PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — The family and friends of Braden Herman gathered at Little Red River Park in Prince Albert, Sask., Saturday evening to hold an emotional vigil for the 26-year-old shot and killed there earlier this month.
Bernie Herman, 53, a long-serving member of the Prince Albert RCMP, has been charged with first-degree murder in the case and has resigned from the force. The two men are not related.
Braden’s sister Daphanie Herman said an RCMP officer showed her exactly where her little brother’s body was found on May 11 — just a few minutes’ walk into the park, down a sandy trail into the woods — and she built a small white cross for him in the clearing.
She talked to her brother while she worked, hoping he could hear her somehow.
“Brother, we are having a vigil for you this evening,” she said. “So give us some good weather, please.”
There had been threats of rain in the morning, but by the time the attendees arrived, the weather was perfect.
Dozens of people came with candles, flowers and stuffed animals, offering their prayers and memories. Many wore t-shirts or sweaters printed with messages: “Justice for Braden,” “Rest Easy.”
Rena Lemaigre had been friends with Braden since they were teenagers.
“We would always hang out and … and when I was going to university, he was always there for me,” she said. “He always encouraged me not to give up and he always picked me up. We were so close.”
The friends had been planning to go on a vacation to the mountains in British Columbia this summer. Then suddenly, Lemaigre went from looking forward to a summertime adventure with her friend to leaving a candle at his memorial.
“I’m really heartbroken,” she said. “I left back home this morning to be here. And I was in shock, thinking of how it’s really unbelievable for me. It’s so devastating, and it’s really heartbreaking for him to go like this…I’m taking this hard.”
Lemaigre said Braden adored his family and made friends wherever he went.
“He really loved his nephew,” she said. “Ever since his brother passed away, he was always there for his nephew and his family, and he was outgoing. He was nice. He was nice to everyone.”
Braden was also godfather to 16-year-old Megan Montgrand. At the vigil, she was thinking about “his smile and his laughter,” remembering all the jokes they shared whenever he was around.
“He was always there for you if you needed someone,” she said. “And he was just such a good person to be around. He had such a nice energy and everything…we’d go for walks and just sit there and talk.”
The last time they texted, shortly before Braden’s death, it was just to say they loved each other. For Montgrand, attending the vigil was a meaningful way to say goodbye.
“It means a lot,” she said. “It feels like I’m more connected with him now — like he knows that all of his family came to see him and support him. We’re all here to love him.”
But many members of Braden’s family are still searching for closure.
“I just hope we get justice,” said Daphanie. “That’s the only way my mom’s mind will be at ease and she’ll finally be able to rest.”
Prince Albert Police say Bernie Herman and Braden Herman knew each, and the two grew up in neighbouring northern Saskatchewan communities — Braden was from the Clearwater River Dene Nation and Bernie was from La Loche.
Daphanie has alleged that the officer had been harassing her brother for years before his death.
Earlier this month, Inspector Craig Mushka with the Prince Albert Police Service said that on the day Braden’s body was found, Bernie had called a co-worker and “made disturbing comments that he had killed someone.”
He was then taken into custody, and is next due to appear in court on June 9.