PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A police officer testified in the first-degree murder trial of a former Saskatchewan Mountie that Bernie Herman texted his wife saying he had shot a man on the night he was arrested.
Herman is on trial for the 2021 death of 26-year-old Braden Herman. The two are not related.
Braden Herman's body was found in an isolated area of Little Red River Park on the outskirts of Prince Albert, Sask., that May.
Bernie Herman, who was a 32-year member of the RCMP, was arrested the same day. He has pleaded not guilty.
Const. Richard Wittal told the Prince Albert Court of King's Bench that he worked in traffic services with Bernie Herman on the same shift. While Wittal wasn't working on the day of the death, he had been texting his colleague.
That evening, Bernie Herman's wife and daughter arrived at Wittal's house. They showed Wittal a text message allegedly from Bernie Herman. Wittal told court the text said: "I shot Braden. It's over and done with."
Wittal tried to call Bernie Herman, but there was no answer so he notified his staff sergeant.
An agreed statement of facts read into court Monday said that Braden Herman was shot with a pistol issued by the RCMP.
It said Bernie Herman was taken into custody at the staff sergeant's home. He was wearing his RCMP uniform, vest and duty belt.
Court heard how Bernie Herman usually left his uniform and service pistol at the RCMP station. But he left the station wearing the uniform and belt, and was in possession of the gun on the day of the killing.
RCMP Const. Jackson Goodfellow said he was dispatched to his staff sergeant's home. There was some confusion as to what was going on, but Goodfellow said he was told "Bernie may have just killed someone."
Goodfellow said eventually Bernie Herman left the house, hugged another officer who had responded to the scene and was arrested.
Braden Herman's older brother, Brett Herman, said it was difficult to hear that the accused was hugging colleagues while his brother's body was in the woods.
"(My brother) was scared probably for the last moments of his life," Brett Herman said outside of court.
"I mean having to be left there alone … while this guy is going to see his co-workers."
Family members say Braden Herman was kind, caring and thoughtful. He has been described as a gentle giant.
Const. Daniel Logan, with the Prince Albert Police Service's forensics unit, told court that he took photos of Bernie Herman after his arrest. There were a few nicks on his knuckles but no other clear sign of injury.
Defence lawyer Darren Kraushaar asked whether the officer also took photos of the top of Bernie Herman's head or the inside of his mouth to look for injuries. Logan said he did not.
Logan also took photos of Bernie Herman's truck, which included two coffee cups, jackets and underwear.
Logan described going to the wooded area where Braden Herman's body was located. There was a lot of garbage, Logan said, including condoms and needles.
He told court police didn't find any weapons at the site. When asked by the defence if there were other objects such as sticks and stones, Logan testified there were.
Logan said Braden Herman's body was on the ground under a tarp.
Brett Herman said he expects the trial will become more difficult for the family as details emerge.
"It's not easy for our family. We have to relive everything," Brett Herman said outside court.
He has said he’s not sure how his brother and the RCMP officer first met each other. Family have said he and the officer grew up in neighbouring northern Saskatchewan communities — Braden Herman was from Clearwater River Dene Nation and Bernie Herman was from La Loche, Sask.
At some point, Braden Herman lived with the officer and his wife. But Braden Herman’s family say the relationship became emotionally and physically abusive, and he tried to stay away from the Mountie.
Family also said the officer used his position of authority to harass Braden Herman.
After his arrest, Bernie Herman resigned from the police force.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story; An earlier version said the trial was taking place in Prince Albert, Alta.