'Braden feared for his safety': Lawsuit alleges accused murderer abused his power as an RCMP officer

·4 min read
Former RCMP officer Bernie Herman allegedly harassed Braden Herman for years before killing him, according to a new statement of claim filed on behalf of Braden Herman's brother. Bernie Herman has pleaded not-guilty to first-degree murder. His preliminary hearing is scheduled to happen in December.  (paNOW Staff - image credit)
Former RCMP officer Bernie Herman allegedly harassed Braden Herman for years before killing him, according to a new statement of claim filed on behalf of Braden Herman's brother. Bernie Herman has pleaded not-guilty to first-degree murder. His preliminary hearing is scheduled to happen in December. (paNOW Staff - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details distressing details.

The former Saskatchewan Mountie accused of murdering Braden Herman is now the subject of a civil lawsuit also filed against the RCMP.

"The RCMP employed an unstable person, known to the RCMP for being unstable, who for unknown reasons was utilizing his position and authority as an RCMP officer over a 26-year-old boy," according to the statement of claim.

Bernie Herman, a 51-year-old veteran officer who last served with the Prince Albert RCMP's traffic unit, has been charged with first-degree murder in Braden's death. Braden's body was found in a wooded area in Prince Albert last May.

The two men shared the same last name, came from the same region of northern Saskatchewan and knew each other, but were not related.

The statement of claim, which was filed Thursday in Regina Court of Queen's Bench by Merchant Law Group on behalf of Braden's brother Brett, comes one month after Bernie pleaded not-guilty. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for December.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

The statement of claim alleges Bernie harassed Braden for years, including regular visits to Braden's home, before shooting him in the head while in uniform with an RCMP-issued weapon.

"Bernie often came exuding the authority of an RCMP officer," according to the document. "Braden feared for his safety at the hands of Bernie."

A spokesperson for the RCMP said the police force had no comment on the lawsuit while the case is before the courts.

Bernie's lawyer, Brad Mitchell, also declined to comment.

'Should have been known to the RCMP'

According to the statement of claim, Bernie often caused injury to Braden — including cuts, scratches, bruises and a broken wrist — and called him regularly from a private cellphone.

The stress from the situation prompted Braden to leave his job, according to the document.

The statement of claim also alleges a friend driving Braden's car was once stopped by Bernie, who was in his RCMP vehicle.

Braden Herman/Facebook
Braden Herman/Facebook

Bernie resigned from the force shortly after his arrest on the murder charge, but the RCMP's role in employing him during the period of alleged wrongdoing is also at issue in the lawsuit.

"RCMP assessments of Bernie indicated or should have indicated to the RCMP that Bernie was a danger to himself and others," the statement of claim says.

Bernie's interest in Braden was "not societally related."

Asked to clarify, Tony Merchant, the lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of Braden's brother, said, "This was not something to do with a criminal investigation. [Bernie's] contact had nothing to do with anything that [Braden] had done because he didn't have any criminal record."

"So here's an RCMP officer going to him, seeing him, striking him, beating him up, doing all sorts of things. He would show up in uniform and use the power of the RCMP in his overbearing approach," Merchant said.

"And it should have been known to the RCMP."

A highly public case to date

Braden's family is seeking damages under The Fatalities Act for medical, funeral and grief counselling expenses. Merchant said the RCMP has not offered any such damages to the family.

They are also seeking special and punitive damages.

The Prince Albert Police Service is investigating Braden's death and has previously released some information about the case.

In one news release, the police service said it was committed to a thorough and transparent investigation and went on to disclose several early findings in the investigation, including:

  • Bernie and Braden apparently knew each other for several years.

  • Braden appeared to have been shot.

  • Bernie's service pistol was seized along with other use-of-force equipment, but "the weapon used in the offence cannot be confirmed at this time."

  • While Bernie was not on duty "at the time of the offence," he allegedly left work in full uniform, including wearing his duty belt.

  • Investigators were continuing to collect statements to gain insight "not only on the nature of their relationship, but also on the possible motivation for the offence."

That news release has come under fire by a Saskatoon defence lawyer who said it was prejudicial to Bernie's criminal defence.

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