Pompeo says Gillespie's history, actions signalled 'threat cue'
Testimony from Const. David Pompeo focused on his extensive training as the impetus for firing a shot at Bill Gillespie on Sept. 18, 2009 near Chemainus.
Pompeo said in his aggravated assault trial in Duncan provincial court Monday that he took several factors into account in a short period of time before reacting.
"I was taking in a lot of information very quickly,'' he said.
Defence lawyer Ravi Hira asked Pompeo to list the factors that caused him to fear bodily harm or fear for his life.
"We were dealing with two known offenders,'' said Pompeo, who had partner Const. David Birchett with him in an unmarked police vehicle.
Dale Brewer, a passenger in Gillespie's car stopped by police, had been involved in property crimes and was a known drug user, Pompeo said, and Gillespie was also a known drug user with a record of violence.
Pompeo said his training taught him those types of individuals can be very unpredictable and violent.
He said the vehicle was fleeing down a dark road.
"We didn't initially know where they were going to end up,'' said Pompeo.
"We were unable to communicate and formulate a plan. The surrounding environment, it was very difficult to see. There was some ambient lighting in the area.''
Gillespie earlier said he eased to a stop in Brewer's driveway, but Pompeo said it was more of a skid.
Gillespie also said he did exactly as he was ordered, but Pompeo described the scene differently.
"He chose to blatantly ignore my command, exit the vehicle before being asked to do so and advancing on me at gunpoint.
"I've never seen that before,'' he added.
Crown counsel Todd Patola suggested to Pompeo that he had to consider the totality of the situation because his reaction might either be excessive or inadequate. He made reference in questioning to something known as the 1,000-yard stare or a Zombie-like state.
"It appeared as though he was looking right through me,'' said Pompeo.
"It is not indicative of someone who is exercising mental planning?'' queried Patola.
"It was one factor among many that I was taking into consideration,'' responded Pompeo. "To me, it was a threat cue indicative of someone planning.''
"Why did you say you thought he was stoned?'' asked Patola.
"That was something that came to my mind at the time — it was based on his driving behaviour, his look, the fact he appeared to be agitated and wasn't listening,'' said Pompeo.
Patola suggested Pompeo couldn't say if Gillespie was high on drugs.
"Something I observed that I referred back to my training, something I watch out for,'' said Pompeo.
"It was concerning. I was pointing a firearm at him and he didn't seem to be responding to anything I was saying.''
Hira later questioned John McKay, a retired Vancouver Police Department officer, about actions police typically watch for and react to when stopping and questioning suspects in a vehicle.
He asked what training police get concerning how Gillespie and Brewer allegedly left their car, then how Gillespie allegedly used his left hand to reach into the left pocket of his pants, and allegedly discarded a rectangular, white object.
Hira also questioned what some police call “the 1,000-yard stare” and the appropriateness of an officer drawing a gun in such circumstances.
McKay explained how police analyse the “totality” of a situation that could spell an attack, possibly with a weapon.
“It means more risk to the officer,” he told Judge Wood.
McKay also explained how a suspect can “stare through you.”
“No matter what you say, doesn’t matter to them,” he said, telling how a female had used the stare, then tried to stab him.
McKay noted police risk when stopping suspects in dark, rural areas, and when movement occurs in the suspect car, then suspects leave their car.
“Officers would ask ‘What are they going to do?’”
The trial is expected to resume Thursday.
— with a file from Peter W. Rusland