It’s not often you hear a man describe the police officer who arrested him as an “awesome dude.”
But that’s how Riley Payne remembers Const. John Davidson, the Abbotsford Police officer slain in a Monday morning shooting.
Payne says he was a troubled kid while attending W. J. Mouat Secondary. He was enrolled in a special program for kids who needed “extra help” when he met Davidson, the school’s liaison officer at the time.
Davidson was always there to listen, joke with and encourage the students, Payne said. He was also there to track Payne down when he skipped class.
“He reached out more as a friend, as a brother,” he said. “John would always be there to help me out or always there to give me a good conversation.”
One of those conversations happened after Payne got himself into “some trouble” and ended up arrested by Davidson.
Payne says his 2013 graduation likely would never have happened were it not for Davidson.
“He was an awesome dude – very forgiving, always giving everyone a second chance, very fair guy.”
Another member of a program for troubled kids at Mouat, Bekki Prodeahl, painted a similar picture of Davidson’s commitment to the students. She, too, credits him with her graduation.
“John would wait for me at the front door every single morning,” she said.
He was also there for her on graduation day, when he walked across the stage with her.
Prodeahl reminisced about Davidson’s sense of humour. When students teased him about his British accent, he came back with his own playful barbs.
“Oh, you think you’re bad kids, you should see the stuff that I’ve seen,” he said, according to Prodeahl.
“He was able to get along with the youth so well,” she said. “He was like another student, like a big kid. He just got along with everybody. It didn’t matter what age they were, what background they came from … He was never the scary authority. He was like one of your best friends.”
When Davidson was later transferred to the police force’s traffic unit, he didn’t stop impacting lives.
Two years ago, Lisa Harmatuik was followed by an angry motorist for several blocks in a frightening road-rage incident that ended with a minor collision on Highway 11 in Abbotsford.
She locked the door, called the police and waited.
“I was super frazzled,” she said. “And then Const. Davidson showed up.”
Davidson defused the tense situation soon after arriving on scene, she said.
“He just came along and smoothed it all over,” she said.
While getting statements from Harmatuik and the road rage suspect, Davidson checked to see that her two teenage daughters were OK.
He even managed to lighten the situation with some light-hearted comments.
“We had a couple of chuckles,” she said.
It was a brief encounter with the police officer but it stuck with Harmatuik.
“He just made such an impression, that I never forgot it,” she said. “He was just such a good man.”
The second time Harmatuik met Davidson was in his capacity as a local citizen, and devoted husband. She recognized him immediately at a ski shop, buying gloves for his wife.
They chatted briefly, and went their separate ways but, again, he had made an impression.
“He was just a genuine, honourable man,” she said.
“I think we’ve lost a man who dealt with people very fairly. I think his experience allowed him to come across a situation and engage with it without prejudice.”