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Trial starts for man accused of impersonating police officer in rural home invasion robbery

Armin Babic, 41, faces seven charges including robbery with a firearm and impersonating a peace officer and forcible confinement. His trial began Wednesday. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)
Armin Babic, 41, faces seven charges including robbery with a firearm and impersonating a peace officer and forcible confinement. His trial began Wednesday. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)

A trial began Wednesday for an Edmonton man who is accused of impersonating a police officer so that he could execute an Okotoks-area robbery of a brother and sister in their 70s.

Armin Babic, 41, faces seven charges including robbery with a firearm and impersonating a peace officer and forcible confinement.

This trial, set to run for two weeks, is the fourth scheduled trial date.

The trial started Wednesday after a delay on Monday when Babic tried, once again, to get his trial called off because he doesn't have a lawyer.

'With or without a lawyer'

Court of King's Bench Justice Chris Rickards gave Babic until Wednesday to find a new lawyer and when he showed up asking for more time, the judge refused to allow another adjournment.

One trial was adjourned when Babic fired his lawyer right before it was set to begin. Another trial was adjourned when Babic had a medical emergency on the day it was to start.

Babic is now representing himself after going through at least three defence lawyers.

In December, another judge said Babic would have to proceed "with or without a lawyer" after prosecutors Joe Mercier and Elaine Ng argued the case should not be allowed to experience further delay.

Police vest worn during robbery

On Wednesday morning, the trial got underway with an opening statement from Ng, who described the allegations faced by Babic.

On Nov. 19, 2019, Heather Haddad was visiting her brother Gavin McLachlan at his rural, Okotoks-area home when McLachlan saw a pickup truck drive onto his property.

A man got out of the truck and was wearing a vest with the word "Police" written across the chest.

Assuming the man was a police officer, McLachlan opened his door.

The man in the police vest asked McLachlan's name and ordered him to turn around.

"At this point Gavin began to question the suspect's credentials and did not comply with his demands," said Ng.

Suspect demanded safe be opened

The man then pulled out a handgun and ordered both McLachlan and Haddad to lay on the floor.

When McLachlan resisted, the suspect fired a shot in the air. He then tied the siblings' hands behind their backs with rope.

The man demanded to be taken to McLachlan's safe. He fired a second shot when McLachlan continued to resist.

With the gun pointed at his head, McLachlan then took the suspect to his safe and opened it.

The man then stole a handgun, $20,000 US in cash and jewelry.

He then fled the scene.

Stolen items recovered from truck

McLachlan and Haddad were able to break free of the restraints and called 911.

About 20 minutes later, RCMP, who'd been dispatched to search the area for the truck, spotted a Chevrolet Silverado that matched the description of the suspect's vehicle.

Const. Cedric Archambault also noted the driver matched the description of the suspect.

Archambault pulled the truck over. The driver was Babic and the officer learned he was wanted on a traffic-related warrant out of Edmonton.

Victim and accused DNA on clothing

Court heard a search of the truck turned up all of the stolen items as well as clothing, which had both Babic's DNA on it and McLachlan's.

A spent shell casing recovered from McLachlan's home was determined to have been fired from the handgun found in Babic's truck and registered in his name.

Police also ultimately recovered camera footage from McLachlan's neighbour's home showing the suspect, now identified as Babic, knocking on the door.

The man asked for Gavin who, he was told, lived next door. The footage also shows the Silverado truck.