Driver who killed Sgt. Harnett at high risk to reoffend if sentenced as adult: psychologist

Sgt. Andrew Harnett was dragged for 400 metres before he fell from a fleeing SUV. (Submitted by Jason Harnett - image credit)
Sgt. Andrew Harnett was dragged for 400 metres before he fell from a fleeing SUV. (Submitted by Jason Harnett - image credit)

If he goes to prison, the driver who killed Calgary police Sgt. Andrew Harnett is a high risk to reoffend, a forensic behavioural psychologist testified Friday.

The driver was a teen when he took off during a traffic stop on New Year's Eve 2020. Harnett was clinging to the side of the vehicle for 400 metres before he was flung into oncoming traffic on Falconridge Boulevard.

Two people were charged: the driver and his passenger, Amir Abdulrahman.

Abdulrahman pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The driver, who can't be named because he was underage at the time of the crime, was tried on a charge of first-degree murder but found guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter.

This week, Court of King's Bench Justice Anna Loparco has been presiding over an application by prosecutor Mike Ewenson to have the driver sentenced as an adult.

Ewenson proposed an 11- to 13-year prison sentence.

The maximum sentence for a youth convicted of manslaughter is two years in custody and a year in the community under supervision and conditions.

The accused was 17 years old on that fateful New Year's Eve — just 11 days from his 18th birthday.

Offender grew up with 'highly violent' father

On Friday, the defence got its turn to make submissions, calling Dr. Liam Ennis, a forensic psychologist who specializes in risk assessments.

Ennis testified that the greatest risk to the now 20-year-old reoffending is social peers who, in an adult prison setting, would be fellow inmates.

"I have a hard time seeing hope of positive change if he goes through the adult penitentiary system," said Ennis.

Ennis reviewed many of the young man's early life circumstances.

The judge heard that the offender grew up in a "highly disruptive" and abusive situation.

'He finds his tribe'

His father was "highly violent," said Ennis, which led to the family moving frequently to flee the abuse.

"The family lived in fear, fleeing this man, moving shelter to shelter, province to province, and this man keeps hunting them down," said Ennis.

The witness also touched on the driver's ADHD, which he said likely caused the young man to become marginalized as a child, investing in peer groups instead of school.

"The ADHD kids don't' know what to do, they're sensation seeking," said Ennis.

"He is rejected, rejected. Around 13, he finds his tribe. Now he's got a group he can belong to. Unfortunately, the group he's found is already criminally involved."

'Narcissistic tendencies'

Ennis described the driver as having "narcissistic tendencies" and said he has an "inflated ego but not a lot of accomplishments."

He thrives on attention and is primarily motivated "to belong and be accepted."

The 20-year-old's primary need is education and work skills, which will "allow him to carve out a space for himself in conventional society."

Prosecutor Ewenson has not yet had the chance to cross-examine the witness.

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

He and his partner were expecting their first child when he was killed.

On Thursday, his family delivered victim impact statements as part of the sentencing hearing.

Justice Loparco will make her ruling on May 10 regarding whether the driver will face an adult or youth sentence.