YELLOWKNIFE – Emrah Bulatci opened his trial for the first-degree murder of Const. Chris Worden by confessing that he killed the popular young officer, but didn’t mean to do it.
“I’d like to plead guilty to manslaughter,” Bulatci told Justice John Vertes after the charge was read Wednesday.
Prosecutor John Cliffe immediately rejected the plea and said the Crown would proceed with the first-degree murder charge, which requires the prosecution to prove intent to kill.
Worden was shot and killed in the small community of Hay River, N.W.T., on Oct. 6, 2007.
Cliffe told the jury he would produce evidence showing Worden was hit four times before he’d even taken his gun from its holster. He said he’ll argue that Bulatci fully intended to kill Worden or was so reckless he as good as knew the officer would be killed.
Cliffe said he will show that Worden responded to a call about a suicidal person between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. When he arrived at the house, he saw a taxi with two passengers in the back seat. As Worden spoke with the passengers he saw Bulatci leave the house, Cliffe said.
After a short conversation by the cab, Bulatci tried to run away. Worden chased him across the street, into a treed area along a fence by an apartment building.
“Gunshots were heard by a number of witnesses,” said Cliffe. “Const. Worden was found on the ground.”
Defence lawyer Laura Stevens acknowledged her client was “a bad man.”
“Mr. Bulatci was not in Hay River for any good purpose,” she said.
“He was in Hay River, at the relevant time, to sell drugs. That’s who he was. He was a drug dealer.”
Even the gun Bulatci used was an illegal firearm, said Stevens.
Stevens said Bulatci – who plans to take the stand in his own defence – will testify that he only intended to fire the first two shots and meant only to wound the pursuing officer. The second two shots, which were the ones that killed Worden, were accidental, she said.
Bulatci “doesn’t come before you as someone of good character,” said Stevens. “But the issue before you is whether or not he intended to cause Const. Worden’s death.”
Worden’s widow Jodie wept silently in court as Stevens talked about the slain officer.
“Const. Chris Worden was a good man,” Stevens said. “His death is absolutely wrong. It is tragic.
“It is Emrah Bulatci’s fault that Const. Chris Worden is dead. He has acknowledged that before you with his plea … The primary issue here is his intent. Was he intending to cause the death of Chris Worden?”
During a break, Jodie, surrounded by several family members, briefly talked to reporters.
“We are here as a family to support each other and provide the voice for Chris,” she said.
The family said they wouldn’t comment any further during the trial.
In afternoon testimony, court began to hear about Bulatci’s drug associates.
Thomas Embleton, 58, talked about how Bulatci – who he knew as “Justin” – would drop in to his house with a pair of friends early in the morning to shower and do laundry, leaving around noon. He said he once saw Bulatci cooking up crack cocaine in his kitchen, and told court that Bulatci occasionally gave him some of the drug.
Once, he asked Bulatci and his friends if they had a weapon. He said Bulatci responded that they did have a gun.