Trial continues for man accused in death of Sgt. Ryan Russell
Published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 11:26AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 5, 2013 2:02PM EST
Jurors watched surveillance video and listened to dramatic witness testimony Tuesday, during the second day of the trial for the man accused in the 2011 death of a Toronto police officer Sgt. Ryan Russell.
The court was shown surveillance footage of the accused, Richard Kachkar, barefoot in a coffee shop moments before he drove off in a snowplow that eventually struck and killed Sgt. Russell.
Russell died after he was struck by the stolen snowplow during a police chase in the early morning hours of Jan. 12, 2011.
The footage, captured around 5 a.m. inside a Tim Hortons on Parliament St. shows Kachkar inside without shoes or socks on his feet. Also in the doughnut shop are two snow plow operators who had left the truck running outside. Moments later, Kachkar leaves the coffee shop and drives away in it.
Jurors also heard testimony from Michael Hau, who witnessed Kachkar on Avenue Rd. Hau testified that Kachkar was yelling in an angry voice, asking him if he wanted to go for a ride, and muttering things about Chinese technology. Hau said he thought the driver was either drunk or on drugs.
Tamrat Bayen, whose cab was hit by the plow driven by Kachkar, told the court he followed the plow. At one point, Kachkar opened the door and yelled “why are you following me.”
Outside the courthouse, Bayen told reporters he thought Kachkar was aggressive, under the influence of drugs, and he couldn’t “deal with him anymore.”
The court was to hear from another cab driver during afternoon testimony.
The court has heard there was no alcohol and a small trace of marijuana in Kachkar’s blood at the time.
Russell’s wife Christine sat in the front row of the courtroom Tuesday, listening intently to the proceedings.
Kachkar, 46, has pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder and one count of dangerous driving in the death of Sgt. Ryan Russell.
He sat in the docket Tuesday staring at the floor.
Opening statements heard Monday
During opening statements on Monday, Crown attorney Christine McGoey outlined for the jury the witnesses who will testify, including those who saw the snowplow driving through the streets smashing cars and others who will say they heard the driver yelling profanities and racial slurs from the window of the plow.
The trial, she said, will also hear from a witness who saw Sgt. Russell get hit as he stood by his cruiser, its lights flashing, firing his gun at the plow.
McGoey alleges Kachkar meant to cause Russell’s death when he drove the snowplow in the wrong lane toward Russell’s cruiser.
“The plow did not slow or swerve but went right towards the officer despite open lanes on either side,” McGoey said. “The plow hit Ryan Russell’s leg knocking him off his feet. He was then hit in the head. The plow did not stop or slow down and kept going.”
After two hours, police were finally able to stop the plow. Kachkar was shot twice by police.
McGoey told the court Monday that as Kachkar was being pulled from the truck by officers, he muttered something about Russian Facebook, the government and 911, and that it was all a Russian video game.
“When they were bandaging him he was concerned they might put a microchip in his body,” McGoey said.
The Crown attorney also described Kachkar’s whereabouts in the hours leading up to the rampage.
Kachkar had been staying at the Good Shepherd shelter in Toronto, where he asked if someone called the police because he thought he was “going to do something bad,” McGoey said.
Kachkar changed his mind, the court heard, and left the shelter hours later in his bare feet.
Kachkar was in the Tim Hortons around 5 a.m. when workers from a snow removal company stopped in for a coffee break, McGoey said.
One of the workers testified Monday that he spotted Kachkar in the coffee shop with “messy hair” and wearing no shoes or socks.
Kachkar spotted the snowplow outside with its engine running, McGoey said. He dashed out, jumped in and took off, beginning his rampage.
McGoey also described Kachkar’s life prior to moving to Toronto.
When he was living in St. Catharine’s, McGoey said Kachkar once asked a person in a shelter: “Do you think if I do something bad, will God still love me or will I have to walk away from God?”
Kachkar later moved from St. Catharine’s to Toronto to look for work.
The Crown’s allegations have not been proven in court.
Focus is on accused's mental state
Superior Court Justice Ian MacDonnell told the jury Monday that the trial isn’t to determine who killed Russell, as there is no dispute that Kachkar was driving the snowplow that killed the 35-year-old police sergeant.
The main issue in the case is Kachkar’s mental state as he drove the snowplow that January day.
Surrounded by family and friends, Christine Russell was also in court on Monday.
Later, she spoke outside the courthouse, telling reporters “the healing is stopping and the pain is back.”
She also expressed appreciation for the support shown to her family.
“It’s not easy to sit there and sit so close to someone you know has done so much harm,” she said.
The trial is expected to last two months.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney and with files from The Canadian Press
Richard Kachkar is seen in this courtroom sketch. (John Mantha)