Det.-Sgt. Shane Donovan testified Tuesday that it was “either me or him” when he fired at least 10 shots at his fellow Niagara Regional Police officer, Const. Nathan Parker, in November 2018.
Parker had attacked him with “haymaker” blows and pulled his baton, then his firearm, Donovan told the court, causing him to fear for his life and pull the trigger until Parker went down.
“I knew that if he got the firearm on me, he would kill me – and it was either me or him,” Donovan said. “So I fired my gun until he dropped his gun.”
The sergeant’s testimony took up most of the first day of the judge-only trial at the Ontario Court of Justice in Hamilton.
But while Donovan is the person who fired the shots, Parker is the one in charge.
The 55-year-old is charged with assault for the purpose of resisting arrest, assault on a police officer and assault with a weapon, which the court heard covers a service issue and the relay.
Parker personally attended the courtroom Tuesday wearing a blue jacket and khaki pants, sitting with her eyes closed during much of the testimony. The only time he went to court was to plead not guilty to each charge.
The charges date back to an unusual altercation on November 29, 2018.
Donovan was in charge of the collision reconstruction unit and was part of a team investigating the crash site at Roland Road and Effingham Street intersections in Pelham, Ont., About 20 kilometers west of Niagara Falls.
The sergeant told the court he had never met Parker before that day but had seen him in passing at the police station.
What brought them together that day was a request from Donovan for uniformed police officers to help block the winding road near the crash site, to keep the investigators who analyzed it safe.
An erroneous communication began between the two who covered the barricade. Donovan said Parker left his position while Donovan was away refueling and picking up food. When Donovan returned around noon, he saw a resident driving through on the road that was supposed to be closed.
The court heard footage of calls between Donovan and police sending over Parker’s whereabouts, as well as calls from Parker to send and asked someone to take his place.
Donovan testified that he had not communicated directly with Parker.
Sergeant testifies that Parker was ‘aggressive’
Parker arrived back at his post around noon. 12:13 according to Donovan; he said he approached Parker’s vehicle on the passenger side and asked him not to leave the place again.
“With a very loud, aggressive voice, he told me he had to go on piss,” Donovan told the court. “I just politely asked him if he could stay or let me know if he should leave again.”
The sergeant said Parker responded by swearing, saying that if he had turned on his radio, he would have known.
“I said, ‘You know you’re talking to a sergeant,'” Donovan said, adding that he was hoping to calm down.
Crown prosecutor Jeremy Tatum had previously asked the sergeant about his size, and Donovan replied that he stands just under 5-7 and weighs about 188 pounds. Tatum then asked about Parker in comparison.
“You can see he’s a very big man, big chest,” Donovan said. “He’s much bigger than me.”
The sergeant told the court that after their exchange, Parker stood out of his cruise and the two walked towards each other and met near the front of the car. Donovan said he expected to be shouted at.
Instead, he testified Parker gave him a two-handed push to the chest.
“It was extremely difficult for me; pushed me back a few steps – and I was shocked.”
Donovan said he responded by telling Parker he was arrested for assault.
“It just came out. It caught me unknowingly. I did not expect it, especially not from another police officer.”
The sergeant said Parker did not stop; instead, he came up to him and threw a “haymaker” blow.
Medical records describe multiple gunshot wounds
Donovan told the court he backed away, held out his hands and tried to walk away to end the confrontation heading for his own cruiser. But when he reached the doorknob, he said he saw Parker swing again.
Donovan said he managed to partially block two blows and threw one of his own. Then, he testified, Parker withdrew his relay.
“My training started,” Donovan said.
The sergeant said he thought he would be killed if the baton hit him in the head, so he drew his gun.
“My belief was that my life was in danger. He has already attacked me, hit me three or four times.”
Donovan told the court that when he pulled his gun, Parker said, “Oh, you want to do this” and went for his own side arm.
What followed happened in a matter of seconds, the sergeant said. When Parker had cleared the holster, Donovan said he started firing at Parker, who was standing about 10 feet away; he said he was not willing to wait until his accomplice lifted his firearm.
When Tatum asked how many times Donovan thinks he fired, Donovan replied that he thought he hit Parker nine times.
Medical records referred to in the agreed statement of fact state that Parker had a gunshot wound through his cheek and nose, his left shoulder, and into his upper thigh; four gunshot wounds to the left calf; one on his left hip; a gunshot wound to his abdomen and a wound near the back of his right foot.
Ten shells were found at the site, all from Donovan’s firearms.
Donovan told the court Tuesday that he had never used his firearm on a public member or other police officer before that day.
Ontario’s special investigation unit initially launched assault-related charges against Donovan, including attempted murder, but the Crown later dropped them.
Donovan’s testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday, with the defense expected to begin cross-examination.