In the “normal” course of violence, thoughts might turn immediately to gang-bangers, street crime, drug turf wars or a revenge hit.
But these were both police officers.
And the crime has been couched in wall-to-wall no-comments.
What the hell happened in the cop-on-cop shooting around noon on Thursday, down a rural road, about 22 kilometres south of St. Catharines?
How did gunfire erupt from what had apparently been nothing more than officers with Niagara Regional Police conducting a follow-up investigation of an impaired driving collision 17 days earlier?
A constable and a detective sergeant who crossed paths, apparently crossed words, and suddenly one of them was bleeding out on the ground, struck several times, and rushed to hospital in critical condition.
The SIU is investigating and they are notoriously close-mouthed, so different from the press conferences frequently called when a homicide or serious shooting event occurs. The OPP criminal investigation branch is conducting a parallel investigation but parameters and jurisdiction are unclear. “It would be inappropriate to provide further details or comment on this incident, given that this is an ongoing investigation,” OPP highways safety division spokesperson Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told the Star in an email.
From Philip Huck, vice-chair of the Ontario Association of Police, in an email to the Star: “At this time, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to comment on this issue, as it is currently under investigation.”
From Bob Gale, chair of the Niagara Regional Police Board: “I’m sorry, but I cannot converse about yesterday’s occurrence, as it is in the hands of the SIU.”
The board did release a statement to the media: “The board is deeply concerned by the shooting incident involving two Niagara Regional Police Services officers on Nov. 29, 2018 in the Town of Pelham. The law requires that there be no public comment as discussion of the specifics of the occurrence under investigation until the SIU investigation and the Chief’s external review are completed.”
Chief Bryan MacCulloch referred all inquiries to the media department.
While not confirmed by the SIU, the officer shot in “the altercation”, as per the SIU — in critical, but stable condition last night — has been identified by several sources as Const. Nathan Parker. The officer who discharged his weapon has been identified as Det.-Sgt. Shane Donovan.
Again, in the “normal” course of events, in particular when an officer has been shot and seriously injured, that cop would be a object of deep sympathy. And not to say that this victim isn’t because he’s certainly in the “thoughts and prayers” of his colleagues. But the personal background is disturbing, suggestive of a person with a temper, impulsive tendencies and menacing habits.
It’s all there, in Parker’s police jacket: a disciplinary record which certainly indicates a long and troubling history over a nearly three-decade career.
In 2006, Parker was convicted by a police tribunal of using excessive force in pepper spraying a teenager handcuffed in the back of a cruiser.
The tribunal believed the evidence of the teen, who’d testified that Parker had reached into the back of the vehicle with his canister and asked: “Will you be saying ‘yo’ to me again, you (expletive) piece of (expletive)?” as he hit the young man with a short burst of pepper spray.
The tribunal rejected Parker’s testimony that he’d only used pepper spray to subdue the teenager during a struggled outside his cruiser after striking him with an open hand and being unable to handcuff him.
Parker had originally claimed to have little recollection of the incident, but then told the investigator he’d sprayed the teenager outside the cruiser. “Oh yeah, he got what he deserved,” Parker was quoted as saying by the internal investigator.
The officer didn’t mention use of pepper spray in his occurrence report, nor submit a use of force report as required by law. The superintendent who presided over the hearing concluded that Parker’s evidence had been “misleading, inconsistent and untruthful” on many key issues.
Parker was docked 56 hours and ordered to take anger-management counselling.
Afterwards, in a memo to his superior, Parker requested overtime pay for the time he spent at his hearing, which he described as “a witch-hunt.” A separate charge of insubordination was laid over that memo.
A news database search finds that, in 2012, Parker pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct — he forfeited 60 hours pay — over another incident involving his platoon commander. In that episode, Parker had alleged the commander made an improper gunpoint arrest without submitting a use-of-force report afterwards. Parker apparently conducted his own investigation, despite the commanding officer having been cleared of any wrongdoing.
In a previous unrelated incident, Parker was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing of using unnecessary force while arresting a cyclist without legal cause. He was docked 90 hours of leave time and ordered to undergo retraining.
In yet another incident, from 2013, Parker pleaded guilty (two years later) to discreditable conduct and two counts of using unnecessary force against a prisoner or other member of the public. Those charges arose from a confrontation where Parker, who was off-duty, stopped his car in front of a motorist he believed was driving aggressively. Witnesses said Parker yelled profanities at the driver as he approached.
That driver felt so threatened by Parker — the driver feared for his safety — that he refused to exit the vehicle. The hearing was told Parker attempted to remove the driver forcibly, but was frustrated by the man’s seatbelt. A bystander, concerned about Parker’s aggressive behavior, called police on his cellphone while another officer, who’d been in the car with Parker, urged him to get back in the car, and they left.
Following Parker’s guilty plea, the hearing’s prosecuting officer recommended that he be demoted from first-class constable to second-class. He was docked 120 hours pay.
Not, perhaps, a person you would want to encounter in an “altercation,” even if you’re a cop.
As of Friday night, no charges had been laid.
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno