DUNCAN, B.C. - A Vancouver Island man says he did exactly what police commanded him to do seconds before he was shot by an RCMP constable nearly three years ago.
During the first day of testimony in the aggravated-assault trial of Const. David Pompeo, William Gillespie told a court in Duncan, B.C., that after being pulled over by police on the night of Sept. 18, 2009, he got out of his vehicle, onto his knees and reached in front of himself to get on the ground.
The resident of Chemainus, B.C., said Tuesday he then heard the loudest bang he's ever heard and saw a big flash of light.
"I felt like I got hit by a freight train," said Gillespie. "My body was on fire. I was just shocked. It was beyond words what was going on. I knew I'd been shot. I just couldn't believe it."
Gillespie said he was even more surprised, given the police officer, later identified as Pompeo, said nothing before he fired his weapon.
"I remember lying on the ground," said Gillespie. "I remember blood gushing out all over my face. I remember tasting it. I remember choking on it."
What's not at issue during the eight-day trial is whether or not Pompeo discharged his weapon, striking Gillespie with the bullet.
Crown prosecutor Todd Patola and defence attorney Ravi Hira have agreed on that point.
What is at issue is whether or not the officer was justified in shooting Gillespie, and Patola is arguing Pompeo was not.
The court heard that on the night of the incident Pompeo and his partner had been driving an unmarked pickup truck when they pulled over Gillespie for suspicion of driving while prohibited.
Gillespie and his friend, Dale Brewer, had been trying to find an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but couldn't and decided to head home.
Gillespie said he drove no more than 21 metres from the main road into Brewer's driveway once he heard the police siren and saw flashing red-and-blue lights.
"Panic set in. I got nervous and realized that the police were behind me and I figured there was nowhere to go so I just pulled into Dale's driveway where I was going in the first place," Gillespie said.
He said there was nowhere better to pull over and he didn't see the problem in pulling into his friend's driveway.
"Dale and I were both ordered out of the car at gunpoint," Gillespie said. "I heard both officers. They were both shouting the same command – to get your hands on your head, get down on your knees and onto the ground.
"I made sure, I made bloody sure, that he knew that I had nothing in my hands," said Gillespie.
And while nearly blinded by the high beams of the officer's pickup truck, Gillespie said he complied with their orders.
While just 17 at the time of the incident, neighbour Taralee Vesey said she and her boyfriend were watching TV when they heard shouting outside her house.
Vesey said she didn't remember exactly what she'd heard three years ago but believed her statements to police on Sept. 19 and Sept. 24, 2009 were accurate.
Hira read selections from those statements aloud, including a section where she said she'd heard what sounded like, "‘put your hands in the air' kind of thing."
She heard the gunshot, and went to the window to see "the one officer holding the gun."
She remembers also seeing a man on the ground but doesn't remember a previous statement in which she said, "there was one cop by him saying 'where are you hit? Where are you hit?'"
In her statement at the time, she also said the police told her to call 911 and she complied.
"I don't remember being told to call 911 but I remember being on the phone with 911 and they said that there was an emergency response team on the way."
Gillespie is scheduled to face cross-examination Wednesday morning.