TORONTO, Ont. – A jury heard from more witnesses as well as audio of an officer’s final words during the trial of a man accused of killing Toronto Sgt. Ryan Russell with a snowplow two years ago.
Russell, 35, was struck down near Avenue Road and Dupont Street on Jan. 12, 2011, while trying to stop a stolen snowplow.
Richard Kachkar, 46, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and to dangerous driving. The trial, which began Monday, is expected to last two months.
Russell’s final radio call was played as testimony wrapped up on Tuesday, eliciting tears from his family members in the courtroom.
During a radio call with his dispatcher, Russell was heard getting out of his police car.
“This truck is in motion,” he said.
The dispatch operator told him the snowplow was at Avenue and Davenport and was driving very slowly.
“Oh, hold on,” Russell said.
The operator can be heard asking, “What’s your location?”
And then the tape ends. Russell was struck down outside his cruiser. He managed to fire three shots, an investigation concluded, but none of them hit Kachkar or the snowplow.
Immediately after the radio tape was played, the court also saw video from inside Russell’s police cruiser.
The snowplow can be seen heading toward the cruiser. Russell reverses but the snowplow hits the car.
The video does not show him being hit. The next images are of the snowplow driving away and other police arriving at the scene.
As the video was played in the courtoom, Kachkar wiped his face. It was the most emotion he had shown throughout the trial.
Earlier in the day, a man who was working at the front desk of an apartment building on Avenue was the first to testify.
He told the court Kachkar asked him if he wanted a ride and was “screaming” about “Chinese technology.”
“What impression did you get from him?” Kachkar’s lawyer Bob Richardson asked.
“That he was drunk or under the influence of drugs.”
Tamiat Beyene, a taxi driver, testified Tuesday he had a sleeping passenger in his car when he saw the snowplow moving very slowly.
“I heard a bang…My dispatcher told me to get the plate number, so I made a U-turn and followed the plow,” Beyene told the Crown.
“Kachkar opened his door and started screaming. Dispatch told me to take my passenger home.”
Beyene was later questioned by Kachkar’s lawyer, saying Kachkar was swearing at him.
“He said, “What the f— do you want? Why are you following me? I don’t care,’” Beyene said.
“What did you think of this driver?” Kachkar’s lawyer asked.
“That he was drunk or on drugs,” Beyene said.
Mental state in question
Justice Ian MacDonnell told the jury of six men and six women on Monday morning that this case was “not a whodunit.”
“There is no dispute Mr. Kachkar was driving the truck that killed Sgt. Russell…This case will centre around Mr. Kachkar’s state of mind,” he said.
Another taxi driver testified Tuesday that he was at a taxi stand on Avenue when he was hit by the snowplow.
“All of a sudden, a snowplow truck came behind me and hit my taxi,” Tesfaye Teferi said.
Both doors on the driver’s side were hit before the snowplow drove away. Another cab followed to get the plate number.
“Then, I saw the plow come back in the northbound lane but driving south. I think he knows he hit me and he’s coming back. That’s my assumption, but the way he is coming [in the wrong lane], I had some suspicions and I got away from the car,” Teferi testified.
The driver hit the cab again and this time, Teferi said, he called 911.
Kachkar’s lawyer asked Teferi what he told the 911 operator.
“I said, ‘A normal person would not do this. He must be drunk or something.’”
The court also heard an agreed statement of facts from a witness who could not be there in person.
Dr. Neel Datta was heading to work at Mount Sinai Hospital when he saw the snowplow coming north. The driver was leaning out of the door, yelling, “I’m going to get you.”
Dr. Datta testified he ran to get out of the way.
“It was strange and the driver was obviously unstable, hostile and angry. It was quite strange,” he stated.
On Tuesday afternoon, a man who lives on Hazelton Avenue testified that he saw Kachkar as he was walking to the gym that morning.
“He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride,” John Donald said.
“I asked him why and he said, ‘We’ll be on Facebook.’”
Luisa Dean, who works at Hazelton Lanes, was walking with a co-worker when she saw the snowplow the coming.
“Kachkar had his head out the window. He asked if we wanted a ride and we said no. He was yelling, ‘You Chinese people, you f—king Chinese people,’” she testified.
“You must have thought this guy is crazy,” Richardson said.
“Yes,” Dean responded.
CityNews reporter Pam Seatle is following the trial. Read a re-cap of her tweets from the courthouse below.
With files from Showwei Chu and The Canadian Press