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Board told man who killed cop with snow plow should be detained in hospital

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

TORONTO - A man who was found not criminally responsible for killing a Toronto police officer with a snowplow should be locked up in a psychiatric hospital with few privileges, a hearing was told Friday.

Richard Kachkar remains a significant risk to public safety, and should be put on anti-psychotic medication, psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen told the Ontario Review Board.

However, "realistically speaking his risk is low" and his prognosis is very good, Klassen said.

When Kachkar began to seriously deteriorate in the weeks before he killed Sgt. Ryan Russell, he wasn't hiding his symptoms well and those around him could tell something was wrong, he said. Given the scrutiny Kachkar will receive, his risk could be managed, Klassen said.

"There was an opportunity for intervention," before Kachkar's breakdown, Klassen said. Kachkar himself sought help at a walk-in clinic the day before he killed Russell.

"If every person in Canada knew how to recognize a mental illness, knew how to get someone help...review boards would be out of business."

But since so much is still unknown about Kachkar, including exactly what mental illness he suffers from, Klassen recommended Kachkar be detained in a hospital.

Kachkar, 46, was found not criminally responsible last month in the Jan. 12, 2011 death of the 35-year-old officer. Kachkar had stolen a snowplow and ran Russell down when he tried to stop him.

His trial heard that Kachkar yelled about the Taliban, Chinese technology and microchips as he drove the stolen plow around Toronto for two hours early that morning, crashing into a luxury car dealership and several other vehicles before hitting and killing Russell.

The father of Nolan, then two years old, was pronounced dead in hospital soon after.

Three psychiatrists testified that Kachkar was psychotic at the time and the verdict indicates the jury believed Kachkar's mental illness rendered him incapable of appreciating his actions and knowing they were wrong.

The verdict has been hard to swallow for Russell's widow, who delivered an emotional victim impact statement to the review board Friday.

"I would like Richard Kachkar to know that the man you killed was an outstanding person," said Christine Russell. "He sacrificed himself trying to protect all of us from Richard Kachkar."

Several other victim impact statements — by Ryan Russell's father and sister, one of his police colleagues and Christine Russell's parents — detailed their devastating loss but were also filled with anger.

Many of them crossed the line of what is acceptable of victim impact statements to the review board, Kachkar's lawyer Bob Richardson said, adding his client asked him not to object.

Kachkar is sorry for what he did, Klassen told the hearing.

"Compared to the average, Mr. Kachkar has verbalized far more remorse for the victim and the family than frankly just about any offender you're going to see," he said.

That appeared to ring hollow for members of Russell's family. Christine Russell refused to sit in the appointed seat to deliver her victim impact statement because it was just a few feet away from Kachkar.

The morning her husband was killed she insisted on seeing his body at the hospital, despite other police officers advising her against it. When she saw him, blankets had been placed over most of his body, covering up his devastating injuries, and a tube was still in his mouth.

"I was told that Ryan was a crime scene, therefore I couldn't touch him, couldn't go near him, couldn't kiss him goodbye," she said.

Her husband was an organ donor, Christine Russell said, but the doctors told her the only organs they could "salvage" to donate were his eyes.

Kachkar sat staring at his lap through the hearing, as he did through most of his trial.

The Crown and Richardson submitted a joint position to the review board, recommending Kachkar be held in medium security — behind two sets of locked doors — at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ont.

The only privilege they suggested was that Kachkar should be allowed escorted passes onto the hospital grounds.

The five-member board, including two psychiatrists, a retired lawyer and a member of the public, was expected to reach a decision Friday, but not make it public until next week.

When a person is found not criminally responsible of a crime on account of mental disorder, a panel of the review board holds a hearing soon after the verdict to decide if the person should be detained in a hospital or released with or without conditions.

It is only when they are satisfied that the person no longer presents a "significant risk" to public safety that the board can grant an absolute discharge. Until that point, such review board hearings are held annually.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/130429/board-told-man-who-killed-cop-snow-plow-should-be-detained-h