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Two years later, Fishers K-9 Harlej's impact continues

Posted at 3:02 PM, Nov 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-13 15:02:28-05

FISHERS — Saturday marks two years since Fishers Police Department K-9 Harlej was shot and killed in the line of duty.

Since his death, the Department has continued to honor his memory and support his handler, Patrol Officer Jarred Koopman, who still works as a K-9 officer.

The two worked together from 2015 until 2019. Harlej lived with Officer Koopman and the two went to work together daily.

"It's hard to kind of put into words what it's like with a working dog because it's not a house pet ... they live to work. They love going out, finding drugs when we do walk arounds or whatever we may do. I say I have the best job in the world because I get to bring my dog to work every single day with me," Koopman said. "They're very loyal, they'll do anything for you. We just had a great bond."

Harlej would be excited to jump in the car when Koopman wore his uniform and the two would patrol the city waiting to hear how they could assist other officers. They also did several K-9 demos and stopped by to say hi to kids playing in neighborhoods.

MORE: Fishers K-9 Harlej gets final farewell at memorial service

"Everyone loves dogs. The dogs break down barriers because everyone can relate to their own animal," Koopman said. "Harlej and I, we were just out having fun and trying to do good things for the community and keep Fishers safe."

On November 13, 2019, officers were investigating a report of possible drunken driving on I-69. After a brief chase, the suspects stopped in the Saxony neighborhood and fled from their vehicle. K-9 Harlej was deployed to find the suspects and while he was searching in a wooded area, officers heard what they believed were shots fired from a gun.

Harlej was found dead in the woods. His death was the first line of duty death in the department's history. Both Chief Ed Gebhart and Koopman told WRTV that Harlej saved lives that night.

Follwing Harlej's death, police departments across the state shared messages of support online for the department and Officer Koopman.

MORE: Fishers police officer and wife pen tributes to fallen K-9 partner, Harlej

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Today, Harlej's image is featured in a display in the lobby and on a mural on the outside wall of the police department. The mural was completed in July 2021.

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A large mural featuring K-9 Harlej is on the back wall of the Fishers Police Department.

"It totally blew me away to see how big the mural was ... my wife and my two boys got to come and we got to paint the mural," Koopman said. "Nobody really had to do anything, but a lot of people wanted to do something."

A 2021 law, House Bill 1201, allows for working K9’s to be transported by medical personal via ambulance if the K9’s are injured while performing their working duties. Officer Koopman was able to speak to the General Assembly to share Harlej's story and attended the event where Governor Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law.

"What I had gone through with Harlej, I always said if I could help another handler or help another officer go home at the end of the night, I would do whatever I had to so they didn't have to experience what I had to," he said. "To go there and to be able to be a part of that... I'm like what a cool experience; this is all for K9s."

The Fishers Fire Department has already had a class on K9 medical care.

"This is really going to benefit not only our agency, but other agencies .... that maybe an incident happens where they're further away from medical needs," Koopman said. "It's so comforting to know that if my K9 partner gets hurt in the line of duty, there's medical personnel that if we need them right away, they're able to provide care right away."

Koopman's current partner, K9 Rico, joined the department in 2020.

"He's a good dog and I always say that he's my therapy dog that is well-trained," he said.