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police fatality

Const. Rob Plunkett, 43, was killed following an incident with a car during a criminal investigation into a theft in Markham.

Less than 48 hours after a police officer in southern Ontario was dragged and crushed to death in a traffic stop involving a teenage driver, the last act in an unrelated but strangely similar tragedy was unfolding at a nearby courthouse.

Nadeem Jiwa was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in jail for manslaughter. He was 19 years old when he was behind the wheel of a stolen car that killed an officer from the same police force, York Regional Det. Constable Robert Plunkett, in 2007.

A father of three, Det. Constable Plunkett was working surveillance and had been watching Mr. Jiwa for several hours when he and his partner moved in to arrest him and another man for stealing airbags from parked cars. The killer suddenly reversed the stolen Honda, pinning Det. Constable Plunkett against a tree as he hung on to the driver's open door and severing his aorta.

On Tuesday, Constable Garrett Styles, a 32-year-old father of two, was killed in the line of duty after he pulled over four teenagers in a Dodge Caravan on a highway north of Toronto. Its unlicensed, 15-year-old driver allegedly hit the gas as the constable attempted to remove the keys from the ignition, and as the van sped forward, the officer was dragged about 300 metres and then crushed as the van rolled on top of him.

The driver, still in hospital with serious injuries, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder, and is scheduled to appear in court July 7. Media reports said Wednesday night that the boy is now a quadriplegic.

The events of the previous day were lost on no one in the Newmarket courtroom Wednesday - in a brief statement outside, Det. Constable Plunkett's widow, Sonja, alluded to the loss shared by the two officers' families.

"Another journey has just begun," she said.

The jury's manslaughter verdict in the death of Det. Constable Plunkett in April was a major disappointment for her and other relatives and supporters, who had hoped Mr. Jiwa, 23, would be convicted of murder and receive an automatic life term.

In general, a finding of manslaughter means that a death was not intentional.

With time already spent in custody - still calculated on a two-for-one basis because new federal regulations that have ended the practice are not retroactive - he will have just over four years to serve, but will likely be paroled before that.

Co-accused Baseer Mohammed Yousaf-Zai pleaded guilty to airbag theft in October, 2007, and was given an eight-month jail term.

Widely mourned, Det. Constable Plunkett had earned a bravery award in 1998 for rescuing a senior from a frozen lake, and for 20 years he took an active role with the Special Olympics.

Along with his family, the big courtroom was filled with spectators and supporters of the Plunketts, including York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe. As they hugged each other after the hearing, some crying, the sentence handed down by Madam Justice Michelle Fuerst appeared to give a measure of satisfaction.

A smaller number of Mr. Jiwa's family and friends were also in court. His mother, Izzat, teared up as the sentence was imposed, and left the courthouse without speaking.

A high-school dropout, her son was living with her in Scarborough when he killed Det. Constable Plunkett. At the time Mr. Jiwa was free on bail in another airbag-theft case and under a home curfew that he had ignored.

The judge said Det. Constable Plunkett's death has had a "profound" impact on the officer's family, who earlier this month delivered powerful victim-impact statements at Mr. Jiwa's trial..

Judge Fuerst noted that Mr. Jiwa made no effort to help the officer as he lay dying, but instead tried to flee. She also doubted his insistence that he didn't know he was being arrested by police when he suddenly gunned the car's engine.

"The community is outraged and the sentence should reflect that," she said.

Prosecutors had asked for a penitentiary term of at least 12 years, while the defence had sought a term of five to seven years.

Clad in a grey sweater and white shirt, Mr. Jiwa displayed no emotion as he stood in the prisoner's box to hear sentence passed.

He had no prior criminal record and has voiced some remorse for killing Det. Constable Plunkett.

Outside court, his lawyer, Laurence Cohen, said no decision had been made about any possible appeals but that his client was "greatly disappointed" with the outcome.

A full police funeral for Constable Styles will be held Tuesday in Newmarket.

With a report from Jill Mahoney