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Monday, February 04, 2013

It's Not The Toronto Cop Killer Case Of "Whodunit'

MICHELE MANDEL - Cop killing not a 'whodunit'


Cop killing not a 'whodunit'

TORONTO -- What a horrible confluence of circumstances converged in a predawn snowstorm two years ago.A despondent homeless man sitting by the window in a downtown Tim Hortons spies a snow plow left idling outside while its driver and his passenger pop in for a bagel and coffee.
Opportunity beckons.
Wearing no shoes or socks or jacket, Richard Kachkar runs into the storm and steals the running truck for a one-hour and 51-minute cross-town joyride that will have tragic consequences: Young Sgt. Ryan Russell would be struck and left to die on Avenue Rd. While at home, a little two-year-old boy would wake to learn he would never see his father again.
If only the workers from Tolias Landscaping and Plowing hadn't left the keys in their truck, if only their breakfast order had been ready a few minutes sooner, if only someone had heeded the warnings the bizarre Kachkar uttered just the night before.
But then "if onlys" are always so easy in retrospect.
Dry-eyed and strong, Russell's widow, Christine, sat in the front row of the downtown courtroom with family members at her side as Kachkar's long-awaited first-degree murder trial opened Monday. "The pain is back," she would later tell reporters outside. "It's not easy sitting so close to someone you know has caused so much harm."
His newly shaven face furrowed, his hands clenched, the 46-year-old St. Catharines, Ont., man stared at his feet as the judge told jurors this was not a "whodunit."
There's no question that Kachkar drove the stolen plow that struck and killed Russell on Jan. 12, 2011. The sole issue, Justice Ian MacDonell said, is Kachkar's "state of mind" at the time.
"There was something not right about him," Daniel Da Silva admitted he told police after Kachkar stared him down in the coffee shop, rocking from side to side, before dashing out and stealing his truck at about 5:20 a.m. that day.
From the Crown's opening statement, it certainly appears Kachkar was a troubled man.
In early January, said Crown attorney Christine McGoey, he was at a homeless shelter in St. Catharines when he asked a fellow resident, "Do you think if I do something bad, will God still love me or will I have to walk away from God?"
A few days later he was celebrating Armenian Christmas with his estranged wife and kids at their St. Catharines home when they told him he couldn't stay. Feeling unwanted and unwelcome, he told police he boarded a bus bound for Toronto on Jan. 6.
Kachkar stayed with a friend for several days but on Jan. 11, he told police, he was feeling unwell and confused. He went to a hospital but left before being seen and then to a walk-in clinic. Hungry and penniless, he registered to stay at the Good Shepherd shelter on Queen St. E. And there the warning bell sounded loud and clear.
Ten hours before his deadly rampage, he went to their front desk to call the RCMP. "Mr. Kachkar said he thought he was going to do something bad," McGoey told the court.
"When asked what that might be, he said he didn't know."
Kachkar was told to think about it for a few minutes before deciding whether to call police. A short time later, he said he'd changed his mind.
Just before 5 a.m., court heard the barefoot man slipped out of the shelter's back door. Twenty minutes later, Kachkar was driving a hijacked snow plow, smashing taxis and storefronts, hanging out the window and urging startled observers to get in. It's a miracle no one else was killed. When he was finally cornered and stopped by ETF bullets after almost two hours of deadly destruction, he babbled about implanted microchips and being part of a Russian video game.
Running down Russell was an accident, he later insisted. He didn't know what he was doing.
But this was no accidental crash, the Crown argued. "He knew he was dealing with a police officer" and yet he deliberately did a U-turn and drove directly into him, McGoey said.
"Obviously I'm sick," Kachkar would later tell police. After a two-month trial, it will be up to a jury to decide if that is, indeed, true.
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