Paul Davis said Monday he wasn't aware of the online comments until he heard that Don Dunphy, 59, was fatally shot Sunday by an officer with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. But the premier's staff knew and reported them to police, he said.
"I was shocked, deeply saddened yesterday to learn of the events that had taken place," Davis said.
"This is a terrible tragedy for so many reasons. My thoughts and prayers are with the Dunphy family, with the people of Mount Carmel in the area where this took place and with those that have been impacted by this very tragic event."
Davis, a former constable with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, said he briefly spoke with the officer late Sunday.
"I called to offer my personal support to him. I've known him for some time."
Chief William Janes of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said the officer was a member of the protective services unit providing security, threat and risk assessments for the premier and elected officials.
Janes said the officer was working a regularly scheduled shift Sunday when he went to Dunphy's home in Mitchells Brook, about 80 kilometres southwest of St. John's, as part of an investigation.
"At the time, the officer was confronted and shots were fired," he told a news conference.
Janes said he wasn't aware of the officer having any partner or backup when he went inside the home at about 2:30 p.m. The officer was not injured in the shooting, he added.
Janes declined to identify the officer. He said the RCMP are now investigating the shooting.
Janes said he could not comment on whether more than one gun was fired as such details could jeopardize the ongoing RCMP probe.
"I think having the RCMP conduct the investigation provides the independence and the impartiality that we need and that the public expects."
Dunphy was a frequent Twitter user who described himself on his account as "a crucified injured worker from NL Canada where employers treat injured like criminals."
Davis on Monday specifically mentioned posts on Dunphy's Twitter feed Friday to the premier's official account and that of Sandy Collins, the provincial minister for Child, Youth and Family Services.
Davis said his staff typically monitor his official account and that, from time to time, perceived threats from there or other sources are handled by police.
Dunphy's Twitter feed Friday includes an exchange addressed to the premier and Collins. It refers to God getting politicians who ignore and laugh at the poor before they can enjoy pensions "they didn't deserve."
It seems to culminate with the comment: "I won't mention names this time, 2 prick dead MHAs might have good family members I may hurt."
RCMP Sgt. Greg Hicks said an autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday. The scene of the shooting is officially in RCMP jurisdiction and Hicks said the Mounties were aware Sunday that the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer was investigating there.
A woman who said she was Dunphy's sister-in-law said his wife was deceased and he had a grown daughter but lived alone.
"We didn't know if he had a gun and we don't know what happened," the woman, who lives in Mitchells Brook and did not wish to be publicly named, said in an interview.
She said Dunphy was injured years ago while working for a contractor.
A local volunteer firefighter who also asked that he not be publicly named said he and Dunphy were close growing up.
"Apparently he was fuelling a truck or something and he got crushed between a front end loader and a truck," he said. "His pelvis and all that was damaged real bad.
"He could get around, but he was in agony."
The friend said Dunphy fought to get payments through workers compensation claims, a topic Dunphy frequently wrote about on Twitter.
"It was devastating," he said of the shooting. "You know, jeepers, he's from your own community."
—With files from Alison Auld in Halifax.
Follow @suebailey on Twitter.