Seattle police on Monday continued to mourn the death of a well-respected colleague who was fatally struck by a car on southbound Interstate 5, after she stopped to help motorists involved in a collision.
Officer Alexandra "Lexi" Harris, 38, was driving home early Sunday after her shift when she came across the crash scene near South Forest Street and was killed after getting out of her car, according to Seattle police and the Washington State Patrol, which is leading the investigation.
Few additional details about the crash emerged Monday: Trooper Rick Johnson said the collision is still under investigation, and the WSP is actively looking for a person who was involved in the crash and fled the scene in Harris' private vehicle, which was later found abandoned. The driver who struck Harris is cooperating with investigators, he 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 from an earlier 10- to 13-car collision, police said Sunday. 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.
Harris died from multiple blunt-force injuries and her death was ruled an accident, according to the King County Medical Examiner's Office.
Harris had served in the police department's West Precinct and in the department's Wellness Unit, a group focused on supporting officers' mental and physical health, says a post on the department's online blotter. Most recently, she was assigned to the Community Response Group, a large group of officers poised to respond to protests and serve as backup on investigations and 911 calls throughout the city.
"Lexi leaves behind a tight-knit family, including her fiancé and his daughters. One colleague said Lexi adored the girls and referred to them as her 'bonus daughters,'" the SPD post says.
Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Harris embodied everything the police department is working to become, according to the post.
"Her dedication to the people of this city is an example to every member of our department, and all those who will come after her," Diaz said.
Harris is survived by her parents, Laird Harris and Rebecca Brenneman; her brother Ben Harris; her life partner Jeremiah Neuman; and stepdaughters Berlyn and Aris Neuman, says a statement issued Monday by her family.
"Lexi was a dedicated Seattle Police officer who loved her work and was committed to bringing her considerable thoughtfulness and vision to the challenges of serving the community through compassionate policing," the statement says. "She also was a daughter, sister, a partner and 'mother-by-choice' and for whom family was paramount. Her sudden death is a shock and leaves a hole in the fabric of the lives of her family and friends."
Harris grew up in Wallingford and attended Nova High School, her father, Laird Harris, told The Seattle Times. 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 she 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.
Harris co-hosted a podcast called The Leaderist, which is about "improving the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve."
In the podcast's first episode, which was recorded in December, Harris revealed she had been watching old episodes of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," and spoke of her passion for fitness, her drive to consistently improve her skills as a police officer, and the experience of responding to last summer's protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing by police in Minneapolis. Harris said she clocked more than 100 hours of overtime on one paycheck during that time.
"There's no other career I can think of where you're just going to meet people you'd never meet any other way and have conversations (you wouldn't otherwise have)," Harris said. "I really do appreciate that part of the job. It keeps it fun and new."
In an April episode of the podcast, Harris said: "I still love my job, I still like being out there ... It's tough but I'm not ready to give up."
Seattle police have not yet released plans for a public memorial service.