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