Mr. Pompeo,'' said Crown lawyer Todd Patola in his opening remarks.

"From the Crown's perspective, there was no issue Const. Pompeo did fire the firearm that wounded Mr. Gillespie. Was Const. Pompeo justified in taking the action in firing the firearm? The Crown's position is he was not.''

The defence, represented by Ravi Hira, countered there was reason for Pompeo to act the way he did — reason that will become clear as the trial progresses.

On the night in question, Pompeo and partner Const. David Barnett pulled Gillespie's vehicle over on Juniper Road, a small road off Henry Road in Chemainus. Gillespie's friend Dale Brewer was a passenger in his vehicle.

"The car drove into a driveway and stopped,'' said Patola. "The occupants were ordered out of the vehicle and the occupants were ordered to the ground.''

Gillespie was subsequently shot. The bullet entered the top left lobe of his lung and became lodged in his thoracic vertebrae.

Sgt. Ken Kulak, who's with the Nanaimo Forensic Ident Section, was the first witness called by the Crown.

On the stand Kulak described the scene he said he attended around 11:30 p.m.

"I did a series of photos of the scene between Henry Road and Juniper Road,'' he said.

Kulak also took video of the crime scene the next day, depicting the area as it was when he first arrived. Some objects, notably blankets on vehicles and blankets on the ground covering exhibits, had been moved. Numerous photos of various items discovered in Gillespie's vehicle and the video were entered into evidence.

On cross-examination, Hira focused on items such as tubing, a pipe and rolling papers.

"You've taken photos of many cases involving drug trafficking. Have you seen similar items in drug cases?'' Hira asked Kulak.

"Yes, I have,'' he responded.

On re-examination, Patola asked Kulak if he had encountered similar items in cases other than drug investigations? "Yes, I have,'' Kulak replied.

The second witness, Taralee Vesey, a resident at 3020 Henry Road, testified about what she witnessed and heard during the incident.

"It was watching TV with (boyfriend) David Campbell,'' she said. "We heard shooting, some kind of commotion. We went to see what it was. It was actually shouting.

"I heard the gunshot and went back in the bedroom for a few seconds.

"I don't remember calling 9-1-1. I remember being on the phone with 9-1-1. They said there was an emergency response team already on their way.''

Vesey said she didn't remember being able to hear what was being said during the shooting.

She was reminded by Hira of a statement she made to police a week after the incident.

"The cop was saying where are you hit, where are you hit? and told us to call 9-1-1,'' Vesey's statement revealed.

"You did hear a police officer?'' Hira ssked.

"If that's what I said to the police, then yes,'' Vesey said.

Gillespie was due to take the stand Tuesday afternoon. Read about his testimony at cowichannewsleader.com.

The trial is scheduled to continue throughout next week.

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