Published On: Thu, May 17th, 2018

Hammer-wielding police officer gets community service

Judge court gavelPHILIPSBURG – Police officer Bernadette Augusta Harrigan saw red during an argument with her sister on September 30 of last year and she took a swing at her sibling with a claw hammer. The sister sustained a slight injury and Harrigan, 43, was sentenced for her acts on Wednesday to 60 hours of community service, after the prosecution dropped charges for attempted manslaughter.

The two sisters live in the same building – one upstairs, one downstairs. When the sister wanted to install security cameras, Harrigan objected and when her sister persisted by installing them anyway, she took a hammer with the intention to take the cameras down.

What transpired exactly remains somewhat unclear. Did the sister push Harrigan from the stepladder she used to reach the cameras? The court studied video footage and did not find a clear answer. What was clear however is that Harrigan, once she’d stepped down or was pushed from the ladder swung her hammer towards her sister.

The public prosecutor spoke of a long-lasting conflict between the two sisters. “But was the defendant pushed off the ladder? That is important for the legal qualification – attempted manslaughter, serious ill-treatment or ill-treatment.”

The prosecutor concluded that Harrigan had swung the hammer, but not in a particular direction, and certainly not towards her sisters head.

He asked the court to acquit Harrigan of attempted manslaughter and to sentence her for ill-treatment with a weapon to 60 hours of community service.

Attorney Cindy Marica told the court that her client had been attacked by her sturdily built and aggressive sister. “Anyone would have reacted the same way in this situation,” she said. “I ask the court to acquit my client of ill-treatment. It cannot even be established where the sister sustained injuries. My client acted out of self-defense.”

Marica added that her client has more than fifteen years of service at the police force to her name. She asked the court for an acquittal or for dropping all charges.

But the judge had a different opinion and sentenced Harrigan for an attempt to cause her sister grievous bodily harm. “This was not self-defense. You were not threatened to such an extent that you had to defend yourself this way. This is an incident that went out of control.”