Jurors hear last radio call from officer slain by snowplow

Jurors heard the last words that Sgt. Ryan Russell said over a police radio and saw dashboard camera video of the oncoming snowplow that was moments away from taking his life, on Tuesday in a Toronto court.

Russell, 35, died in the line of duty on Jan. 12, 2011, when he was run down by a stolen snowplow near Avenue and Davenport roads.

The 11-year police veteran had been trying to stop the snowplow, after it was observed being driven erratically through Toronto streets.

The dashboard video includes the moments when Russell was in pursuit of the snowplow, as well as images of the vehicle reversing and coming straight at the officer.

The camera shows the cruiser getting hit. But what happens to Russell isn't seen.

Jurors also heard the final radio call that Russell made.

He could be heard telling a police dispatcher: "He's coming after me, hold on." Then there was silence.

The fallen officer's wife, Christine, broke into tears when she heard her late husband's voice Tuesday, as did many of the family members and friends who were there to support her in the courtroom.

Richard Kachkar, the man behind the wheel of the snowplow, is on trial for first-degree murder and dangerous driving. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The judge has told the jury that there is no doubt that Kachkar drove the snowplow that killed the officer. But jurors will have to determine what the accused’s state of mind was on the day that Russell died.

The Crown is trying to prove that Kachkar hit Russell deliberately, intending to kill him.

Earlier Tuesday, jurors heard that Kachkar rolled down the window on the snowplow that same morning and asked a man standing on a downtown street: "Do you want to come for a ride?"

Michael Hau was working as a concierge at a building at 99 Avenue Rd., on the snowy morning when the officer died. Hau saw the plow driving through the streets before Russell was struck and killed.

Hau, continuing his testimony from Monday, said the driver of the snowplow shouted the question as he drove past.

"I immediately thought he was drunk or under the influence ... of drugs," Hau told the Toronto court.

However, jurors have already been told by Crown attorney Christine McGoey, that testing did not find any traces of drugs or alcohol in Kachkar's system, other than a trace amount of cannabis.

Defence lawyer Bob Richardson asked Hau if it was clear there was “something wrong” with the snowplow driver. Hau replied yes.

Taxi driver Tamrat Beyene testified Tuesday that he saw the snowplow make a U-turn in front of the cab he was driving at the intersection of Davenport and Avenue roads.

Beyene said he saw the plow hitting cars, then turn to head south while driving in the northbound lane. Beyene told the court he followed the plow to get the licence plate number.

Beyene said the snowplow driver opened the driver-side door as he passed, asking him, “'Why are you following me?'” Beyene testified the plow driver then swore at him and drove off.

The court also saw photos documenting the damage to Beyene’s cab.

Tesfaye Tefari, another cab driver, told the court he was at a taxi stand when the snowplow sideswiped him, damaging his car on the driver's side. Tefari says he called 911 after the snowplow hit his car a second time.

A video played to the jury showed the snowplow crashing into a luxury car dealership on Avenue Road.

The trial continues.

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