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3 fallen officers remembered: 'Sometimes we don't honor them enough'

Published: Thursday, May 5 2011 5:01 p.m. MDT

Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith hugs the family of his fallen deputy, Brian Harris, at the law enforcement memorial at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 5, 2011. Brian's wife Shawna and two daughters Kirsten and Kristina were present as Brian's name was honored with a plaque along with Sevier County Sheriff's Sgt. Franco Aguilar and Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer Joshua Yazzie at the memorial.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Three Utah law enforcers, each from different races and backgrounds, were honored at the Utah Capitol on Thursday.

What ties them together is they were all brothers in the law enforcement community, each killed in the line of duty.

"We might be diverse in our beliefs, in our cultures, the way that we do things. But we all grieve. We all pray. These honorable people, sometimes we don't honor them enough," said Darrell Larose, a Native American who was there with other Native Americans to honor Bureau of Indian Affairs officer Josh Yazzie.

On Thursday, the plaques holding three names of officers killed in the line of duty last year were added to the Utah Fallen Officers' Memorial: Yazzie, who was killed in a rollover accident June 7, 2010, in Roosevelt; Sevier County Sheriff's Sgt. Franco Aguilar who was knocked off a bridge and plummeted to his death on April 29, 2010, while assisting a motorist who had crashed on an icy part of I-70; and Kane County sheriff's deputy Brian Harris, who was shot and killed Aug. 26, 2010, while chasing a suspected burglar.

Four officers were killed in the line of duty in Utah in 2010. Josie Greathouse Fox was shot and killed in January during a traffic stop. Her name was added to the wall during last year's ceremony.

One of the most heartfelt tributes to Yazzie and the other two men came at the end of the state's scheduled portion of the ceremony when a group of Native Americans sang in a drum circle in front of the memorial.

"In our way, we use the drum. We sing to the Creator," Larose explained to the crowd. "We ask the Creator to accept him into his world. We thank them for what they gave us, the ability to live. ... We ask the Creator to wrap his long arms around them, take them home again."

Before starting the drum circle, Larose concluded by saying, "People will know these men didn't die, but these men lived."

During the ceremony, attended by Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Harris' wife, Shawna, delivered the keynote address.

She recalled how she heard a lot of traffic on the police scanners in her house the day her husband was killed, but didn't think much of it until a friend called her to say he heard an officer had been killed. A short time later, she saw deputies from the sheriff's office walking up her driveway.

"I knew it was Brian," she said.

She thanked the deputies who had the difficult task of breaking the news to her.

After the ceremony, Harris said she was happy that Utah took time to remember and honor all of the officers killed.

"It helps to heal," she said. "We're just thankful Utah honored him that way."

Brian Harris is survived by his wife and two daughters. Shawna Harris described her daughters since their father's death as "getting by."

"We just get by because that's what we have to do," she said.

After her husband's name was placed on the wall, Harris, her two daughters and the Kane County sheriff embraced in a group hug.

Yazzie's two young children placed his name on the wall. Many of his friends and relatives all wore red shirts that said "In Loving Memory" of Yazzie on the front.

For Jamie Aguilar, Thursday's ceremony comes on the one year anniversary of her husband's funeral. Franco Aguilar, the first Hispanic Utah law enforcer killed in the line of duty, loved to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Sevier County declared Thursday Franco Aguilar Day, his wife said.

Aguilar said it had been an emotional year for her family, and Thursday's memorial service stirred up a lot of emotions again.

"But it brings a little bit of closure," she said.

The ceremony included the playing of "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes, a 21-gun salute and Taps.

Email: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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