Thousands line route as Calgary police escort body of slain officer to funeral home

·3 min read
Thousands line route as Calgary police escort body of slain officer to funeral home

Thousands turned up to line the route as a formal procession escorted the body of Calgary's fallen police officer, Sgt. Andrew Harnett, from the medical examiner's officer to a funeral home in the city's southeast Tuesday afternoon.

Uniformed police, RCMP, paramedics, city road workers, firefighters and bylaw officers paid their respects alongside members of the public dotting the street and overpasses.

Harnett was killed during a traffic stop on New Year's Eve after a fleeing SUV dragged the officer 400 metres before he was flung into oncoming traffic.

Two teens have been charged with first-degree murder.

Calgary Police Service's Honour Guard was joined by officers from the traffic section as the procession travelled east along Memorial Drive, from Shaganappi Trail at Bowness Road N.W. to the Mountain View Funeral Home & Cemetery.

CPS had asked observers to respect COVID-19 protocols, keeping two metres between attendees.

Standing along the route was Edmund Ridgen whose stepdaughter is a police officer. He said when he and his wife heard the news they were terrified.

"All we heard was 'officer' and when we started to worry," said Ridgen. "It could be ours, it could be anybody, and that really hurts families. I am so sorry for their loss."

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press
Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Jim Stinson held back tears when explaining why he felt compelled to observe the procession.

"I'm here to pay my respects to a fellow officer … it was such a shame, his wife is expecting," said Stinson.

"It bothers me, it gets to me; these fellow officers, they put their life on the line for us and sometimes we don't seem to give them enough respect. It's not an easy job but they're here to protect us."

CPS and Harnett's family continue to work together to iron out funeral details. A regimental funeral is being planned for this weekend and will respect the 10-person maximum attendance under provincial COVID-19 restrictions.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press
Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Around 11 p.m. on New Year's Eve, Harnett pulled over an SUV. A youth, who can't be identified, was driving at the time, and 19-year-old Amir Abdulrahman — who was wanted on four warrants — was the passenger.

After speaking with the driver Harnett was in the process of issuing tickets related to the driver's graduated licence and headlights, which were not on, according to sources connected to the investigation.

Other officers were attempting to arrest Abdulrahman on his warrants.

The SUV then sped away, but Harnett was still somehow attached to the vehicle.

For 400 metres and with the vehicle reaching speeds of up to 90 km/h, it's alleged the driver tried to push Harnett off the SUV while Abdulrahman grabbed the wheel.

Eventually, Harnett was flung into oncoming traffic.

Justin Pennell/CBC
Justin Pennell/CBC

Dedicated officer

Harnett's brother and mother are now in Calgary after travelling from Ontario for his funeral.

Harnett was a decorated officer with two Chief's Awards for lifesaving over his 12-year career with the Calgary Police Service.

He leaves behind a partner who is several months pregnant with the couple's first child.

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld has described Harnett as "one of the best."

According to his family, Harnett was passionate about policing, a job he knew he wanted since childhood.

"He knew the risks of the job and showed up every day regardless," said the family in a written statement released Monday.

"Andrew would have given everything for the police, and he did."