Ex-po­lice agent armed him­self out of fear, lawyer says

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY+REGION - BRE MCA­DAM

REGINA Noel Harder had a loaded hand­gun and “ques­tion­able items” in his Range Rover be­cause the former po­lice agent has feared for his life ever since get­ting kicked out of wit­ness pro­tec­tion, his lawyer says.

Harder did not pos­sess the weapons for a dan­ger­ous pur­pose and was only pre­pared to use them if he felt it was nec­es­sary, Regina lawyer Linh Pham ar­gued dur­ing Harder’s bail hear­ing in Saska­toon pro­vin­cial court on Fri­day.

“I think the pub­lic should be aware that Mr. Harder was un­der the sig­nif­i­cant and im­mi­nent threat of in­di­vid­u­als try­ing to hurt him and his fam­ily,” Pham said out­side court.

In a rarely-seen choice, the de­fence did not re­quest a pub­li­ca­tion ban that would have pre­vented the re­port­ing of the bail hear­ing. Pham said his client would want the pub­lic to hear his side of the story.

Harder was ar­rested in the Sutherland neigh­bour­hood on Sept. 25 af­ter some­one re­ported see­ing a man “rack­ing ” a hand­gun — also known as cock­ing a gun — in a ve­hi­cle around 5:30 p.m. When po­lice ar­rived, Harder was un-co­op­er­a­tive, and asked “Do you know who I am?” and re­quested to speak with cer­tain of­fi­cers, Crown pros­e­cu­tor Evan Thomp­son said when de­tail­ing the al­le­ga­tions.

Harder was a mo­tor­cy­cle gang

The ques­tion is: Why did he have that hand­gun? He knows peo­ple are try­ing to hurt him and his fam­ily.

mem­ber who worked as a po­lice agent in Project Forseti, Saska­toon’s large-scale in­ves­ti­ga­tion into or­ga­nized crime in 2014. He was re­moved from the fed­eral wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gram last fall and is su­ing the RCMP.

The 39-year-old faces 26 weapons charges, in­clud­ing pos­sess­ing a loaded, re­stricted weapon (the hand­gun) and pos­sess­ing a weapon while be­ing pro­hib­ited to do so. Po­lice found the gun, an air soft pis­tol, a knife, an axe, bear spray and a fen­tanyl pill dur­ing the ve­hi­cle stop.

Pham told court that Harder armed him­self be­cause he thought he was be­ing “set up” that day.

Thomp­son said if ev­ery­one lived this way it would be “chaos,” ar­gu­ing there is “no pos­si­ble peace­ful pur­pose” for hav­ing a loaded weapon in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood dur­ing sup­per­time.

Harder thought his weapons pro­hi­bi­tion had ex­pired be­cause high-rank­ing of­fi­cers told him to arm him­self and en­cour­aged him to ap­ply for his gun li­cence, Pham said.

He now knows he can’t pos­sess these items and will not re­of­fend if re­leased from cus­tody, Pham told court. He said Harder should get bail be­cause he was over­charged, the al­le­ga­tions were “blown out of pro­por­tion” and his client’s last crim­i­nal con­vic­tion — for co­caine traf­fick­ing — was 15 years ago.

Pham’s pro­posed re­lease con­di­tions would re­quire Harder to live with his wife in Saskatchewan, on elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing if nec­es­sary.

Judge Natasha Crooks re­served her de­ci­sion un­til Oct. 16.

Court heard Harder had been liv­ing in East­ern Canada while in wit­ness pro­tec­tion, but re­turned to Saska­toon af­ter his iden­tity was com­pro­mised and some­one tried to at­tack his wife at their home.

“The ques­tion is: Why did he have that hand­gun? He knows peo­ple are try­ing to hurt him and his fam­ily. It’s been es­tab­lished and there’s even been in­stances of it. So we don’t think it was all that un­rea­son­able for an in­di­vid­ual in Mr. Harder’s cir­cum­stances to do what he did,” Pham told re­porters.

“It would ei­ther be you arm your­self or you risk get­ting your­self killed.”

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