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'Totally senseless': Suspects in custody in death of Calgary police officer

Last Updated Jan 1, 2021 at 7:34 pm MDT

Calgary police say they have two people in custody in connection to the New Year’s Eve death of police Sgt. Andrew Harnett.

Just before 11 p.m. on Dec. 31, police said Harnett was conducting a traffic stop outside a gas station near the intersection of Falconridge Drive and Falconridge Boulevard.

Investigators said Harnett had stopped a vehicle due to a license plate not matching the vehicle it was attached to.

When Harnett approached the car, the suspects sped off and struck him, police said.

Other officers and EMS rushed to the scene, and while they tried valiantly to save his life, Harnett died in hospital at around midnight.

The tragedy has left the service shaken.

“I’m pissed off,” said Chief Constable Mark Neufeld. “It’s totally senseless.

“I can say here and now, without the least bit of hesitation, he was an outstanding police officer, an outstanding leader, and an outstanding person. Today is the day I’ve had nightmares about.”

Neufeld said he knew Harnett personally and even worked a shift with him. Since learning about the death he has been in touch with other officers, who all share his feelings that Harnett was an example of the best the CPS can offer.

“Consummate professional, amazing, amazing with the public, and he’s everything you would want in a quality police officer,” Neufeld added, with his voice shaking.

Police said two males turned themselves into police at around 5:30 p.m. Friday

Amir Abdulrahman, 19, and a 17-year-old male who can’t be named because he is a minor are now in police custody in connection to the alleged incident.

The 17-year-old is alleged to have been the driver of the vehicle that was stopped by Harnett, police said.

 

At the time of the incident, Harnett was working alone at the scene, due to his position as a supervisor.

A vehicle, 2006 Infiniti FX, was recovered by CPS in the community of Taradale.

Neufeld added there was also a second vehicle involved in the collision, and it is possible that it also struck Harnett. There are no further details about that second vehicle, however.

He said this is a perfect example of the kind of dangers officers face on any given day.

“There’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a low-risk event, there’s an unknown risk I guess. This type of incident really underscores that.”

Calgary Police Association President John Orr said he is devastated by this loss.

“Our members on the front line, the traffic unit, the homicide unit, forensic crime scenes unit, and countless other sworn and civilian members have all put their own personal grief aside in order to conduct a professional and thorough investigation so that those responsible for this cowardly act can be held accountable,” he said. “I want Andrew’s family to know that he is in all of our hearts and our thoughts and he will be remembered always.

“Andrew did not this for praise or personal gain. But did so because he has a deep commitment to service in his community.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi also shared his grief during a press conference on the incident and said the city is fully supporting the police through such a difficult time.

“Sergeant Harnett was only 37-years-old, and he spent his life serving. First serving his country in uniform as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and then looking after the city here in District 5, keeping my neighbourhood safe,” Nenshi said. “I know that all of my colleagues at the City of Calgary, all nearly 15,000 of us, share in the deep sense of loss in losing a member of our family.”

Premier Jason Kenney also shared his condolences, and Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu released a statement as well:

“I am saddened and heartbroken at the news of the death of Sgt. Andrew Harnett with the Calgary Police Service. I wish to extend my condolences to Sgt. Harnett’s family, friends, co-workers, and the entire Calgary Police Service at this very difficult time,” Madu wrote. “This is a devastating reminder of what the brave men and women of law enforcement face every day when they put on their uniform. As officers work to keep Albertans and our communities safe, their families hope to see them safe again at the end of their shift. As we grieve the loss of this officer, let us remember his selflessness in choosing a life dedicated to public service and safety, and the sacrifices made by his family in doing so.”

Neufeld praised the work Harnett did throughout his career, right up to the moment of his death. He said that due to Harnett’s meticulous investigative strategies, they were able to quickly identify the suspects and the vehicle involved in addition to the video evidence available.

He said the service is banding together to continue the investigation and significant gains were made in the hours immediately following Harnett’s death.

“Despite what’s happened here and the impact on our members and our family, it’s just amazing the way people have stepped up. I couldn’t ask for more. This is what they do.”

Neufeld also asks that people respect the privacy of Harnett’s family at this time, and there will be a time to share more details about his life once they are able to fully process what has happened.