K9 Harlej the Belgian Malinois was 5 years old when his career with the Fishers Police Department ended. He was one of many heroic dogs that worked hard to make a difference. He made the ultimate sacrifice by risking his life to save others. His handler, Officer Jarred Koopman, was devastated by the loss of his furry friend. Jarred’s family, friends, and co-workers all came to celebrate the life of this wonderful pooch.
Harlej’s Last Mission
On the day Harlej passed away, Jarred and Harlej were called to help with a manhunt. They had to chase down a 19-year-old suspect named Richard Garrett Jr. The suspect was armed, drunk, and uncooperative. He refused to listen to the police by continuously running off and putting others in danger.
No matter how far Jarred chased the suspect, the young man refused to surrender. Jarred knew that if anyone would be able to catch this person, it would be Harlej. So, he sent the brave pup out on his own to take this man down.
Harlej chased the suspect deeper into the woods. Jarred could no longer see his furry teammate, but he was confident that Harlej would get the job done as usual. But then he heard a gunshot.
The police immediately began searching for Harlej. Hours later, their worst nightmare became a reality. Harlej’s body was found.
Luckily, they also found the suspect not far away. He had a severe dog bite on his leg, making him unable to walk. Harlej had saved the day, but this time, no one had been able to save him.
“He saved my life and the officers’ lives that were there on scene,” Jarred said. “Harlej said to himself: ‘they need you more than you need me’. I am grateful for Harlej.”
In honor of Harlej, the police department organized a beautiful memorial for him. Hundreds of people attended and many of Harlej’s human friends got up to make speeches about the brave pup.
Jarred was too emotional to make a speech of his own that day. Instead, his wife, Kim Koopman, came forward and spoke about the hardship that their whole family faced. They have two kids under 10 years old, and all the family members were very close to Harlej.
“You wait for both of them to come home together,” said Kim. “So, when your husband calls you at 3:30 in the morning and starts the conversation with, ‘I am okay but Harlej is gone,’ a part of you crumbles. The loss feels unbearable.”
At the end of the memorial, a procession took place. This gave everyone a chance to say their goodbyes to Officer Harlej.
Currently, Jarred is taking time off to recover from this horrible event. Other officers that have lost their K9s are helping him get through this, but it will likely take a lot of time and patience. However, Jarred said that he’s working to forgive the man responsible.
“You have to forgive somebody with the mistakes he made. He has to live with what he did. Harlej came out a hero,” Jarred said.
Since news has spread about Harlej’s passing, many people have offered to help. Lots of kind individuals donated money to K9 units and humane societies in honor of Harlej. Harlej saved so many lives through his work, so his legacy will never be forgotten.
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