Calgary police officer’s widow speaks of ‘stolen’ joy as one of her partner’s accused killers pleads guilty

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Last New Year’s Eve, Sgt. Andrew Harnett kissed his pregnant wife goodbye, called his mother on his way to his shift and texted his brother to say that although he kicked a group of loiterers out of a bank lobby, he had allowed them to finish their beers outside. 

That night, Harnett was killed after an SUV fled a traffic stop — he’d clung to the side of the fleeing vehicle for more than 400 metres before he lost his grip and rolled into the path of an oncoming car. 

Originally charged with first-degree murder, Amir Abdulrahman — the passenger in that fleeing SUV — pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Wednesday, admitting he’d grabbed the wheel twice to help escape police.

Harnett’s widow, Chelsea Goedhart, delivered a powerful victim impact statement describing living with “soul-crushing grief” as she experienced her pregnancy and parenthood without her partner.

“The joy of my pregnancy was stolen,” said Goedhart. “The loneliness of parenting without Andrew is near crippling.” 

“My son’s innocence was taken before he was born.”

Abdulrahman, 20, and another man, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because he was under 18 at the time, were each charged with first-degree murder. The youth’s trial is set to begin Jan. 31, just days after sentencing is expected in Abdulrahman’s case on Jan. 28.

WATCH | Harnett’s brother and Abdulrahman’s lawyers talk about the apology in court:

Harnett family says apology welcomed, but it’s not enough for forgiveness

Amir Abdulrahman apologized in court after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of Sgt. Andrew Harnett. His lawyer said it shows Abdulrahman’s contrition, but the Harnett family says he didn’t do enough to stop the events that lead to the death. 2:42

Prosecutor Mike Ewenson has asked Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Hall to impose an eight- to nine-year sentence, noting Abdulrahman sat “literally within reach” of the officer yet “did nothing” to help.

Then, perhaps his most egregious act, said Ewenson. 

‘Acted in cold self-interest’

“[Abdulrahman] left Sgt. Harnett to die on the cold hard pavement of Falconridge Drive,” said Ewenson in his sentencing arguments, speaking of the moments after the officer was flung into the lane of oncoming traffic.

“He acted in cold self-interest, without an ounce of compassion when it really mattered.”

Defence lawyer Balfour Der asked the judge to impose a two-year sentence plus two years probation. 

Der acknowledged the “great loss” but argued his client, who was 19 when he was arrested “forgot who he is and where he came from.”

Details of killing come from agreed statement of facts

Der said Abdulrahman is deeply regretful and plans to lead a law-abiding life moving forward following “deep and sober reflection” in jail awaiting trial. 

It’s not yet clear if Hall will make his decision Wednesday or if he will reserve.

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

When the three officers’ body-worn camera videos were played as part of the court hearing, Harnett’s mother and widow left the courtroom.

Details from the killing come from an agreed statement of facts prepared by Ewenson and defence lawyer Balfour Der.

The traffic stop

Last New Year’s Eve, Abdulrahman and his 17-year-old friend, who was driving an Infiniti, were on their way to a party when they were pulled over by Harnett because the vehicle’s lights weren’t on.

The driver pulled into a Petro-Canada gas station on Falconridge in the northeast part of the city.

When Harnett began speaking with the driver, he learned the teen had only a learner’s licence. 

The youth told the officer his “buddy,” Abdulrahman, had a full licence.

Harnett took the passenger’s licence and the vehicle identification number (VIN) from the SUV.

He also noted a third person, a passenger, in the back of the vehicle. That person has never been identified.

Officers arrive for backup

Two other officers — Const. Deroches and Const. Osmond — heard the traffic stop and arrived within minutes, knowing Harnett worked alone. 

When he checked the passenger’s ID, Harnett discovered there were warrants out for Abdulrahman’s arrest.

The officers made a plan. Harnett was to serve the traffic tickets on the driver and Desroches would arrest Abdulrahman.

As Deroches approached, Abdulrahman opened his door but did not move as the officer addressed him.

“Amir, you have an outstanding … hey, hey, hey,” said Deroches as the SUV began to take off.

‘Stop the vehicle’

Harnett had been standing at the driver’s side of the door and as he noticed the youth’s hands turn the wheel, he opened the door “in an attempt to prevent the driver from leaving the scene,” according to the agreed statement of facts.

Harnett began yelling “stop the vehicle,” and “stop the f–king vehicle,” as he clung to the fleeing SUV.

The vehicle sped away but quickly got stuck on a snowy berm in the parking lot.

“Until the vehicle rode up onto the berm there is no evidence to suggest the accused assisted in operating the vehicle, and the prosecution has no evidence to allege the decision-making process that caused the driver to flee,” reads the agreed statement of facts.

Harnett’s body-worn camera footage then captured someone in the car yelling “go, go, go.”

Harnett loses his grip

That’s when Abdulrahman reached over and grabbed the steering wheel. The SUV took off once again.

As they continued to flee, Abdulrahman once again took the wheel as the driver pushed his door open with his feet and hands in what the agreed statement of facts described as “a clear effort to dislodge Sgt. Harnett onto the roadway.”

Although the teen was unsuccessful, moments later, Harnett lost his grip and fell from the side of the vehicle.

Harnett rolled into the oncoming lane and was struck by an oncoming car. 

WATCH | Man pleads guilty in death of Calgary officer:

Man pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Calgary police officer

Amir Abdulrahman has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Calgary police officer Sgt. Andrew Harnett, who was killed on New Year’s Eve after being dragged beside a vehicle and thrown into oncoming traffic following a routine stop. 1:47

The driver of that car immediately stopped and tried to save Harnett alongside the two other officers who had by then caught up.

“There was nothing the civilian driver could have done to prevent the collision,” according to  the statement of facts.

Along with first aid, Osmond and Deroches also provided comfort to the driver who had struck Harnett.

Officers who had been called to the traffic stop for backup tried to save Harnett’s life but his injuries were too significant. He died in hospital shortly after. 

‘I’ll love you forever’ 

Not a year after her son’s death, Valerie Harnett stood in the courtroom where his killer had, moments earlier, pleaded guilty on Wednesday. Through tears, she explained that she and Andrew shared a love of the book I’ll Love You Forever, which is written by Guelph, Ont., children’s author Robert Munsch. 

For her victim impact statement, Valerie re-wrote her own version of one of the book’s famous lines for her son: 

“I love you forever and as long as I’m here, your very proud mother I’ll be,” she said.

But Valerie saved her final words for Abdulrahman.

“Make wiser and better choices,” she said. “I wish you very well on that journey.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Harnett’s brother, Jason.

“There is hope for you and for your family,” said Jason Harnett.

“I hope you begin to change your life starting today. Don’t waste it.”

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