Sgt. Russell killer found not criminally responsible
By Jesse Thomas
The man who jumped behind the wheel of an idling snowplow that ran over and killed Toronto Police Sgt. Ryan Russell on Jan. 12, 2011, was found not criminally responsible for his crime in court Wednesday due to an unfit mental state.
Richard Kachkar, 46, fled from a downtown Toronto shelter barefoot and without a coat. When he jumped into a snowplow and took it on a rampant ride, swerving through traffic, side swiping cars before hitting and killing Russell who fired shots at the snowplow in order to stop Kachkar.
The jury heard the testimony of three expert psychologists, Dr. Philip Klassen, Dr. John Bradford and Dr. Lisa Ramshaw, who all determined that at the time of the murder Kachkar was in the throes of a psychotic fit.
The trial took nearly two months to wrap and the jury deliberated for two days before reaching its conclusion.
“I think it’s the right verdict,” defense lawyer Bob Richardson told media from the steps of the courthouse. He said Kachkar is aware he’ll be going to a psychiatric facility but he doesn’t understand what happened the night he ran over and killed Sgt. Russell. “I feel satisfied that the jury was able to look at all the evidence and appreciate that mental illness can be an important factor.”
Cases that rule the defendant is not criminally responsible automatically go before the Ontario Review Board. Kachkar will be held in police custody while he awaits the review board meeting to determine which mental health facility he’ll go to for treatment. No date has been set for the meeting but will be scheduled within the next 45 days.
“It’s hard to reconcile when you have a person who has committed an act like this,” said Heidi Illingworth, executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
“The consequences can’t be taken back and someone has lost their life in brutal way, so it’s hard for families to deal with that,” said Illingworth. “It means the Russell family are going to likely have to go to a hearing every year now, while a team of professional psychologists and medical staff determine the best move for the individual in question.”
Sgt. Russell’s widow, Christine, shared her family’s disappointment following the verdict.
“I believe that Ryan deserved a lot better than this,” she said while addressing the media. She said she would hold her words specifically about Kachkar for the review board but did say, the verdict offered no closure in the case.
“There is no healing, there is no closure,” she said. “There is no end. We don’t even know when we’re going in front of the review.”
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair congratulated the Crown attorneys and the homicide investigators on the case.
“I know it was a very difficult case for the courts, difficult for the jury and we appreciate the efforts they put into this,” Blair told the media during a press conference following the verdict.
Blair understands and accepts the judgment of the courts but said there is never a resolution that can restore the loss of a man to his family.
“There’s never going to be any sense of satisfaction from any outcome,” said Blair. “We lost a man and a family lost someone very, very dear to them and he was very dear to us, and the tragedy of that is not relieved by this verdict but we understand the nature of the verdict.”