Brett Herman thinks back fondly on his childhood, running outside his grandfather’s house in northern Saskatchewan with his younger brother chasing behind.
He describes his brother, Braden Herman, as a gentle giant who would never hurt a fly.
Brett Herman says he never would have imagined that years later, his younger brother would be killed and the accused would be a veteran police officer.
“I really don't know how to deal with this,” Brett Herman says.
Bernie Herman, a former Mountie, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Braden Herman in 2021. The former officer and the brothers are not related.
His trial begins on Monday at the Court of King's Bench in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan’s third-largest city.
Braden Herman's body was found in an isolated area of Little Red River Park on the outskirts of Prince Albert that May. Police have said he was shot.
Bernie Herman, who was a 32-year member of the RCMP, was arrested the same day. He subsequently resigned from the police force, where he had most recently been working in the traffic services unit.
There were four Herman brothers: Brett, who was the oldest; Braden and his twin brother, Blade; and a younger brother who now lives in Vancouver.
The twins were adopted to a close family member and mostly raised in the Clearwater River Dene Nation near La Loche, Sask.
"We haven't had an easy life growing up," Brett Herman says.
Blade Herman died by suicide in 2015, leaving a two-year-old son behind. The death deeply affected Braden Herman, his brother says, but he was trying to figure out his life and future.
“He was a good kid."
Family members have described Braden Herman as kind, caring and thoughtful.
Brett Herman doesn’t exactly know how the Mountie and his brother first got to know each other. His brother lived with the officer and his wife at some point a few years before his death.
But, he says, the relationship had become abusive and traumatic for Braden Herman.
Family members have said the officer was harassing Braden Herman for years, alleging Bernie Herman used his position in the RCMP to pull the younger man over to give him tickets. Braden Herman was trying to distance himself from the officer, his brother says.
“He was always trying to avoid Bernie and (Bernie) would find ways to find (Braden) or track him down,” Brett Herman says. “It was so weird."
Bernie Herman once showed up at Brett Herman’s home looking for the younger brother. Brett Herman says he doesn’t know how the officer even figured out where he lived.
Brett Herman says his brother didn’t want to talk about what was going on, but there were signs that things had turned physically abusive.
“He was getting scratches and scrapes. He had a brace on his wrist one time, and he wouldn't tell,” Brett Herman says about his brother.
“He had scratches on his face and black eyes."
Brett Herman says it’s difficult to think about his younger brother’s final moments in a wooded area of the park outside of Prince Albert.
Brett Herman says Bernie Herman was able to use his position and authority as a police officer to manipulate his brother. He worries that the former Mountie will receive different treatment in the justice system.
Police have said Bernie Herman was not on duty but was wearing his uniform on the day the death occurred.
Insp. Craig Mushka with the Prince Albert police has said that on the day Braden Herman’s body was found, the accused called a co-worker and “made disturbing comments that he had killed someone.”
Police have also said Bernie Herman provided information on where to find the body.
Brett Herman says he knows details of his brother’s death will be brought up in court during the trial. It will be difficult for his family to go through the trauma again, but he says it’s important his brother gets justice.
“It won't bring my brother back … but just because he's a cop, he shouldn't get any special treatment."