Skip to main content

'Don’t mistake determination with panic': Crown grills testimony of teen accused of killing Calgary officer

The testimony of a teenager charged with murdering Calgary police officer Sgt. Andrew Harnett has been called "vague" and "unreliable" by the Crown as final arguments wrapped up Thursday. 

Harnett was killed on Dec. 31, 2020 during a routine traffic stop that turned violent. He was dragged by a vehicle for roughly 400 metres before falling into the path of oncoming traffic.

The accused, who cannot be named as he was 17 years old at the time of the officer's death, claims he did not intend for Harnett to be seriously injured when the officer fell from the speeding SUV. 

Earlier this week, the teen testified that he feared for his life because Harnett had his hand on his gun. He denied that he was trying to avoid a search of his vehicle, but pointed to racial profiling because of his Arabic ethnicity. 

That argument was quickly dismissed by Crown prosecutor Mike Ewenson who said surveillance video shown in court proved that Sgt. Harnett approached the SUV and conducted his job professionally.

"He (the accused) is so self-assured during the traffic stop that he calls the officer 'brother' three times. They're talking like peers," said Ewenson.

"The young person has brought up racism and police abuse. There's no raised voice, no insults, no racism whatsoever and no use of profanity until Harnett's life is at risk, at which time we can cut Harnett some slack when he employs force and tries to get that vehicle stopped."

Ewenson added that the teenager was in full control of the situation. 

"That car was going very fast, well in excess of the speed limit and possibly twice the speed limit, and that speed was the responsibility of the young person.

"Do not mistake determination with panic. He was remarkably determined to get away, no panic whatsoever."

Amir Abdulrahman, 20, a passenger in the vehicle, pleaded guilty last December to a lesser charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The young driver testified that a third person in the backseat of his vehicle during the time of the incident was a friend of Abdulrahman's who they were bringing with them to attend a New Year's Eve party.

Ewenson didn't buy that argument and suggested the accused knew who was in the backseat.

"When he (the accused) testifies about going to the party, he's talking about being inches away, if not a foot away, from this person he met and he offers you no usable details in terms of identification?

"They had 30 minutes together. No introduction, all that time together and he still maintains he doesn’t even know a first name?"


The accused took the witness stand in his own defence earlier this week, describing an abusive childhood where his family moved 10 times within a decade, relocating between Montreal, Toronto and Calgary to get away from his birth father.

He said he, his mother and two older siblings lived mostly in homeless shelters during that time.

In his testimony, he described planning to go to a New Year's Eve party on the day of Harnett's death.

The vehicle was initially pulled over because it didn't have its lights on, court heard.

As the traffic stop continued and a second police car arrived, the youth said his anxiety level began to rise. When another officer and Harnett approached the vehicle, the accused said he panicked.

Defence counsel  Zachary Al-Khatib says that his client's state of mind and racialized background need to be considered. 

He noted that black racialized and other communities have different perspectives with street traffic stops and these communities have fundamentally different perceptions.

"What's common sense to a middle-aged person is very different from what makes sense to a young person with a racialized background," said Al-Khatib, referring to the Crown's arguments.

"It happened quickly, he panicked, and he was worried about his own safety. The defence's position is that his testimony should be accepted, he was not deceptive, he was honest about what he knew and what he did not."

He also refuted the claim that his client was concerned that police would search his vehicle, and said the accused and continues to regret the decision he made to flee ever since the incident. 

Al-Khatib argued that the 30 or 45minutes of having to wait during the traffic stop added to his client's anxiety. 

"During this entire time, no one is telling this young person what is going on.

"It doesn’t make sense that if there were highly problematic substances in the vehicle, that the young person gives all his information accurately, his friend's license and allows the officer to write down the VIN of the vehicle.

"The truth is, the young person is being honest. He saw what he saw, he made a bad decision, an immature decision, but that decision was not to murder Sergeant Harnett."

Al-Khatib went on to say that the accused had no intent of murdering Harnett and that his client misheard Addulrahman in the heat of the moment.

"He (the accused) heard the words 'go, go, go' as 'gun, gun, gun,' he notes now what the video says, but that's what was on his mind at the time."

The defence also argues that Harnett held onto the young person's vehicle as it sped away, which was out of his client's control. Al-Khatib says his client panicked further as Harnett was punching him in the face.

"He had to drive away, Sgt. Harnett had to hang on and the oncoming vehicle had to hit Harnett, and the latter two things were out of the young person's control."

Justice Anna Loparco is expected to deliver her verdict on Oct. 21. Top Stories

Stay Connected