March 27, 2013 4:40 pm

Kachkar not criminally responsible for snow plow death of Toronto Police officer Sgt. Ryan Russell

TORONTO – A man who killed a Toronto police officer with a snowplow showed no emotion Wednesday when he was found not criminally responsible.

Jurors reached the verdict in the trial of Richard Kachkar, 46, in the third day of deliberations.

The verdict means the jury believed Kachkar couldn’t appreciate what he was doing when he hit and killed Sgt. Ryan Russell, 35, on Jan. 12, 2011 because he was mentally ill.

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People who are found not criminally responsible are sent to mental health facilities for an indeterminate period of time and can be released only when a review board finds they aren’t a significant threat to public safety.

But the judge in the case still allowed Russell’s family to deliver victim impact statements.

Speaking directly to Kachkar, Russell’s father Glenn said Kachkar had smashed his family into pieces.

“You have no idea how much grief and pain you have caused,” he said.

“When you ran my son down with that plow and left him bleeding to death in the snow, a large part of myself died.”

Tracey Russell, the officer’s sister, said she needed her brother to talk to.

“It has been two years and the pain is still very much a part of our life now…. Ryan has a little boy, Nolan, he is a lovely baby… (who) will never know his daddy.”

The judge recessed proceedings when Russell’s wife Christine held up a photo of herself, her husband and young son.

He said he needed to take time to ensure the procedure for victim impact statements was being followed.

The judge had told the jury there was “no doubt” Kachkar was driving the stolen snowplow, but what the jury had to consider was his mental state.

The trial heard from dozens of witnesses over six weeks, including three psychiatrists who testified that they believed Kachkar was psychotic at the time he killed Russell while on a rampage through the city.

Russell was killed when he tried to stop Kachkar. The dashboard camera from his cruiser shows the plow doing a U-turn and then driving toward the police vehicle.

Russell reversed as the plow drove toward the cruiser. The plow was briefly off camera and witnesses testified that in that moment Kachkar slowed the plow and opened the door as if to get out.

The officer then got out of his cruiser and Kachkar accelerated at him, witnesses testified. The plow clipped the driver’s side front corner of the cruiser and Russell fired three shots toward the plow as it continued at him, but to no avail, witnesses said.

The 5,050-kilogram plow hit Russell, knocking him over and spinning his body toward the centre of the plow, where the blade struck Russell in the head, fracturing his skull and lacerating his brain stem.

Russell’s death came at about the halfway point of Kachkar’s two-hour rampage with the stolen plow.

Kachkar had spent the previous night at a shelter and suddenly fled before 5 a.m. that day, running out into the snow in bare feet. He stole a pickup truck with a plow attached to the front from two landscapers who had stopped for coffee.

The man from St. Catharines, Ont., drove the plow around the city, crashing into a luxury car dealership, hitting vehicles and crossing into oncoming traffic. Witnesses heard him yelling at various points about the Taliban, Chinese technology and that “it’s all a Russian video game.”

He was finally stopped by emergency task force officers who Tasered him and shot him in order to arrest him.

As paramedics tended to his gunshot wounds he worried they were trying to poison him or put microchips in his body, court heard.

Dozens of witnesses testified at the trial over nearly two months. Three forensic psychiatrists who testified, including one who had assessed Kachkar at the request of the Crown, concluded that he was in a psychotic state when he killed Russell, but they were all unsure exactly how to categorize his mental illness.

Dr. Philip Klassen said Kachkar appears to have been suffering for several years from a “low-grade” mental illness with periodic spikes, such as in 2006 when he woke up in the middle of the night screaming that he was possessed by the devil and slapped his wife.

Kachkar was estranged from his family at the time he killed Russell.

Klassen said if he had to offer a diagnosis it would be either an unspecified psychotic disorder or possibly schizophrenia.

Dr. Lisa Ramshaw testified that Kachkar was unable to apply knowledge in a meaningful way at the time. Kachkar was interpreting his world in a false way, believing people were after him, she said.

© The Canadian Press, 2013

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