It had been an uneventful New Year's Eve evening in 2020 for Jason Harnett. He had made the trip from Muskoka, Ontario to Hagersville to see his parents. As per usual, he had spoken to his brother Andrew, who was making the drive from Strathmore into Calgary to start his shift.
The two brothers exchanged pleasantries and wished each other a Happy New Year. Jason gently ribbed his younger brother about working too much, though he knew full well his brother loved his work as a Calgary Police officer, saying it was never in his brother's nature to sit behind a desk. The two would continue to exchange texts during the evening, with Sgt. Harnett giving his brother a glimpse into how the evening was going.
"I think he said something like 'things are picking up' and that he had to go. I texted him to just be careful. That was the last thing that I ever said [through] text to him. There was no response after that."
Hours later, in the dead of night, Jason heard the phone ring. When the ringing wouldn't cease, he answered the phone. Sgt. Harnett's partner uttered a few words.
"She said his name. She said: Andrew. I don't remember the exact words after that, but she told me that he was gone... It was just disbelief. I remember telling her that I would go in and talk to my mom," he said. "Immediately after that, I told my mom. I can't describe it. It was a nightmare."
The younger brother whom Jason remembers as being an outgoing child, who loved to participate in local Crime Stoppers back home in Ontario, but who also loved to sling pizzas at a local pizzeria, who was involved as a Scout; the brother who had become the family's tour guide to Alberta after he had moved there - introducing them to all the wonders of Alberta, including the Rocky Mountains and the Calgary Stampede - had died in the line of duty as a police officer.
But it wasn't until the family saw the evening news a day later that they had more information about the death of Andrew. It came to light that during a routine traffic stop, Sgt. Harnett was dragged by an SUV and then dislodged from the car and then hit by an oncoming car. When the family did find out the horrific details, there was insurmountable grief, but also stunned shock.
"How is it possible that one police officer was killed last night and it was Andrew? I mean the guy that knew this job so well and was so thorough; he was always so fair to the people that he came across," his brother said.
While the media would focus on the apprehension of the two individuals responsible in the immediate aftermath, the family was left to deal with prolonged periods of time between the individuals being arrested and two lengthy trials, neither of which seemed to bring any closure to the family.
19-year-old Amir Abdulrahman, who was the passenger in the SUV that night, pled guilty to manslaughter in 2021 and was sentenced to five years in prison, while the driver, who can't be named as he was under the age of 18 the night of Sgt. Harnett's death was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter in November 2022. The youth is scheduled for a two-day sentencing hearing in late April.
For an outsider, one might think that the emotions of a family present in court, facing the individuals that were responsible for the death of a much-beloved son and brother, would be an unadulterated rage. However, Jason explained that the emotions aren't so black-and-white.
“It's not quite that emotion. You're listening to every word in detail. What really did take exception to is when that individual [the youth] started saying that Andrew drew his gun or that there was racial tension involved," he said. "I know Andrew would never have done that and that's where I would say I was very angry that not only did he kill him, but he attacked Andrew's character. That was inexcusable."
Two years and one month have passed since Sgt. Harnett's death, but Jason and his family are left with memories of Andrew, memories that invoke raw grief that still bubbles up to the surface.
"He always made me laugh. He was so good at impersonations. My lasting memory will be the last time I saw him when they came to Ontario and we took the canoe out and we ran the Terry Fox Run," he said, pausing at times.
Sgt. Harnett was a 12-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service. Previously, he served as a military police officer. He was promoted to Sergeant in 2019 and was assigned to District 5 in Calgary. He died in the hospital on December 31, 2020, at the age of 37.