YELLOWKNIFE — A man accused of killing an RCMP officer in the Northwest Territories two years ago says the fatal shots were fired as the pair struggled in the dark over a gun.
Emrah Bulatci, who is charged with first-degree murder, told a packed and silent courtroom Thursday that he never meant to kill Const. Chris Worden.
“(Worden) was on top of me,” Bulatci said. “He had my head pinned down. He was struggling to get my right arm. He was pulling it back.
“I was trying to get my hand free and that’s when the gun went off. It went off twice — it was like bang-bang.
“He fell and he stopped fighting with me. I pushed him off and I panicked. I just got up and ran.
“I didn’t look back.”
Bulatci, who is from St. Albert just outside Edmonton, tried to plead guilty to manslaughter at the start of his trial last month. The Crown did not accept that plea and the trial went ahead.
In more than two hours of calm, level testimony Thursday, Bulatci laid out his story as Worden’s widow sat quietly and listened intently.
He testified that he arrived in Hay River on Sept 29, 2007, with nearly 10 ounces of crack cocaine he wanted to sell to pay off a $17,000 drug debt. He stopped along the way to buy a .45-calibre handgun.
“I had problems with some guys and I needed protection,” he said.
He had planned to sell the coke in High Level, Alta., but he and his two associates decided they could make more money by going to Hay River instead.
They stashed the bulk of the drugs and the gun outside town and set up shop. After a few days, Bulatci retrieved the gun because he believed a rival drug dealer was after him. He kept it tucked in the waistband of his pants or stashed in the drug house behind a ventilator grill.
He testified that business went smoothly. Most of the cocaine had been sold and $15,000 collected by the early morning of Oct. 6.
That’s the morning, court has heard, that Worden was called back after finishing his shift to search for a man who was believed to be suicidal. Reports placed the man at the drug house, so Worden came by about 6 a.m. — just as Bulatci and his friends were shutting down for the night.
Bulatci said he was climbing into a cab with his buddies when he realized he’d left the gun inside. He went to retrieve it and when he returned, Worden was standing there.
The officer questioned the three, and when Bulatci tried to get in the cab, he told him he was under arrest and asked him to put his hands on the trunk of the car.
“He took a couple of steps toward me and I just panicked and ran,” said Bulatci. “I took off.”
Bulatci, 25, said he ran across the street into a wooded area so he could get far enough away from Worden to ditch the gun. But the young officer kept coming and yelling “Stop resisting!” Bulatci ran back out onto the road and took the gun out.
“I knew I was going to get caught, so I grabbed the gun. I loaded it. I was running. I turned around and I aimed low because I thought if I shot him in the legs he’d stop chasing me.”
Worden, 30, kept coming. Bulatci headed backed into the trees, but this time stumbled and fell. Worden leaped on top of him and, said Bulatci, was shot as he tried to wrest the gun from the suspect’s right hand.
Defence lawyer Laura Stevens asked Bulatci several times if he meant to fire the fatal shots.
“Absolutely not,” he answered. “I wasn’t trying to kill him.”
Bulatci went on to describe his attempts to escape. He fled back to Edmonton as RCMP mounted an extensive search for him. He shifted from house to house and hotel to hotel. He was also trying to keep the co-operation of his drug associates.
“I couldn’t make myself look weak to them; otherwise they’d rob me or beat me up.”
Both happened. At one point, Bulatci said, he was bound with duct tape, beaten with bats and robbed of the money he’d made in Hay River.
Eventually, he was tracked down at the home of his friend’s girlfriend. Trapped by police tactical teams, Bulatci emerged after three hours from the basement where he’d been hiding.
“I said, ’I’m down here in the basement.’ They said, ’Come upstairs. Keep your hands where we can see them.”’
A police officer stood before him and told Bulatci to turn slowly around and then walk toward him.
“I was arrested.”