WHITBY, Ont. - A man who killed a Toronto police officer with a snowplow has been allowed out of his secure unit at a mental health facility and into the community three times in the past month, a hearing was told Tuesday.
Richard Kachkar has been detained in the Ontario Shores mental health hospital in Whitby, Ont., for about a year, since he was found not criminally responsible for killing Sgt. Ryan Russell.
The Ontario Review Board, which decides if and how NCR patients should be detained, stirred controversy when it ruled last year that Kachkar should be allowed escorted trips into the community. The Crown appealed the decision and lost.
The hospital didn't let Kachkar off the hospital grounds while the issue was still under appeal, but in just the last month he has been three times to a nearby plaza accompanied by staff members, Kachkar's annual review board hearing was told.
The development alarmed Russell's widow, Christine Russell.
"I still feel that he's a very dangerous man," she said after the hearing. "I think it's a gamble and it's a risk and I don't think society should be subjected to such risks."
Russell glared at Kachkar as she read a victim impact statement at the hearing.
"Richard Kachkar stole my two-year-old son's father," said Russell of her son, who is now five. "My son doesn't remember his dad. He only knows his dad through photographs and the stories that we tell. He will never get his dad back...Richard Kachkar also stole my husband and my best friend. He robbed me of my future and the life that we had together."
Kachkar wants the review board to transfer him to a less secure, general forensic unit at Ontario Shores, but his medical team feels he's not ready.
Dr. Zohar Waisman, Kachkar's attending psychiatrist, told the board he still does not have a definitive diagnosis for Kachkar, other than he falls somewhere in the spectrum of psychosis.
Waisman said it is too soon to move Kachkar to a less secure, general forensic unit, as he wishes, but noted that Kachkar is making progress.
He has completed various programs at the hospital, such as behavioural therapy, and is on the waiting list for another, Waisman said. He is compliant with his medication and has one-on-one therapy once a week. Kachkar also volunteers for one hour a week both at a shop and a video store at the hospital.
But several factors still cause Waisman enough concern to recommend Kachkar stay in the secure unit, he said. For one, it is difficult to predict Kachkar's future risk because that exercise becomes harder with more serious offences, he said.
Kachkar does appear to be responding to his anti-psychotic medication, but he has only been on it since September, which is not a very long time for someone with such a complex history, Waisman said. Kachkar would also have much less support on a general unit, which has a staffing ratio of about five patients to one staff member, versus Kachkar's current unit where the ratio is three to one, Waisman said.
"I certainly believe in his rehabilitation. That's my job is to treat him and rehabilitate him, but public safety comes first through this process," he said.
"I think there needs to be time to help Mr. Kachkar reintegrate slowly into the community...We treat his situation with a great degree of caution."
Kachkar has also been granted 300 accompanied passes on hospital grounds since he has been at Ontario Shores, Waisman said. All were without incident except for one time when a fellow patient recognized him and called him "cop killer," Waisman said. A nurse whisked Kachkar away before he could react.
Such stressors could cause Kachkar to relapse, Waisman said, which is why he should stay in the more highly supervised unit.
The board expects to make a decision in one or two weeks, with reasons to follow about a month later.
NCR patients such as Kachkar are subject to annual reviews, and while Christine Russell said she will keep attending and making sure her voice is heard, Russell's father said he won't attend any future reviews because they have nothing to do with his son.
"I don't care anymore about Richard Kachkar," Glenn Russell said after the hearing. "Whatever happens here cannot bring my son back. Whatever I say to a review board will not make any difference to their decision."