TORONTO - It was a terrible tragedy that Toronto police officer Sgt. Ryan Russell was killed by a mentally disturbed homeless man, but “it was also a first-degree murder,” a Crown attorney told a jury Friday.
Christine McGoey said it’s up to the jury — not a trio of distinguished psychiatrists — to determine whether Richard Kachkar meant to murder Russell with a stolen snowplow during his Jan. 12, 2011, ride through Toronto’s treacherous streets.
“In this country, we have trial by jury, not by experts,” McGoey said in her closing to the jury, referring to the unanimous psychiatric assessments that concluded Kachkar was suffering from a psychotic episode and was not criminally responsible at the time of Russell’s death.
“I suggest to you that Mr. Kachkar was criminally responsible of killing Ryan Russell, despite Kachkar’s mental disorder. He had the capacity to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions and he knew that killing someone was wrong,” said McGoey.
Kachkar, 46, is accused of first-degree murder in the heart-breaking death of Russell, 35. The homeless man has admitted he was driving the snowplow that inflicted the fatal injuries against the popular officer and father of one.
Kachkar’s lawyer Bob Richardson is asserting that there is the “uncontradicted evidence” of three highly-regarded psychiatrists that conclude that Kachkar was not criminally responsible for his deadly actions due to a mental disorder.
“He no longer has the capacity to think rationally, no longer has the ability to apply reason,” said Richardson.
But McGoey implored the jury to look past the final few seconds before Kachkar drove his powerful snowplow at the retreating Russell, who only fired his gun as his cruiser was being struck.
She said that Kachkar’s actions — from resisting the temptation to kill himself the day before Russell’s slaying — revealed his mind was functioning before, during and after the tragedy.
Kachkar wasn’t surprised by Russell and the killer knew there was a police officer with a siren wailing in front of him, said McGoey.
“It wasn’t a deer jumping out of a forest at a startled motorist. Russell was the deer and Kachkar was the headlights. He never stopped until he was twice shot by ETF officers,” said McGoey.