PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A woman is alleging that a Saskatchewan RCMP officer accused of killing her brother had been harassing him for the last two years.
Cpl. Bernie Herman made his first court appearance in Prince Albert on Thursday, the day of his 53rd birthday.
He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Braden Herman, who police said was found dead in a wooded area in the city on Tuesday.
Police have said the two men knew each other but were not related. They also said the killing happened when the officer was off duty.
“Bernie was after my brother and was always finding ways to get him in trouble," DeeDee Herman of Edmonton said in an online message to The Canadian Press.
She alleged the officer used his police powers to hound her younger brother.
“He would always pull him over and give him tickets, saying he’s speeding and stuff, although he never (did)."
She said she doesn’t know why the harassment started. The two men grew up in neighbouring northern Saskatchewan communities, she added — Braden Herman was from the Clearwater River Dene Nation and Bernie Herman lived in La Loche.
She also said her brother had been recently trying to ignore and avoid the officer.
DeeDee Herman said she and her brother had been texting back and forth, joking and laughing, a few hours before his body was found,.
That evening, she received the news that he was dead.
“I was actually shocked,” she said. “I was numb. Not until I woke up this morning, it hit me hard realizing he’s gone forever.”
Bernie Herman’s lawyer, Brad Mitchell of Saskatoon, said had no comment about the sister's allegations. The Saskatchewan RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The officer was serving with the Prince Albert Traffic Services Unit at the time of his arrest and has been with the force for 32 years.
In a release Wednesday, RCMP said Bernie Herman's duty status as a Mountie was being modified, but the force did not say how.
The Prince Albert Police Service said its criminal investigations division is leading the case, but it has requested that an independent observer oversee it.
Bernie Herman was remanded into custody and is to make his next court appearance May 26.
Outside the Prince Albert courthouse, Braden Herman's half-brother said he took a taxi there so he could face the accused.
"He didn’t want to look me in the face so that says a lot about his character," Brett Herman said.
He said he does not know much about what happened the day his brother died, but said he had been struggling.
DeeDee Herman said she remembers her brother as a “nice kid since Day 1” with plenty of friends and a gentle personality.
He was a "nice, caring, loving person who always had a smile and greeted people with respect and love,” she added.
He moved to Prince Albert to further his education, ultimately graduating from Carlton Comprehensive High School, she said.
“He completed his Grade 12 and then was into carpentry,” she said. “I didn’t know what his plan was going to be after that ... lately, he was just hanging out and enjoying life.”
His twin brother, Blade Herman, died by suicide in 2015.
“They were very close,” DeeDee Herman said. “Braden always talked about missing him.”
While she now envisions the twins reunited in Heaven, she said she and the rest of the family have been struck hard by the sudden loss.
“I’m just basically mad and heartbroken."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021.
— By Julia Peterson in Saskatoon. With files from paNOW
The Canadian Press