ORDERVILLE, Kane County — A community said goodbye to its hero Friday.
Kane County sheriff's deputy Brian Harris, shot and killed in the line of duty Aug. 26 while pursuing a burglary suspect, was laid to rest in the small Kane County town of Glendale.
More than 2,000 people packed the gymnasium of Valley High School in Orderville for Harris' funeral service. A couple hundred other people listened to an audio and video feed of the ceremony from adjacent auditoriums and even in the neighboring LDS Church meetinghouses in Orderville and Glendale.
The most emotional part of Friday's two-hour funeral service came when Harris' widow, Shawna, and his two daughters, Kirstyn, 13, and Kristina, 10, spoke publicly for the first time since their father's death, expressing their gratitude to the law enforcement community and everyone who had supported them over the past week.
"My dad was really great. I always looked up to him. He was my hero," Kirstyn Harris said while wiping away tears. "Every morning, I would tell him I loved him, and I never knew what would happen — I never thought this would happen. I thought nothing could happen in such a small community. I was wrong. I hate being wrong."
The Harris' LDS bishop, Eric Esplin, said some of the toughest questions he's had to answer over the past week were from Brian Harris' daughters: "Who will take me to daddy-daughter day at school? Did Heavenly Father really need my dad more than us? Who will drive my dad's derby car?"
Shawna Harris said it was extremely hard for her to stand and speak on Friday, but she felt compelled to tell everyone in the audience how much she loved them, especially law enforcement.
"Your call of duty is above and beyond what it should be, and we thank you for it," she said. "All officers who put their lives on hold for four days while looking for the man who caused all this, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
"Brian left a hole in this community. This hole in our hearts will forever remain empty. There is no one out there who can replace him."
Friday's service was attended by residents from all over Kane County and Fredonia, Ariz. The parking lot was filled bumper-to-bumper with police vehicles from both large and small agencies. The names on the vehicles read like a geography lesson of Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Idaho. Officers from La Verkin, St. George, Nephi, Duchesne, Lone Peak, Big Water, Boise, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Santa Clara, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Parowan, Casa Grande, Provo, Salt Lake City and Weber were just a few of those in attendance. Two officers from Chicago also made the trip to southern Utah to pay their respects.
After a morning viewing was over, Harris' casket, draped with an American flag, was rolled out of the auditorium and into the main gymnasium. Kane County Sheriff Lamonte Smith walked in front of the coffin. Behind it were 150 to 200 family members and law enforcers who had worked closest with Harris, including people from the Kane County Sheriff's Office; Kanab Police Department; Arizona Department of Public Safety; Utah Highway Patrol; Fredonia, Ariz., marshal; Page, Ariz., police; the Division of Natural Resources; and the Iron County Sheriff's Office. After the services ended, it took half an hour for those paying their respects just to get out of the school parking lot.
Despite the large crowd, much of Friday's funeral service felt like a gathering of close friends, all there to swap their favorite Brian Harris stories.
Many talked about how the lanky Harris as a teen loved pranks and often got into trouble. They talked about how in his adult years, after he became an officer, he had a love for the Cedar Mountain area and the people there, how he could fix anything and always had a project or 10 in his backyard, how everyone respected him and how he had a knack for defusing any situation. In telling these stories, many people mentioned with a smile that they could not use the same language that Harris did in front of others.
Smith called Harris his "lifeline" for fixing vehicles throughout the county.
"He was our man for equipment," Smith said. "He just had that talent of being able to figure things out."
On the day Harris was killed, Smith said he was in the shop, fixing a vehicle. Harris had police scanners in the shop, and when a call went out for backup, he was there.
"As soon as he heard that call, he dropped what he was doing, grabbed his equipment and went to where he needed to be. He was not one to be left behind," Smith said.
Lynn Spencer, Brian Harris' best friend, said Harris had many hidden talents as a teen, including sewing, two-step dancing and playing "Sweet Caroline" and "California Girls" on a tenor saxophone. He joked that being a police officer was a perfect fit for Harris because he "got to drive fast and carry a gun."
He talked about getting in trouble with Harris. But when Harris returned from Desert Storm, Spencer recalled going to a high school basketball game with him and how Harris chewed him out for not focusing directly on the American flag during the national anthem.
"He said, 'I just barely served my country for that flag.' I look at the flag and servicemen differently now because of that incident," Spencer said. "Brian's life might not have been perfect in his early years, but we can all look at his life now and call him a great man. Brian was my hero and always will be. I love him with all my heart and for the example that he was for me."
Many people commented on how Harris was always late, because no matter where he was going, he would stop to help someone who had a flat tire or who was stuck in a snowbank. They talked about how the loves of his life were his daughters and his wife.
"Brian, you rest, and when you're done resting, you go check in with your Heavenly Father and let him put you to work, because he's lucky to have you," said Kane County sheriff's chief deputy Tracy Glover. "We all look forward to serving again with you someday."
Friday's service was attended by several state officials, including Gov. Gary Herbert, corrections chief Tom Patterson and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
"This is probably the most difficult part of my job," Herbert said.
Herbert said it was a day to honor a fallen hero and a chance for everyone to remember that all police officers risk their lives to protect others.
"These people in law enforcement go out day after day and lay it on the line," he said. "This is a reminder of how fragile life can be. We all need to help each other through these difficult times."
Also in attendance Friday was Elder Randy W. Wilkinson of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
American flags lined U.S. 89 through all the neighboring communities of Glendale, Orderville and Mount Carmel against the red cliffs of the state's Color Country. Harris' home in Mount Carmel had an American flag and balloons that have been flying on his front gate since he was killed. A black flag with a single blue band across it also was posted at the front of his yard.7 comments on this story
Businesses as far south as Kanab posted messages on their marquees honoring Harris.
A large motorcade led the procession from the funeral in Orderville to the small Glendale Cemetery, where Harris was laid to rest.
A popular road for boaters trying to get to Lake Powell, especially on the start of Labor Day weekend, U.S. 89 was closed for two hours for Harris' funeral, backing up motorists who were unaware of the day's events.