By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press on January 1, 2021.
CALGARY – A new year dawned in Calgary with the death of a veteran city police officer allegedly struck and dragged to his death during a routine traffic stop.
The death of 37-year-old Sgt. Andrew Harnett touched off an outpouring of grief across the city Friday, as well as a manhunt for the two suspects police believe to be responsible for the New-Year’s-Eve hit and run.
“Today is the day that I have had nightmares about,” Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld told a news conference.
“I’m pissed off. It’s totally senseless.”
Police said Harnett had pulled over an SUV in the city’s northeast shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday after noticing plates on the vehicle did not match its registered description.
Neufeld alleged the vehicle took off, hitting the officer and dragging him down the road.
Neufeld said a 17-year-old was believed to be behind the wheel, while a 19-year-old was likely riding as a passenger.
A second unrelated vehicle was also involved and “may have come into contact with Sgt. Harnett” on the road, Neufeld said, adding the driver of that vehicle stayed at the scene and is helping with the investigation.
Paramedics and fellow officers hastened to the scene in minutes and tried to revive Harnett, police said, but he died in hospital nearly an hour later.
A massive search soon got underway for suspects Al-Azan Shah Muhammad, 17, and Amir Abdulrahman, 19, both of Calgary. They are currently wanted on one count each of first-degree murder.
Police said they applied to the courts to get permission to identify the younger suspect. People under the age of 18 who are facing charges aren’t typically allowed to be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Police said investigators located the SUV on Friday afternoon after receiving a tip from the public.
They say the copper-coloured 2006 Infiniti FX was found in the northeastern neighbourhood of Taradale and is undergoing forensic testing.
Neufeld said Harnett’s death reinforces the dangers law enforcement professionals face every 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 and this type of incident really sort of underscores that.”
An emotional Neufeld added that he knew Harnett personally and called his death a blow to the entire Calgary Police Service family.
Harnett joined the force 12 years ago after serving as a military police officer for 2 1/2 years. He leaves behind a spouse, Neufeld said.
“I’ve actually worked a shift with him,” Neufeld said. “A consummate professional, amazing, amazing with the public and he’s everything you’d would want in a quality police officer.”
Harnett also helped investigators identify the suspects before he died, the chief said, but gave few details.
“Part of the reason we’ve been able to progress this investigation as quickly as we have was as a direct result from some exceptional police work done by Andrew prior to his death,” Neufeld said.
“He is helping us solve this and bring those responsible to justice.”
Neufeld said video footage from a police vehicle’s dashcam and Harnett’s own body camera has proven useful.
“He did a very good job of capturing and recording information and in this case the fact he’d done that was very helpful to us,” he said.
The president of the Calgary Police Association said all members are grieving Harnett’s death.
“Our 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,” John Orr said.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also paid tribute.
“My heart today is not only with Sgt. Harnett’s family but also with the women and men of the Calgary Police Service. Because I know a little bit about that family and a little bit about that incredible fraternity of people who come together to keep us safe every single day,” he said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney offered condolences on Twitter.
“His death reminds us of the real risks taken by police officers every day,” Kenney said.
“This was a terrible crime. I hope that the perpetrator is brought quickly to justice.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2021.
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