Just weeks ago, Dylan Harrison’s father tried to persuade him to leave law enforcement to be an electrician. Instead, Harrison redoubled his commitment to policing.
On his first part-time shift with a new agency, Harrison was shot dead last weekend in Middle Georgia. He’d sought the second job to supplement his full-time duties with a drug task force elsewhere in the state.
Ahead of Harrison’s funeral Friday, his relatives remembered a man always drawn to public service and to doing well by his wife and infant son.
He is among at least 111 US law enforcement officers who have died this year in the line of duty from nonmedical causes, according to a nonprofit that tracks such deaths.
“(Harrison’s father) was trying so hard to get him to apply for a job in the electrical field,” because he had just obtained his electrician’s certificate, Harrison’s mother, Kathy Harrison, told CNN affiliate WGXA this week.
“(But) he told me a few weeks ago … ‘Daddy, I love what I’m doing. I love helping people,'” the father, Jeff Harrison, told WGXA.
Harrison’s uncle shared a similar memory: “He told us that he wouldn’t be happy unless he was a law enforcement officer,” Michael Cauley told the TV station. “That’s just what he loved doing.”
‘The kindest, sweetest soul you would ever meet’
Harrison, 26, of Dublin, Georgia, already was a full-time agent with the Oconee Drug Task Force.
But to earn extra money, his family says, he’d recently taken a part-time job as a police officer in Alamo, about a 30-mile drive from Dublin and a 160-mile drive southeast of Atlanta.
During his first shift in Alamo, Harrison was fatally shot around 1 a.m. Saturday outside the police department, police said. Investigators believe Harrison was shot “ambush-style” in retaliation for an encounter hours earlier in which he used his Taser on a known associate of the man now jailed and charged with killing him, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news release.
On Monday, police vehicles escorted a hearse with Harrison’s remains from the bureau’s crime lab in Atlanta to Dublin.
His parents and other family members stood alongside a road there and watched the hearse drive into town. WGXA interviewed Harrison’s parents and Cauley then.
The 26-year-old was jovial and a prankster, Cauley told WGXA.
“He was just always happy and smiling. You see the pictures of him, he’s got these two dimples, and that just sum up what he was like. He was just a very happy, jovial guy. He’ll be missed.”
His survivors also include his wife, Heather Milks Harrison, and son, Brody Cash Harrison.
“I wish y’all could have known him,” Kathy Harrison told WGXA. “He was the kindest, sweetest soul you would ever meet.”
Suspect faces murder and other charges
Authorities have arrested Damien Ferguson, 43, of Alamo, on suspicion of killing Harrison. He was charged with murder and bias motivated intimidation of first responders in connection with the shooting, and aggravated stalking for a separate incident, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
Ferguson had an initial court appearance Tuesday but has not had a chance to enter a plea. He did not have a lawyer listed for him on Thursday, according to the clerk’s office in Laurens County, where Ferguson was jailed.
Harrison had taken the part-time job in Alamo to earn more money “to buy a new house,” the uncle, Michael Cauley, told WGXA.
But his affinity for civic service ran deep, Cauley said.
“He joined the … volunteer fire department when he was 16, 18 years old,” Cauley told the TV station. “He just dedicated his life to service, and that’s what he was all about.”
Harrison held several public safety jobs as an adult. He had been a full-time firefighter at Southside Fire Department on Georgia’s Wilmington Island before working as a 911 operator for Laurens County, according to his obituary.
He also had been a part-time police officer with Middle Georgia College, the city of Cochran, and the East Dublin Police Department.
Harrison’s funeral is scheduled for Friday morning at the DuBose Porter conference center in Dublin.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp offered his condolences to Harrison’s family Saturday on Twitter.
Alamo Police Chief Karen Zanders had “never experienced a grief that I have felt since Officer Dylan Harrison’s life was taken in our small, quiet town,” she said.
“Officer Harrison was a husband, a son and, more importantly, he was the father of a 6-month-old boy,” Zanders told reporters on Sunday.
“His life was taken from him for simply doing his job,” she said. “We will never forget Officer Harrison and the fact that he made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the safety of each one of us.”
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