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Family of slain Calgary police officer says he ‘loved life,’ embraced Alberta as home

Click to play video 'Calgarians mourning the loss of Sgt. Andrew Harnett, killed in the line of duty' Calgarians mourning the loss of Sgt. Andrew Harnett, killed in the line of duty
WATCH ABOVE: Many people have come to pay their respects at a small memorial where a Calgary police officer was killed during a traffic stop. As Jill Croteau reports, many are mourning the loss – Jan 1, 2021

The devastated family of Calgary police Sgt. Andrew Harnett says he was a passionate man who had always wanted to be a police officer.

Sgt. Harnett was killed after being struck and dragged by a vehicle while conducting a traffic stop on New Year’s Eve.

“I’d just like the people of Calgary to know they lost the finest officer, the most dedicated and passionate guy, someone who loved policing, someone who loved his family. He loved life,” Jason Harnett, Sgt. Harnett’s older brother, said Friday evening.

Read more: ‘An outstanding person’: Calgary police officer killed during New Year’s Eve traffic stop

“He had an amazing sense of humour, he was dedicated and passionate about getting into policing right from the get-go,” Jason said. “He knew what he wanted to be. Whenever profession came up, that’s what he wanted to do. And he found his way there.

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“His family loved him, we’re going to dearly miss him.”

Jason said Sgt. Harnett, who was 37, grew up in the town of Hagersville, Ont., but had embraced life in Calgary where he had been an officer for 12 years. He lived with his partner of more than five years lived in the nearby town of Strathmore, about 40 minutes east of Calgary.

“He really loved it out there,” Jason said. “He loved the rodeo… he loved wearing the cowboy fatigue. He was in the police rodeo. He was involved with the Legion.”

Jason said that Andrew was close to his family — the youngest of three brothers — and while his mother lives in Ontario, he was able to visit in the fall along with his partner Chelsea.

“We were his anchor,” Jason said, who also lives in Ontario. “We were really really fortunate to have him and Chelsea visit Ontario in September. They were able to get COVID tests and come here, and it was Andrew’s first visit in three years since the passing of our dad.”

His other brother Chris lives in Halifax, Jason said.

Sgt. Andrew Harnett with his mother and his brother Jason.
Sgt. Andrew Harnett with his mother and his brother Jason. Supplied by family

Jason said he believed Sgt. Harnett was drawn to police work because of the family’s history in the military — his other brother Chris and his grandfather both served.

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“He was so proactive. He was the type of police officer you’d want on the streets. Not waiting for crime, but looking for it, trying to prevent it.

“He was connected to many of the officers not only on a professional level but a personal level.”

Click to play video 'Calgary mayor says his heart is with family of officer killed during traffic stop on New Years Eve, thanks police for all their efforts' Calgary mayor says his heart is with family of officer killed during traffic stop on New Years Eve, thanks police for all their efforts
Calgary mayor says his heart is with family of officer killed during traffic stop on New Years Eve, thanks police for all their efforts – Jan 1, 2021

Jason added that Sgt. Harnett had also gotten to know Chief Mark Neufeld, who had planned to go on a ride-along with the sergeant because of his knowledge of the area he policed.

“Andrew was really passionate about the division, the area he policed in,” Jason said. “He was in the thick of it, and he really liked that, and he was really close to all of his officers.”

Sgt. Andrew Harnett
Sgt. Andrew Harnett. Credit: Calgary Police Service

His family said that the tragic start to the new year has been incredibly hard to get through, but the support of Calgary and other Canadians has taken some of the load off.

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“Thank you to everybody that’s reached out, through phone or social media or email,” Jason said. “Complete strangers are sharing so many really nice messages about my brother and his service.”

Read more: Calgary police group says family of slain officer not alone in grief

Jason added the family is going to look at ways they can get to Calgary to support Andrew’s spouse, friends, and colleagues, and then will likely hold a bigger celebration of life once larger gatherings are permitted.

“Andrew loved that city and people are going to miss a really good dedicated officer,” Jason said.

The two teenagers involved in the death of Sgt. Harnett both turned themselves in on Friday night. They both face charges of first-degree murder.

Click to play video 'Teens wanted for murder of Calgary police officer turn themselves in' Teens wanted for murder of Calgary police officer turn themselves in
Teens wanted for murder of Calgary police officer turn themselves in – Jan 1, 2021