Thousands expected at memorial for fallen police officer


ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — The streets of Abbotsford, B.C., will be lined with blue on Sunday as thousands of police officers from across the country and around the world march in remembrance of their slain colleague.

Police estimate about 12,000 people — including 8,000 first responders — will attend a memorial for Const. John Davidson.

“It’s pretty important for us to come together as a family,” said Sgt. Judy Bird, spokeswoman for the Abbotsford Police Department. “Our family member was murdered. He deserves to be remembered.”

Davidson, 53, had served as a police officer for 24 year when he died on Nov. 6, responding to reports of a stolen vehicle.

He is survived by his wife and three adult children.

A suspect, Alberta resident Oscar Arfmann, 65, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Davidson’s death.

Davidson began his career with the Northumbria police in the United Kingdom in 1993. He moved to British Columbia in 2006, driven, Bird said, by a love for the outdoors.

The veteran officer’s partners from Northumbria will march with about 230 members of the Abbotsford Police Department in a procession to a local arena. Police officers from across Canada and the United States are also expected to attend.

Members of the community have volunteered to host visiting mourners in their homes.

They’ve also come together to tie blue ribbons around light posts and trees, and to mourn at candle light vigils, surrounded by hundreds of flowers and cards laid by others expressing their sorrow and thanks.

The support has been “overwhelming,” Bird said.

“It has been truly heartfelt and we realize that our community is suffering with us. Together we can get through this.”

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun wasn’t surprised by residents’ stepping up to help, but said he’s proud of his community.

“I just find it heartwarming to hear some of the efforts of our residents and our community as they come together to really … put our collective arms around the Davidson family, our police department,” he said.

The response shows how much Davidson meant to Abbotsford, Braun added.

“In the midst of grief and sadness of it all, the flip side of that coin is that we’re going to rejoice in the fact that this is an example of what it means to be an exceptional human being,” the mayor said.

In his time with the force, Davidson worked in the patrol, youth and traffic sections, and was involved with community initiatives like the Cops for Cancer bike ride.

He was known for talking to the people he pulled over about the danger of traffic violations and for his work with high school students, Bird said.

Davidson was so beloved by students at WJ Mouat Secondary School that the students made him an honorary hawk, marking him as one of their own, she added.

“He came across as a kind of gruff, old school policeman,” Bird said, noting that his thick Scottish accent added to an apparent toughness. “However, as soon as you started talking to him or peeled away that first layer, he was such a kind soul who would do anything for his community or for his fellow officers.”

Once Sunday’s memorial is over, the focus will shift on finding a long-term way to honour Davidson.

A petition has circulated online suggesting a road be named after the fallen officer, but Braun said he’s not sure yet how Abbotsford will choose to remember Davidson — only that they will.

“He was a hero and we do things to remember our heroes,” he said.

— By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver

The Canadian Press