A Seattle police officer who had just finished a shift was killed early Sunday while attempting to render assistance at a three-car collision on Interstate 5 just south of downtown Seattle.
Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey of the Seattle Police Department said the officer’s family and the entire department are devastated by the loss. The officer was 38-year-old Alexandra Brenneman Harris, who went by Lexi, her father Laird Harris said Sunday. She had served with SPD for five years.
The Washington State Patrol is looking for an individual involved in the collision who subsequently stole Harris’ private vehicle, WSP Capt. Ron Mead said.
The three-car collision happened at about 1:18 a.m. Sunday in the HOV lane of southbound I-5, where traffic had piled up due to an earlier 10- to 13-car collision, police said. The earlier incident occurred around 11:43 p.m. Saturday on southbound I-5 near Spokane Street.
Harris had gotten out of her car to help when she was struck by the driver of a fourth vehicle.
After Harris was hit but before state police arrived, one of the drivers involved in the three-car collision drove off in Harris’ private vehicle, state police said. That vehicle was found abandoned Sunday morning and is being held for evidence, according to a WSP news release.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Harris remained at the scene and is cooperating with WSP, which is leading the investigation, Mead said.
“It really speaks to where we are as a society, where we have such callousness when it comes to loss of life,” Mead said at a news conference in Bellevue on Sunday afternoon.
Harris, a Seattle native, grew up in Wallingford and attended Nova High School, her father said. She studied human kinetics at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and worked in the personal fitness industry for years after college. She managed a 24 Hour Fitness in Las Vegas, but lived in Seattle for most of her adult life.
About six years ago friends suggested Harris check out an SPD recruiting event, and she liked the way the department approached policing, her father said. Her first patrol was in Queen Anne, and she later spent two years on bike patrol downtown, on the overnight watch.
“She would stop on the streets and talk to the homeless people,” treating everyone with compassion, her father said.
While at SPD Harris became involved in the department’s wellness unit, which focused on officers’ physical and mental health. She also started a side venture and helped create a podcast called “The Leaderist,” which is about “improving the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
“It was typical Lexi,” Laird said of how she died. “It was in her nature. I’m sure her major thought was getting people out of danger.”
First responders and public officials throughout the region expressed grief Sunday.
“Our heart goes out today to the family & friends of the officer tragically killed while trying to help others following a collision,” Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote on Twitter. “The officer’s service to our community went beyond their shift & we can never repay this officer for putting the life of others ahead of their own.”
“This is devastating. Our hearts are with the officer’s family and our brothers and sisters at SPD,” the Bellevue Police Department wrote on Twitter.