Editor’s Note: This story contains details that may disturb some readers.
A former RCMP officer charged with first degree murder told the court he thought Braden Herman was mad and clutching an object with his hand moments before he shot the 26-year-old in an isolated area on the northern outskirts of Prince Albert in May 2021.
Bernie Herman, no relation to Braden, told the court he focused in on Braden moments before the shooting, and “boom, my gun went off.”
Bernie told the court he “panicked and got scared” afterwards. He said he drove away from the scene and put a gun to his head, thinking about killing himself, before driving to a friend’s house. Herman also told the court he does not recall running over Braden’s body while leaving the scene.
Bernie took the stand in his own defence on Thursday, the fourth day of his first degree murder trial. He answered questions from his lawyer, Darren Kraushaar, in the morning, followed by cross examination from Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt in the afternoon.
Bernie sat calmly in the witness box wearing a striped, short-sleeved dress shirt with a collar and black pants. Outside, a group of Braden’s friends stood at the steps of the Court of King’s Bench carrying signs that read “Justice for Braden”.
The relationship between the two men began as a father-son relationship, with Bernie and his wife Janice offering Braden a place to stay in Prince Albert, but that quickly changed. On Thursday, Bernie testified that their relationship became sexual roughly one month after Braden moved in.
Bernie told the court he did not enter into the relationship willingly. On the first occasion, he said Braden of trapping him in a downstairs bedroom and refused to let him out unless they had sex.
Bernie described Braden as “very unpredictable”. He said Braden would behave well when others were around, but his mood changed when it was just the two of them.
He told the court some days they would drive around Prince Albert drinking coffee. One others, Bernie said, Braden would demand sex, and make threats if his requests were rejected.
After the two exchanged nude photos, Bernie told the court, Braden said he would release them to “(explicit) up your reputation” if their sexual relationship did not continue.
On the day of the shooting, Bernie said he called Braden multiple times to find out what he had told Janice when the two met the night before. Bernie also told the court he had no intention of meeting with Braden that day.
When asked if he planned to hurt or kill Braden that day, Bernie said no.
When asked about the moments leading up to the shooting, Bernie said Braden instructed him to drive out to Little Red River Park. Bernie told the court he had never been to the area they ended up in, and said Braden removed his clothing before pushing Bernie to the floor in the back of the truck. During the altercation, Bernie said, he chipped a tooth.
The defence entered two images into evidence on Thursday, one showing Bernie with a chipped tooth, and another showing his teeth after visiting a dentist.
Much of the cross-examination focused on Bernie’s status as an RCMP officer with more than 30 years of experience.
When asked if he was trained to call for help and administer CPR following an officer-involved shooting, Bernie responded “it’s been years,” but said yes, he had. When asked why he did not immediately call for help or begin life-saving procedures, Bernie said he couldn’t recall.
“Emotions were high,” he told the court.
When asked why he didn’t drive away after Braden got out of the truck, Bernie told the court “I could have, but I knew what he was capable of.”
Following the shooting, Bernie sent texts to his wife telling her she didn’t have to worry anymore. When asked about comments he made to one of his friends about how he should have just killed himself following the shooting, Bernie said he couldn’t really recall them.
He also maintained he did not knowingly run over Braden’s body.
“The running over part I honestly don’t recall,” he said.
Bernie told the court that prior to the shooting, Braden forced him to engage in oral sex, then later put his hand down Bernie’s pants.
Bernie told the court he was wearing his police tool belt at the time. When asked how Braden got his hands into Bernie’s pants while wearing the belt, Bernie told the court the best was worn loosely around the hips.
The cross-examination also focused on Bernie’s role as a father figure during the initial stages of their relationship. During questioning, Bernie told the court he did not know how old Braden was when his mother died, or why Braden didn’t have a relationship with his father.
When asked why he did not inquire about those details, Bernie said he didn’t not want to re-traumatize Braden by bringing up old memories.
The longest exchange of the cross-examination was about the definition of the word “consensual.” Bernie testified that he the sexual relationship started against his will, but eventually became consensual. He also testified that he had sex with Braden only because he was worried about what Braden’s response would be.
Bernie testified in court that he was worried what people would think if they found out about the relationship.
Thursday was the last day for the crown or the defence to present evidence. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 13.