Bus driver recalls day Kachkar turned back at border
A bus driver recalls Richard Kachkar taking repeated trips over a period of several years to Buffalo, N.Y., including an occasion in which border guards denied the Ontario man entry to the United States.
Kachkar, 46, has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Sgt. Ryan Russell, a veteran police officer who was struck and killed by a snowplow on the streets of Toronto just over two years ago.
At the outset of the trial, which began last month, the judge told jurors that there is no question that Kachkar was driving the snowplow when Russell was killed on Jan. 12, 2011.
The defence is making the case that jurors should find that Kachkar is not criminally responsible for the officer’s death.
But the Crown is arguing that Kachkar knew what he was doing when the officer was killed.
On Monday, jurors heard testimony from Dhimitri Gushr, a bus driver who routinely drove a route between Buffalo and Toronto.
Gushr told jurors that Kachkar would take the bus to Buffalo where he owned property.
"He was like a businessman, well-dressed, good clothes, well shaved," Gushr said outside court on Monday.
He testified about a specific incident in 2006 when Kachkar was stopped at the border for not having a work visa.
Gushr said that Kachkar then got angry and blamed his sister, claiming that she had called U.S. authorities over a disputed inheritance.
"It seemed odd to me to talk about family problems so loud," said Gushr, noting that Kachkar was alone on the bus when talking about his problems aloud.
On that day, Kachkar was given cab fare to Fort Erie, Ont., when he couldn’t cross the border.
After that, Gushr said he did not see Kachkar again for several years, until January of 2011, the same month that Russell was killed.
"He was very different," Gushr said, noting that he was not very well-dressed and not polite.
Kachkar 'needed to talk'
Jurors also heard testimony from Tom Sheridan, a man who befriended Kachkar at a shelter in St. Catharines, Ont.
Sheridan told jurors that he and Kachkar often attended morning devotions together.
Asked if Kachkar seemed comfortable with religion, Sheridan said, "He seemed new to religion, but often asked a lot of questions."
Just a week before Russell’s death, Sheridan said Kachkar was acting strange.
He said the accused then told him that "he needed to talk to me."
Sheridan broke down in the court, saying that he never did get to talk to Kachkar, who soon after left for Toronto.
The last time he saw Kachkar, Sheridan said "it seemed like he needed a friend."
The court has heard previous testimony about Kachkar's time at the St. Catharines shelter, including the fact that he was taking meals there and had at one point attended daily Bible services.
Jurors have also heard testimony about Kachkar's attendance at a local employment centre in that same southwestern Ontario city, after he lost his job as a driver in the fall of 2008.
The trial continues later this week.
With a report from the CBC's Steven D'Souza