Blue Line

Abbotsford, B.C., officer didn’t like guns, but didn’t hesitate when call came

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — An Abbotsford, B.C., police constable killed in the line of duty was remembered as dedicated and caring, a man who had a gut-busting sense of humour and a dislike for guns.

November 20, 2017  By The Canadian Press

Thousands of officers and first responders jammed into Abbotsford Centre on Sunday while members of the public filed into spill-over centres for the celebration of life for 53-year-old Const. John Davidson.

His police partner, Const. Renae Williams, described Davidson as a man with a sense of humour who took far longer to get coffees because staff at the coffee shop couldn’t understand his thick Scottish accent.

“He could take it as well as he could dish it out and did more than his fair share of doling out playful barbs. Most of his comebacks included the line ‘Well back in the U.K. we did this.”’

Davidson got his start in policing in Northumbria in the United Kingdom in 1993, where few police officers carry guns. He moved to Canada in 2006 and had worked in the Abbotsford department for 11 years.


He had a gift of gab, was respectful and civil to the public, level-headed and believed there were lessons to be passed on with each traffic stop, Williams told the service.

“He was tough, but more than fair. That was evident by the number of people I have seen shake his hand after getting a ticket.”

Williams said Davidson pushed himself to be first, whether it was during a workout or in trying to help others.

“Which is exactly what happened on Nov. 6, 2017,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

“For a man who hated guns and never became comfortable carrying a gun after coming over from the U.K., he was one of the first to step in and intervene when a call of shots fired came in.”

Before the ceremony on Sunday, hundreds of people lined the streets of Abbotsford in the pouring rain to watch thousands of first responders march behind the hearse carrying Davidson’s coffin.

Police officers from as far as Ontario and the U.K. joined the procession, marching in a unified sea of blue and red uniforms. Abbotsford police has expected about 8,000 first responders to attend.

The crowd inside the area was silent as eight of Davidson’s fellow officers carried in his coffin.

His service belt and both his police hats from Abbotsford and Northumbria were placed atop his coffin, draped in a Canadian flag. During the service, the chief of the Northumbria police presented Davidson’s wife with a Scottish flag.

Abbotsford’s police chief, Bob Rich, told the service that Davidson was the first officer to arrive when there was a report of a man firing rounds from a shotgun into a truck.

“When that shot rang out, evil won. There was an oily blackness that fell upon our city. It was awful. I cannot imagine a darker thing to have happen to us,” Rich said.

Rich said the suspect was later surrounded by five Abbotsford officers in police vehicles and they fired, hitting the suspect.

“That man’s evil intentions, I totally believe, were to kill more of us. There was going to be a rampage in the city of Abbotsford. I don’t know who would have fallen,” he said. “But they stopped him at that moment and their lights shone bright at that moment.”

Since the death, Rich said there has been an outpouring of support from fellow officers and the public.

A suspect, Alberta resident Oscar Arfmann, 65, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Davidson’s death. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 28.

Davidson’s friend, Abbotsford Sgt. Jason Scott, told the service that Davidson was good at what he did and was proud to be a husband, father and police officer.

Davidson is survived by his wife, Denise, and three adult children, Dina, Fay and Drew.

Dina Davidson told the service that their father was modest and never mentioned his accomplishments.

She said they didn’t recognize the man others were describing after his death.

“He never let us know any of that,” she said, laughing.

She thanked those who helped her father after he had been shot.

“Please forgive yourself for not being able to change his fate.”

Fay Davidson said it is hard to capture in words how amazing their father was. Her siblings held her as she spoke, her voice choked with tears.

“It is agonizing to picture a future without his guidance and support,” she said. “But we’ll always be able to hear his harsh Scottish accent cheering us on.”

– Gemma Karstens-Smith

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2017

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