FISHERS, Ind. – Officer Jarred Koopman is struggling to say goodbye to his partner and best friend, K9 Harlej. On Friday, he said he is overwhelmed by the amount of support from people across the country.
Earlier this month, Harlej was shot and killed while tracking an armed suspect in Fishers. Koopman called his dog a hero.
“He saved my life and the officers’ lives that were there on scene,” he said. “Harlej said to himself they need you more than you need me. I am grateful for Harlej. At the end of the day, his job is so I can go home with my boys and my wife.”
Through tears, Koopman said he is grateful for being here today with his family. His sons are under 10 years old. Koopman said everything would be different if Harlej did not take that bullet in the woods.
“I heard the gunshot in the woods and I knew in the back of my mind that single shot was for Harlej,” he said.
Koopman became Harlej’s handler almost 5 years ago. He said this loss is something you can never really prepare for.
“Just taking it day by day and honoring Harlej for what he gave to me and the department and my squad,” Koopman said.
He said the support from the community through messages and donations makes it a little easier.
“I can not keep up with all of the messages I have received on social media,” he said.
At Indy Humane, there is a support group that meets the first Tuesday of every month to help pet owners through their grief.
“Not a lot of people have that experience of losing a pet and so sharing that experience with other people will often allow you to move forward from that,” Jessica Snyder, a veterinarian at Indy Humane.
Officer Koopman said he is trying to move forward too by forgiving the man accused of taking away his partner.
“You have to forgive somebody with the mistakes he made. He has to live with what he did. Harlej came out a hero,” Koopman said.
Koopman has not been back to work yet. He said he needs time. Other officers who have lost their dogs in the line of duty have reached out to guide him through this process.