First responders say police photos of Dunphy scene don't match what they saw
Published Friday, February 3, 2017 1:35PM AST Last Updated Friday, February 3, 2017 5:32PM AST
The home of Don Dunphy is shown in Mitchell's Brook, N.L., on Monday, December 19, 2016. A public inquiry into the police shooting of Dunphy is scheduled to start on January 9, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly)
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Two medical first responders said Friday that RCMP photos of the scene where a man was shot dead by a Newfoundland police officer don't match what they saw.
They told a public inquiry into the shooting of Don Dunphy on Easter Sunday 2015 that a plastic blue tub in the photos was not there, nor was a heater next to his body.
Kevin Bishop, an emergency medical responder, and paramedic Nancy Linehan also separately testified that Dunphy's left hand was in a different position when they attended.
Both said it was slightly over the left arm of his recliner when they arrived.
But in RCMP photos, a .22-calibre rifle is leaning against a large blue plastic tub in front of the body as Dunphy's hands rest in his lap.
"In my recollection, the gun was in no way like that," Bishop said of the scene pictures. He described his certainty as "100 per cent."
"From my recollection there, and from what I can remember in my head, that is not handy to the way it was."
Bishop described how the gun was lying in front of the body, its butt on the floor and the barrel closer to Dunphy, resting up about "four or five inches" on his foot or the left arm of the chair. Linehan stepped over it to check Dunphy for vital signs, he added.
The RCMP did not lay charges against Const. Joe Smyth of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, who said he shot Dunphy, 59, in self-defence when he aimed a rifle at him.
"Are you saying the RCMP staged the scene?" Smyth's lawyer, Jerome Kennedy, asked Bishop during cross-examination.
"I'm not saying nothing," Bishop said. "But it don't seem like it was ... what I recall."
Bishop said he had not discussed the case with Linehan.
Smyth, a former member of then-premier Paul Davis's protective detail, had gone alone to Dunphy's home in Mitchell's Brook, about 80 kilometres southwest of St. John's. He made the trip two days after staff in Davis's office flagged a single post by Dunphy on Twitter.
Smyth is the only witness to the deadly encounter. He has testified that although Dunphy had not promoted violence and was not considered a threat, the disgruntled injured worker had posted "disconcerting" tweets over his frustration with workers' compensation and political inaction.
Smyth has said he made the visit to "build a rapport" with Dunphy and ask him about those remarks. Smyth testified last month that Dunphy invited him in, but the meeting turned heated after he commented on the rundown state of Dunphy's home and refused to sit on his couch because of cat hair.
Smyth's account is that he shot four times at Dunphy -- hitting him once in the left chest and twice in the head -- as he fled the small living room as Dunphy raised the rifle at him from the right side of his recliner. It's believed Dunphy died instantly.
Dunphy's only child, 29-year-old Meghan Dunphy, has testified that her father was opinionated and vocal, but kind-hearted and never violent. He raised her alone from the age of three after her mother died from complications of diabetes. The two were very close and had just had Easter brunch together when Smyth arrived unannounced at Dunphy's house.
Meghan Dunphy, a former emergency medical services operator, briefly worked with Bishop and Linehan. She earlier told the inquiry she had only seen the rifle once, months before her father died, behind the living room couch.
She and friends of Dunphy's have said he never used guns or referred to the rifle, which had belonged to his late father. However, he had a metre-long wooden stick, always by the right side of his chair, that he kept in case of a break-in. Meghan Dunphy testified last month that she believes if her father raised anything toward Smyth, it might have been that stick.
She suggested Smyth could have mistaken it for a gun, then staged the scene in a panic.
Smyth called that theory "outlandish."
The inquiry before Commissioner Leo Barry will hear from more than 50 witnesses into March. His report is due by July 1. Barry will not make findings of criminal or civil responsibility but any new evidence could be investigated by police.
The province has no independent, civilian-led oversight team to investigate serious police incidents. The Mounties led the investigation as Dunphy was killed in RCMP jurisdiction.
Meghan Dunphy has long questioned the thoroughness of the probe and asked for an outside police force to take over. The request was turned down.