Niagara sergeant told SIU the fellow officer he shot was a ‘bully’ with a ‘violent past,’ court hears

In the days after a confrontation between two Niagara police officers erupted into gunfire, the officer who pulled the trigger told Ontario’s police watchdog he knew the man he shot as a “bully” with a “violent past,” a court in Hamilton was told Wednesday.

Det.-Sgt. Shane Donovan was continuing his testimony in the Ontario Court of Justice in Hamilton, a day after the start of the judge-alone trial of Const. Nathan Parker.

Parker was charged with several assault counts despite the fact Donovan fired at least 10 rounds and the constable was shot multiple times in 2018.

On Wednesday, Donovan was cross-examined by defence lawyer Joseph Markson, who read statements the sergeant made to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Excerpts from an interview with SIU investigators quote Donovan describing Parker as a “barrel-chested man” he tried to limit interactions with.

“I know him to be a bully, aggressor,” Markson read. “I know he’s had a violent past with the Niagara Regional Police.”

Parker has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting a police officer, assault with intent to resist arrest and assault with a weapon. 

On Nov. 29, 2018, Donovan, who headed the collision reconstruction unit, was working with a team at the intersection of Roland Road and Effingham Street in Pelham, Ont., about 20 kilometres west of Niagara Falls.

Donovan previously told the court he had requested uniformed officers to help block the road, but only Parker was available.

He said a disagreement arose after Parker left his post to use the washroom.

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On Tuesday, Donovan provided dramatic testimony describing Parker attacking him with “haymaker” punches. Donovan said he drew his gun after the other officer pulled out his baton, causing him to fear for his life. The sergeant said he started shooting once Parker went for his sidearm too, firing until the other man went down.

The SIU, the civilian oversight agency that investigates circumstances involving police that have resulted in death or serious injury, initially laid charges against Donovan, including attempted murder, but they were later dropped.

Both officers still with NRPS

A spokesperson for the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) confirmed both Parker and Donovan are still employed.

Parker told the court he returned to work in February 2020 and is now with the recruitment unit. The police service said Parker is not currently at work.

Part of that interview with the SIU that Markson read on Wednesday included Donovan saying he had nothing against Parker, but the lawyer challenged that, saying he wanted as little contact with the other man as possible.

“You had so much in your head against him that you would not speak directly to him to give him your telephone number,” said Markson.

Court previously heard from Donovan that his cellphone was the only way for officers to get in touch with him when he was away from his vehicle and that he had provided it to Parker’s superior officer.

Det.-Sgt. Shane Donovan has testified he had bruising on his chest following a confrontation with Parker, and also detailed what he’d done in the moments after he shot the constable. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod)

Markson suggested that if Parker was going to be stuck covering a barricade for four or five hours, he’d need a break, adding that for Donovan to provide his cellphone number to him was the “right and courteous” thing to do.

“You’re unhappy with Parker and that it was officer Parker who had been assigned to the barricade from the very start,” Markson continued. Donovan said he disagreed.

The lawyer also read a section of the SIU transcript where Donovan said he’s seen pictures of Parker at bodybuilding competitions.

“I like physical education,” said Donovan in response. “I was actually impressed with what he did.”

‘Blue on blue shots fired’

Earlier in the day, the sergeant described bruising on his chest following the confrontation.

He provided details of what he did in the moments after he shot Parker, saying the other man was yelling and swearing at him to go away, and that at one point he had a cellphone in his hand and appeared to make a call.

Donovan told the court he kicked away Parker’s gun, then put it on the driver’s seat of his vehicle, before getting on the radio to call for an ambulance.

“I couldn’t believe what had happened. I just didn’t understand how it got so far so fast,” said Donovan. “My only thought now is to get him help.”

Court heard recordings of several calls between Donovan and dispatch. In one call, the dispatcher can be heard asking whether two police officers were involved in the shooting.

“Can you confirm it’s blue on blue shots fired?” she asks.

“Confirmed. He did pull a gun on me, but I shot him,” Donovan responded.

The sergeant also told the court he saw a man standing in a yard nearby and asked if he had any video of the shooting.

“I could not believe what happened and I expected no one else would believe it, and I was hoping there would be video evidence to prove what had happened,” Donovan said.

The cross-examination is expected to continue Thursday.

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