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Slain Utah deputy remembered as pillar of community

Published August 27, 2010 11:42 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Fredonia, Ariz. • A Kane County sheriff's deputy's family, friends and colleagues grieved Friday, even as a determined contingent of Utah and Arizona law officers looked for his alleged killer near the Utah-Arizona state line.

Law enforcement from Arizona and Utah converged on this small Arizona town, about 10 miles south of Kanab, to scour the desert foothills for 23-year-old robbery suspect Scott Curley. Police say he shot and killed deputy Brian Harris, 41, with a high-powered rifle. The shooting occurred at 2:23 p.m. during a foot pursuit, said Valerie Ausband, a spokeswoman for the Coconino County Sheriff's Office.

Harris' friends and family gathered at the slain deputy's home Thursday night in Mount Carmel to offer comfort and condolences.

"He was our go-to guy," said his mother, Bonnie Harris. "He did everything for us."

Harris was a veteran of the Gulf War, having served in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1992. He loved law enforcement and had hoped to be in the military police, but his 6-foot-7-inch frame made him too tall for the job, brother Bert Harris said.

He said his brother joined the Sheriff's Office after returning from the war and enjoyed his work, especially rescuing lost or stranded people on Cedar Mountain.

"He loved law enforcement. It was his thing," said his father, Bruce Harris.

Harris was a native of Long Valley in Kane County. He was raised in nearby Glendale and went to Valley High School in Orderville, where he graduated in 1987.

Blake Harris said he played basketball and baseball in high school.

"He had the biggest strike zone of anyone in the league," he said.

Harris leaves behind his wife of nearly 18 years, Shawna, and two daughters, Kirsten, 13, and Kristina, 10. A son, Bo, died at birth.

Brian Harris' role in the community went beyond his work in law enforcement. He was involved with the local Lion's Club and had been elected this year to the Orderville City Council, said fellow Councilman Marty Hepworth.

"On the council, he had a cool, level head and good judgment," he said.

Hepworth said a co-worker informed him of Harris' death about 6 p.m. Thursday.

"It was a shock," Hepworth said. "The whole community is just kind of in a shock right now. This kind of thing doesn't happen down here."

Hepworth said Harris enjoyed spending time with his daughters, recently taking them to an LDS girls camp on Cedar Mountain for three days.

"He's a good guy, kind of a pillar in the community, I guess you could say," Hepworth said.

Boyd Harris said his brother was working on police radios on Thursday afternoon at the Kane County Sheriff's Office in Kanab when he heard an officer call for help from an area near Fredonia.

"He was the first one to respond to a call for help," said Boyd Harris.

Harris' father said he learned from police that his son was tracking a man in some brush when he came to the top of the ridge and spotted him.

"[Brian] told him to drop his rifle and put his hands where he could see them, and he was shot in the head," said Bruce Harris.

He said his son was wearing full SWAT gear, including a bullet-resistant vest, and was carrying a rifle.

Ausband said Curley's rifle had a scope. She said "two distinct fire exchanges" occurred Thursday between police and Curley.

The first shooting, in which Harris was killed, happened 3 miles east of Fredonia, Ariz.

Curley is described as American Indian, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 170 pounds. Law enforcement from the Iron County Sheriff's Office, the St. George and Kanab police departments, the National Park Service, the Highway Patrol and other Arizona jurisdictions were taking part in the search for Curley, which went on into the night.

He is suspected in other recent crimes in the area.

About 10 p.m. Wednesday, a burglar pointed a long gun at a custodian at the Fredonia-Moccasin School District. Superintendent Nick Bartlett said the custodian was walking outside an elementary school when he turned a corner and found the man.

Bartlett said there was some talk between the two men, while the gunman, now presumed to be Curley, continued pointing the gun. The man let the custodian go, Bartlett said, and police began a search.

Bartlett said the Fredonia schools have had a series of thefts in the past three months. But rather than valuable items, Bartlett said, the burglar has been stealing "weird" things like a box of burritos.

"I'm suspecting it was this person," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said the district sent children home about an hour and 15 minutes early Thursday after police received a report that Curley was about a mile east of the schools.

Harris is the 133rd Utah law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty and the 74th murdered. He is the first deputy from Kane County to be killed.

"It's not supposed to happen this way," Bruce Harris said. "You're not supposed to bury your kid."






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