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Deputy Brian Harris remembered as fun, but with a serious, responsible side

SHARE Deputy Brian Harris remembered as fun, but with a serious, responsible side

MOUNT CARMEL, Kane County — When Brian Harris graduated from high school, he hardly looked like a police officer — let alone someone who wanted to go into the military.

"He was 6-foot-7, 160 pounds," his brother Boyd Harris told the Deseret News Friday. "He had to gain 16 pounds to get into the Army. He lifted weights, ate a lot of ice cream."

That story of Harris eating ice cream to gain weight immediately reminded other family members about his days in high school when he convinced the lunch ladies he couldn't eat cheese, even though he drank milk.

"Brian hated cheese. He convinced the school lunch ladies he was allergic to cheese," his brother Blair Harris recalled.

The slain officer will be honored Monday at 7 p.m. in a candlelight vigil at the Kane County Courthouse in Kanab. His fellow officers lauded him Friday in an official news release from the sheriff's office: "We … are greatly saddened at the loss of our friend, our brother and our colleague," the release said. "He performed his duties and responsibilities to the very end with honor and integrity. Our hearts are heavy with this senseless and tragic loss. He will be greatly missed."

The lunchroom attendants added to the general sense of community loss. They said they would specifically make special meals without cheese just for the genial officer.

"The last week of school, he let them know he tricked them," Blair Harris said with a chuckle.

Friday, there were many stories told in and around Harris' house as family members and friends from the entire county stopped by. Brian Harris lived with his wife, Shawna, and two daughters, 13-year-old Kirsten and 10-year-old Kristina, in the small home right off the main road through town.

The Kane County sheriff's veteran shot and killed in the line of duty Thursday while pursuing a suspected burglar was remembered as a man who could be a jokester at times. But when it came to his job and dedication to his family, there was no fooling around.

"He was as fun-loving as you could find. But when the fun was over, he took his responsibilities very seriously. It was done with dedication and as close to perfection as he could manage," his brother Boyd Harris said.

An American flag with a black ribbon and red and blue balloons flew from Harris' front gate Friday. His house was easy to spot because of the numerous cars parked in front. A stream of people bringing food to the family or just stopping by to give support continued nearly all day.

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized as of Friday, but family members said Harris would be buried in the Orderville Cemetery where his son, who died at childbirth, is buried. Trust funds have been set up at the Bank of Southern Utah and all Zions Bank branches under Harris' name.

Harris was raised in Glendale, just up the road from Mount Carmel in Kane County. He played on the high school baseball and basketball teams. He also got into a little mischief at times.

Boyd Harris recalled the time his brother and some friends caught a skunk and put it in the bushes outside the principal's window. It wasn't discovered for two weeks.

Brian is the third oldest of six Harris boys and one girl. He was the toughest to raise, according to his father, because of a rebellious side.

"He wanted to do things his way," his father said.

His brothers believe Brian Harris joined the Army after high school just to be rebellious. But it was also because he always wanted to be in law enforcement, and local authorities told him the best way to get hired was to get some military experience.

After gaining the necessary weight, he joined the U.S. Army, became a Howitzer mechanic and served in the Gulf War, according to family members.

His brothers said he was always busy or had a project he was working on, as evidenced by the half-dozen vehicles parked near his home that he had been tinkering with. All of them were in running condition, a family member said.

"He had to be doing something. He didn't take days off. He took days off from his 'job,' but he still worked," Boyd Harris said. "He was our family's go-to guy if any of us ever had a problem."

"If he didn't know how to do it, he'd figure out how to do it," Blair Harris said.

Brian Harris loved the outdoors and camping with his family, hunting and four-wheeling. His brothers said they aren't really sure why he picked law enforcement as a career because almost everyone else in the family is a truck driver.

"It made for interesting dinner conversations," Blair said with a laugh. "We'd tell people, 'We're not yelling; we're discussing.' We could get loud."

In recent years, Harris also was elected to the Orderville City Council and served as president of the Lions Club for seven years.

Mike Kenner, a longtime resident of Duck Creek Village in the northern part of Kane County, said Harris was a friend to the entire county. On his days off, Harris would volunteer to plow the roads in the winter. And he solved a recent burglary spree in the area.

"Things he'd do unconditionally for other people," Kenner said. "His love for the county stretched beyond Kanab."

Bruce Harris said his son most enjoyed saving people and animals as part of his job, and he was the one lowered from helicopters during rescues.

"He figured there was nobody better than him to put it out on the line," Bruce Harris said.

Brian Harris attended the funeral of Millard County sheriff's deputy Josie Greathouse Fox earlier this year. She, too, was shot and killed in the line of duty. Harris volunteered to attend the funeral on his own time and was not paid by the department for going, his family said.

"He treated his job with dedication and respect," Boyd Harris said.

As storm clouds rolled through Utah's color country Friday, Blair Harris said it was almost appropriate as a dark cloud had been placed over the region that stretched from Fredonia, Ariz., north to as far as the eye could see.

"He was just a great guy," he said. "I don't know what I can say to do him justice."

Contributing: Associated Press

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com