The local community is joining the rest of Canada in mourning the death of Sgt. Andrew Harnett, a Calgary police officer killed in the line of duty on New Year’s Eve.
Harnett, 37, died after police say he was struck by the vehicle of a driver trying to flee a traffic stop. A 19-year-old man and 17-year-old youth have been arrested after turning themselves into police on Friday.
Harnett was the youngest of three brothers who grew up in Hagersville. He spent some of his youth working at the Canadian Tire store in Brantford.
“It was one of his first jobs and he really loved working there,” said older brother Jason Harnett, who was with his mother, Valerie Harnett, at her Hagersville home on the weekend.
But Jason said his brother always knew his future was in policing and spent many hours volunteering in pursuit of his dream. He was a volunteer member of Crime Stoppers while a student at Hagersville Secondary School, and later went for ride-alongs with officers in his hometown who became his mentors.
“He was mesmerized by policing,” said Jason. “He always knew what he wanted to be.”
After serving as a military police officer in Edmonton, Harnett joined the Calgary Police Service 12 years ago and was promoted to sergeant in 2019.
While Jason said distance kept the family, including middle brother Chris, who lives in Halifax, from seeing each other as much as they would have liked, they connected often through social media.
Jason said he sent a text to Harnett telling him to be careful as he started his New Year’s Eve shift.
“I’m sure he was,” said Jason, his voice cracking with emotion. “But you just can’t predict people.”
According to Calgary police, Harnett was involved in a traffic stop at about 10:50 p.m. on Thursday. They said desperate attempts were made by his colleagues and members of the EMS to save Harnett who died a short time later in hospital
Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld said on Friday, “Our service, and our community, is mourning on this first day of 2021.”
Jason said that grief is also being felt in and around their hometown. He said he has been getting calls and text messages from all over, including one from a Brantford police officer who credited Harnett with getting him into policing.
A get-together with his youngest brother in the fall, when Harnett and his partner travelled to Jason’s home in Muskoka Lakes, has now become their last visit.
“We played board games and just goofed around,” said Jason. “We had some great moments.”
A makeshift memorial has been set up at the location where Harnett was struck and a group of Calgarians has been tying blue ribbons to trees in neighbourhoods across the city in memory of the fallen officer. County of Brant Fire came out on the weekend to help Brant OPP lower its frozen flags in his honour.
Jason said the Calgary Police Service is planning a scaled-down event honouring Harnett during the COVID-19 lockdown and he and his mother will be travelling to the city in the next couple of days. He said there would be a bigger celebration held sometime in the future.
“He was the rock of the family — the guy we’d always go to,” said Jason. “He was an amazing brother.”