Jeremiah Neumann recalled the moment his fiancée, Seattle police Officer Alexandra “Lexi” Brenneman Harris, decided to become a cop: They were driving north on Interstate 5, just north of the Interstate 405 interchange, when a black and white patrol car passed Neumann’s truck.
“Lexi paused for a moment and looked at me and asked, ‘Should I become a police officer?’ Without hesitation, I said, ‘You’d be an amazing police officer.’ And that’s exactly what she became,” Neumann said from a podium set up along the third baseline at T-Mobile Park on Thursday, where police officers from around the region gathered to remember the fearless and funny five-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department.
Harris, 38, was on her way home after her shift at the West Precinct on June 13 when she stopped to help at a crash scene on southbound Interstate 5 near South Forest Street and was fatally struck by a car.
Neumann, who in his remarks thanked the Washington State Patrol troopers who investigated Harris’ accidental death and the Seattle firefighters who rendered aid in her last moments, said during the recruiting process, Harris received job offers from several police agencies.
“She chose Seattle because — in her words — it was her city,” he said of Harris, who was born in Seattle and grew up in the Wallingford neighborhood.
He said he was grateful that their last words to each other were, “I love you.”
Before the afternoon memorial service, Harris’ flag-draped casket was escorted from a Burien funeral home to the Seattle ballpark in a procession of police vehicles.
“Lexi’s loss was devastating to us and her fellow officers,” Seattle police Chief Adrian Diaz said in his welcoming address. “Each day since we lost her, my appreciation for the impact she had on this department has grown. … I truly believe Lexi’s legacy is a guide for the entire Police Department.”
“I thank you for what you have taught this department,” Diaz added. “We will miss you.”
Outside the stadium Thursday morning, friends, family and strangers alike lined the sidewalks, watching in silence as a group of about 100 police officers in bike formation led the procession. The officers turned onto First Avenue South, passing two firetrucks with their ladders crossed in the overcast sky to hold up an American flag.
The officers then turned onto South Royal Brougham Way, splitting off to stand on opposite ends of the street. They bowed their heads in a display of respect as other law enforcement officers saluted Harris, before the silence was broken by the sound of bagpipes and drums.
Among the people watching were Emeri Hansen and Clinton Radovich, family friends of Harris, who both described her as a “real life super woman.”
Harris worked in the personal fitness industry before becoming a police officer. Her decision to make her life one of service says a lot about her, Hansen said.
“She changed her career to serve the community, to serve the city, and she didn’t have to,” Hansen said.
To her friends, Harris was Seattle’s Wonder Woman — and not just because of the double W tattoo inked on her forearm, the symbol of the DC Comics super hero. A video slide show of photos taken throughout her life included images of Harris, a martial artist who practiced jiu-jitsu, doing gravity-defying, one-handed body lifts.
She was remembered as a warrior who was also kind and approachable, and as an officer who easily connected with and helped calm the people in crisis she encountered as a member of the night bike squad.
Sgt. Brian Kraus, Harris’ supervisor, first on the bike squad and then with the Community Response Group, said he was impressed by Harris’ ability to maintain a positive outlook even in the most trying situations.
“I think her ultimate goal was to be the best officer she could be,” he said.
Kraus joked that even though Harris was the newest member of the bike squad, she instantly excelled at one skill: falling off her bike.
“Lexi crashed a lot. Any obstacle she faced could defeat her immediately. Even a flat, dry roadway was a threat to her at times,” Kraus said. “While dozens of crashes would hurt many of our egos, not Lexi. She just got up, dusted herself off, laughed, hopped on her bike and went riding again.”
After Kraus and Harris had transferred to the Anti-Crime Team, now known as the Community Response Group, “Guess what she excelled at? That’s right: Now she was crashing four wheels instead of two,” Kraus said, recalling the time Harris crashed the unit’s van into a patrol car.
“I’ve done this job for just about 33 years and I’ve seen many shining stars,” Kraus said. “I can tell you that Lexi shined just a little bit brighter.”
Officer Cali Hinzman, with whom Harris co-hosted The Leaderist, a podcast aimed at improving relationships between police and the communities they serve, said Harris’ “outward fearlessness and innate humanity” made her extraordinary.
“She was and is the best friend I have ever had,” said Hinzman, who recalled witnessing Harris eat 600 tortilla chips in a single sitting and remembered how Harris would sleep with her eyes open and cry during certain TV commercials.
“I will hold onto those memories along with countless others that are so important to me that I will likely never share them with another person,” Hinzman said. “You see, that’s the difficulty when you meet someone as special as Lexi, when they’re gone, there’s this void that can never be filled. There’s only one Lexi and for that I am both forever grateful and forever sad.”
In addition to her fiancé and his daughters, Berlyn and Aris Neumann, Harris is survived by her parents, Laird Harris and Rebecca Brenneman, and her brother Ben.