Sketch from the Kachkar trial.
Credits: Pam Davies/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
Bullets and wall-busting tear gas pellets were fired at him. An ETF armoured vehicle rammed him. He was pinned in and even Tasered -- and still Richard Kachkar refused to stop for Toronto Police on that snowy morning two years ago, killing Sgt. Ryan Russell and injuring numerous others with his stolen snowplow.
He was a one-man demolition crew bent on destruction.
Those who caught sight of the homeless man's face as he careened through the city on his dangerous hour-long rampage described a driver who was alternately angry, crying or panic-stricken. And when two ETF bullets felled him at last, the incoherent man mumbled something about it all being his sister's fault.
One after another they filed into a Superior Court Thursday -- from cops to ordinary citizens -- all witnesses who narrowly escaped serious injury that Jan. 12, 2011, knowing how easily they could have suffered the same fate as the 35-year-old sergeant.
Kachkar, 46, sat as he has since the start of his trial -- with his head bowed. There's no dispute that he was behind the wheel, only about his state of mind at the time, and he's pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and dangerous driving.
Const. Chris Cooper had begun to follow the stolen snowplow after spotting it run a red light at Bathurst and Bloor, about 15 minutes after Russell had been struck.
They were nearing Spadina Ave. at about 6:30 a.m. when Kachkar suddenly did a U-turn -- just as he had with Russell -- and came "directly" at him before turning south.
"I could see the driver looking right at our police car and he appeared to be yelling and screaming at us," Cooper testified. "He appeared to be upset and I thought he may have been crying."
Fellow officer John Gerrits was in a second marked cruiser in pursuit of the snowplow when Kachkar made that U-turn just past Spadina. Gerrits put his car into reverse -- just as Russell had done -- to try and avoid a head-on collision. "At the last moment he veered to his left," he recalled.
About 10 minutes later, Gerardo Rios was driving north on Ossington Ave. when he saw a snowplow stopped at the corner of Essex St. Without warning, the large pickup truck slammed into the passenger side of Rios' car and kept on driving, forcing the Grand Am into a 360-degree turn that caused him to strike another car. Without so much as braking, Kachkar then continued on his way.
Rios' car was a write-off. Unspoken was what would have happened if someone had been sitting in the passenger's seat.
Just after 7 a.m. Pierpaolo Miele was driving south on Keele St. in High Park when the northbound plow suddenly crossed into his lane. He pulled to the side in a frantic effort to avoid a head-on collision and was still T-boned on his driver's side. The plumber's apprentice sustained an injured left shoulder.
And still Kachkar drove on, crashing next into the front of a City of Toronto garbage truck. "There was no braking, no swerving, no skid marks," said driver Carl Szpargala, who was off work for two months.
Meanwhile, the ETF was in pursuit. Sgt. Scott Payne said they'd tried ramming the plow with their 17,000-pound armoured vehicle but to no avail. "He's still refusing to stop," explained the tactical officer.
They then fired plastic projectiles filled with tear gas at the plow without success. Kachkar accelerated, Payne said, and subsequently swerved into the southbound lanes, hitting Miele's car and finally stopping after crashing into the garbage truck.
The ETF vehicles then pinned him in and when Kachkar still refused to exit, Payne and two other officers Tasered him. "He's got a look of panic on his face," he recalled.
You'd think he would have surrendered then. Instead, Payne said Kachkar slammed his foot on the gas pedal and the plow lurched forward, smashing into the ETF armoured car and pinning the leg of Const. Errol Watson who was standing nearby.
Two bullets later, it was finally over -- but with no answers as to why. "He kept saying something about 'It's my sister's fault. My sister made me do this'."