Const. David Pompeo is not going to jail.
He’s also going to retain his firearm and remain a member of the RCMP following an exemption granted by Judge Josiah Wood that would have otherwise resulted in his dismissal from the force.
Pompeo’s sentencing otherwise amounts to a two-year term of probation consisting of 240 hours of community work service to be completed during the first 18 months of the probationary period.
More than four years after the incident and nearly 10 months since his conviction for aggravated assault in the shooting of Bill Gillespie near Chemainus, Pompeo learned his fate Thursday before Judge Wood in Duncan Provincial Court.
Before Judge Wood read a decision that took one hour and 20 minutes to deliver, he informed the packed courtroom about the answer to the question that was on everyone’s minds.
“Constable, so you’re not sitting on pins and needles, you will not be going to jail,” Wood said.
“Thank you, your honour,” responded Pompeo, who was supported in court by a huge presence of police officers and personnel.
The circumstances of the case were reviewed in great detail by Wood, with particular attention paid to past decisions for some precedence. Pertaining to police officers, “cases of aggravated assault are difficult to find,” conceded Wood.
In many ways, this case could be considered a precedent-setting. Aggravated assault normally carries serious sentences of up to 14 years in jail.
“The circumstances were quite different from other aggravated assaults,” said Provincial Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie. “It’s difficult to assess the impact of the case going forward.”
As for the long period from conviction to sentencing, “cases take varying amounts of time,” MacKenzie said. “This was obviously a case with complicated issues that had to be taken into account along the way.”
The victim was clearly incensed with the decision.
“I was hoping he would get some sort of jail time and never, ever get his gun back,” Gilllespie told a scrum of local, regional and national reporters.
When asked if he would be proceeding with a civil case against Pompeo, Gillespie responded: “You bet.
“I hope what happened that night comes out more. What happened that night was ridiculous. You can’t go around doing that to people.”
Gillespie’s mother Catherine Pastula said all the glowing comments made about Pompeo’s character are yet to be properly addressed.
“They are obviously going to come out in the civil case that can’t come out in the criminal case.”
Pompeo and co-defence counsel Sarah Conroy dodged around the media after the decision and did not comment. Lead counsel Ravi Hira was not there.
In his reasons for judgement, Wood took into account the many references received attesting to Pompeo’s fine character, not only from the RCMP but the community.
“Constable Pompeo’s experienced considerable remorse for having shot Mr. Gillespie. I have no doubt Mr. Pompeo’s remorse is genuine.”
Wood felt there was no need to impose restorative justice on Pompeo with jail time, considering him unlikely to reoffend, with his impeccable previous record and a young family to support.
Wood did express some consternation pertaining to the RCMP’s use-of-force training that Pompeo said he followed by the book before firing a shot.
“It was only by chance and good luck the shot fired by Mr. Pompeo did not result in Mr. Gillespie’s death,” Wood said.
He questioned how the use-of-force training authorizes lethal force against a suspect.
Wood suggested that “puts officers’ safety ahead of public safety.
“Constable Pompeo did what he was trained to do. His moral blameworthiness was reduced by those circumstances. He was not motivated by anything other than self-preservation.”
There was no suggestion of any ulterior motive, Wood indicated.
He acknowledged the hardship Gillespie has been through, with the bullet still lodged in him and how that will affect him from gainful employment in the future, even after completing a heavy duty machinery course from Vancouver Island University.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain and an inability to engage in regular physical activity are just some of the things that will leave Gillespie unable to live a normal life, Wood acknowledged.
“I’m deeply disappointed with Judge Wood’s sentencing — all the time, money taxpayers had to pay for this,” Gillespie summed up. “I think it’s a sad day for justice and it’s open season on our citizens.”