A man on trial for the death of Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell is presumed to have been behind the wheel of the snowplow that killed the officer, but jurors will have to consider what Richard Kachkar’s mental state was when the incident occurred.
Kachkar’s trial began Monday, just over two years after Russell, a veteran officer, was struck and killed by a snowplow near Avenue and Davenport roads.
The 46-year-old has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and dangerous driving in relation to Russell’s death.
But Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian MacDonnell told jurors Monday that Kachkar was the man behind the wheel of the stolen snowplow.
"There will be no dispute that Mr. Kachkar was the person who was driving the truck," MacDonnell said. "That is, this case is not a whodunit."
Crown attorney Christine McGoey told jurors that the dispute is over Kachkar's "state of mind." She said it will be revealed that the accused had the intent to kill Russell.
The Crown alleges that Kachkar purposely drove at a police cruiser with the snowplow he was driving on the morning of Jan. 12, 2011.
When Russell got out and fired three shots at the oncoming snowplow, the Crown says that Kachkar sped up and struck the officer.
The plow knocked Russell down and fractured his skull. McGoey told jurors that Kachkar did not stop or slow down as the officer lay on the ground, unconscious and bleeding.
McGoey said Kachkar continued to drive for another hour, hitting parked vehicles — some with people inside them — until police were able to stop him.
After giving its opening statement, the Crown called its first witness on Monday — Daniel Da Silva, the rightful driver of the stolen snowplow.
He testified that Kachkar was barefoot and without a jacket when he rushed out of a Tim Hortons that Da Silva had just entered and took off in the truck that had been left running outside.
Russell, 35, became the first Toronto police officer killed while on duty since 1994. He had been promoted to sergeant six months before his death.
Russell's widow, Christine Russell, reflected on her difficult first year without her husband in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning in January 2012. She was among the people inside the packed courtroom Monday. The officer also left behind a young son.
Russell's funeral was attended by thousands of police officers and members of the public.