Skip to content

Passenger gets five years in hit-and-run death of Calgary police officer

CALGARY — A judge says the actions of a passenger in the hit-and-run death of a police officer may have been "moderate to minimal" but he still deserves a sentence of five years in prison.

CALGARY — A judge says the actions of a passenger in the hit-and-run death of a police officer may have been "moderate to minimal" but he still deserves a sentence of five years in prison. 

Amir Abdulrahman, 20, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter for his role in Calgary police Sgt. Andrew Harnett's death. 

Police have said Harnett, who was 37, tried to stop an SUV on Dec. 31, 2020, after he noticed its licence plate didn't match its registration. Court heard Harnett fell when the vehicle sped off as he was scuffling with the driver. He was dragged before being struck by a second, unrelated vehicle on the road. 

Harnett died in hospital.

"(Abdulrahman) had only moments to process the fact that he was in a vehicle fleeing from police before he decided to assist by grabbing the wheel. Based on the fact that events were unfolding extremely quickly, his involvement was largely spontaneous or reactionary," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Robert Hall said Friday in sentencing Abdulrahman.

"While he was a participant in the offence, in my view, his role was moderate to minimal."

Hall said there is no proof Abdulrahman was involved in any plan to take off, nor was he at any point in full control of the SUV.

But the public takes a dim view of attacks on police officers and the punishment had to be higher than the two years recommended by the defence, the judge added.

"An appropriate sentence in this case must also provide justice to the family of the victim and the community in general," said Hall.

"The senseless death of Sgt. Harnett caused devastation, not only to his family and colleagues, but to the city as a whole who mourned the loss of an exemplary officer."

Abdulrahman was given credit for the time he has been in custody since his arrest, which means he faces another three years and five months.

His lawyer said the sentence was a bit excessive.

"Any time it involves a police officer, it's a serious case and sentences are across the board always higher. But from my client's minimal involvement, it was higher than I'd hoped for," Balfour Der said outside court.

Abdulrahman is a changed person in terms of his respect for police and the legal system, Der said.

"He was hanging with a bad crowd when this occurred. I don't expect his shadow will ever darken the doorstep of a courthouse ever again."

Abdulrahman apologized to the officer's family when he pleaded guilty last month.

"I know there are no words, no actions that will ease the pain you've all been put through. But I owe you, at the very least, an apology,'' he said. 

"I can only hope that somewhere in your hearts you'll be able to forgive me.'' 

Prosecutor Mike Ewenson said he was also disappointed with the sentence. He had recommended eight or nine years.

"We felt that took into account the grave risk that police officers face any time they're on shift," he said.

"(Abdulrahman's) role was clearly more minimal than the driver. That's common sense. But, nonetheless, he did play a role. He was a party to this offence and his role and his actions were part of the causation of Sgt. Harnett's death."

A first-degree murder trial for the teen who was allegedly driving is to begin Monday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2022. 

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press