PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A former Saskatchewan Mountie told his murder trial his life was in turmoil and he was having sex with the man he's accused of killing, but he doesn't remember firing his gun.
Bernie Herman, 55, took the witness stand Thursday at the Court of King's Bench in Prince Albert, Sask. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the 2021 death of Braden Herman, 26.
The two men are not related.
The trial has heard Braden Herman’s naked body was found in a park on the outskirts of Prince Albert, Sask. He had been shot in the chest.
Bernie Herman testified he picked up the younger man after finishing an all-terrain vehicle RCMP training course earlier in the day.
Court heard the two men had been in a sexual relationship since 2018. Bernie Herman testified that when they went to isolated areas, it was most likely for sex.
They drove to an area near Little Red River Park. Bernie Herman testified they got out of the vehicle and Braden Herman undressed, pushed the officer against a door and grabbed for the officer's genitals.
Bernie Herman said the younger man also grabbed him by the face, breaking a tooth.
Braden Herman then backed off and said, "You better not be cheating on me," Bernie Herman testified.
The former Mountie told court he was afraid and saw Braden Herman reach down for an object
"Boom!" Bernie Herman told court. "My gun went off."
He said he has no memory of drawing or shooting his gun, and that he panicked and drove away. He then sent a text message to his wife and called a colleague.
Crown prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt told court there was no evidence of injuries, including a broken tooth, when Bernie Herman was arrested.
Schmidt also asked why an experienced police officer would not drive away in his truck if he was concerned for his safety.
"You shot a naked man in the bushes who had no shoes on," Schmidt said during cross-examination.
The trial has heard the two men met on Facebook, and Braden Herman moved into the veteran officer’s family home. The relationship was sexual, but Bernie Herman said it wasn't always consensual.
"When (Braden Herman) wanted to have sex and I would say no, that would set him off," the former Mountie told court.
Schmidt questioned why the former Mountie would start a relationship with the much younger man, knowing he had a difficult upbringing and was "down on his luck." She said Bernie Herman owned the house, controlled who slept in it and acted as a dad.
She asked the former Mountie why he would continue to go to the basement to sleep with Braden Herman for many months if the sex was not consensual.
Messages and images from cellphones entered into the trial suggest there was affection between the two men. The messages also show the sexual relationship was putting a strain on the officer’s marriage to his wife, Janice Herman.
"You find yourself in a situation where Braden wants more from you, Janice wants more from you and there's poor Bernie in the middle," Schmidt said.
Defence lawyer Darren Kraushaar asked Bernie Herman if the younger man pushed and hit him. Court was shown photos that Bernie Herman said depicted physical injuries and damage to the family home caused by Braden Herman.
Kraushaar asked if the officer was scared of Braden Herman.
"Very," Bernie Herman responded.
Janice Herman previously told court she kicked the younger man out of the home in 2019. Text messages between her and her husband suggest she was frustrated that he continued the relationship with the younger man.
“I was alone for seven months while you were having the time of your life,” she texted her husband 20 days before the killing.
Bernie Herman told court Thursday that he tried to end things with Braden Herman, but the younger man was blackmailing him. The two had exchanged nude photos, Bernie Herman said, and Braden Herman threatened to send them to his wife.
Bernie Herman said he would also face violence if he ignored Braden Herman's texts or calls.
However, both the officer and his wife continued to socialize with Braden Herman.
Janice Herman had drinks with Braden Herman the night before his death, court heard.
She also dropped off alcohol for him and a friend on May 11, 2021, the day he was killed.
In text messages to her husband that day, she criticized his relationship with Braden Herman.
"You telling (Braden Herman) you want him and not your wife, that, too, hurts," she texted.
Bernie Herman told court he was upset by the text messages he received from his wife while he was in the training course.
He testified he left the RCMP station with his uniform, duty belt and weapon in order to clean the items. He said that at the time he had no intention of meeting up with Braden Herman.
But court heard the officer called Braden Herman at least 59 times that day.
A video recorded by Bernie Herman of one of the calls was played in court. The video shows the officer calling the younger man a parasite, while Braden Herman is asking the Mountie to say that he loves him.
At some point, the men agreed to meet up. Bernie Herman said they went to get coffee from a Tim Hortons and he performed a sexual act on Braden Herman in a Dairy Queen drive-thru while they waited for a burger.
Then, Bernie Herman testified, they drove to the park.
Court has heard how, not long after, Bernie Herman sent a text to his wife saying he'd had enough and shot Braden Herman.
The message said: "Just so you know your life has changed from here on. I just shot and killed him."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2023.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press