Little insight into mind of Richard Kachkar, snowplow murder suspect

Matthew Coutts
National Affairs Reporter
Daily Brew

He may have been emotionally unstable, he may have been under the influence, but Richard Kachkar struck a Toronto police officer with a stolen snowplow and left him for dead.

The only thing left to decide is whether the 46-year-old man will be found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Sgt. Ryan Russell, the father of one young child.

The mental state of Richard Kachkar is at heart of an ongoing trial, stemming from Russell’s death on the morning of Jan. 12, 2011.

Russell was struck and killed by a snowplow driven by Kachkar, of that there is no argument.

What remains in doubt is Kachkar’s state of mind on that fateful day — whether he had the intent to kill Russell.

The Crown alleges that Kachkar knew Russell was a police officer and purposely struck him with the snowplow. Kachkar has pleaded not guilty.

[ Related: Snowplow driver seen by paramedic as 'emotionally disturbed' ]

Video of the incident obtained from Russell's cruiser shows the snowplow do a U-turn and advance on the officer, before striking the vehicle.

Off camera, Russell was also struck by the plow. His last recorded words were, "He's coming at me, hold on."

Previous witnesses said Kachkar seemed drunk. However, a drug test found that he had only cannabis in his system.

Paramedic Shannon Willis testified on Thursday that she passed Kachkar en route to the scene and heard him shouting out of the snow plow.

She said, per CBC News, that he "yelled something about shots fired, the Taliban and they can all go f--- themselves."

[ Related: Missing Vancouver woman was staying in L.A.’s ‘skid row’]

She said he appeared "emotionally disturbed," admitting she had no psychiatric training. The National Post quotes her as testifying that she felt he was "crazy."

It is a difficult task deciding, after the fact, what was going through the head of a man who stole a snowplow and took it on a devastating joyride.

He may have been mentally disturbed, or he may have been plain-old drunk. A passing paramedic can't be the sole decider of that; witnesses can only shed a thin light on the issue.

I don’t envy the jurors who must make the final decision. I don’t envy anyone in this case at all.