Opinions

Fairbanks policeman who died spoke of officers who 'are far greater and have done better things than I have'

FAIRBANKS — On Monday, he left us in shock, walking into a city council meeting and recounting the moment when a man with a gun ambushed him at arm's length.

"I've seen the hand of the Lord in my situation. Can you believe I was shot five times in the legs and I walked into this room?" Fairbanks Police Sgt. Allen Brandt said to a silent crowd gathered downtown at city hall.

"There's a bullet, it's almost healed up, but right here over my heart where my vest certainly saved by life," said Brandt, pointing to his chest with his right hand.

Brandt mentioned a matter of faith that was both hard to explain and easy to accept. He said he had felt called before the attack to tell his four young children and his wife of a terrible premonition. "Can you imagine telling your kids before you go to work that you're going to get shot?"

When the gunman unloaded a pistol on him, Brandt said he could think of nothing but the words he had shared with his wife and kids.

Then on Friday afternoon, he left us in shock again, as complications from eye surgery to remove shrapnel proved fatal in an Anchorage hospital room. Allen Brandt was 34.

At 8:30 p.m. on a 19-degree night in Fairbanks, hundreds of adults and kids — some of them in Halloween costumes, but no one with a light heart — gathered outside the police station to acknowledge the sacrifice.

They held candles, sang a verse from "Amazing Grace" led by the booming voice of volunteer organizer Alan Mitchell and listened to brief tributes from Acting Police Chief Brad Johnson and Fairbanks City Mayor Jim Matherly.

"He gave us a gift," Matherly said, citing Brandt's words to the council four days earlier. "He spoke to us about being united, about what it was like to be a police officer."

"He was the one that suffered this horrific event, yet he was thinking of his fellow officers. That room was silent. He gave thanks to God for his life and his family and his children and his wife and his fellow officers."

On Monday, Brandt spoke about his faith in God, the pressure of living life on guard at all times, the difficulty of working nights and hours lost from his family, and those he had worked with for nearly 12 years.

"We have many fine officers that are far greater and have done better things than I have," he said. "I know sometimes it's hard for officers to see whether or not the city supports us, but I've always said, by and large, the city does support its police officers."

"You know we're never gonna have the support of the criminals and the anarchists and, to tell you the truth, they don't have my support either. However, I do support their constitutional rights and their free exercise of them."

Brandt had turned to police work after dreaming in high school of becoming a professional pilot. Love of hunting and the outdoors brought him to Alaska as a teenager, and he earned a degree in communications at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2004.

A year later he completed training in the Alaska Police Corps and joined the Fairbanks Police Department. His communication skills came in handy as a traffic cop, and people who paid tickets at the city clerk's office often had kind words for the cop who wrote them up.

The department named him a sergeant in 2015 and he saw his career, the council said Monday, "as an opportunity to serve God and the Fairbanks community."

Just after the shooting and before the arrest of a 29-year-old in connection with the case, Eric Jewkes, a fellow Fairbanks policeman, told me that Brandt was a phenomenal person.

"I know that you would expect me to say that about anybody in this circumstance, but if you talk to anyone at the police department, they're going to say that any day of the week. They would have said it last week," said Jewkes, a Fairbanks policeman for 23 years.

"You will find no one that has a stronger sense of integrity or character than Allen Brandt," he said.

The city officially thanked Brandt on Monday with a resolution written in the stilted language of government documents, but it also said the council wanted to "extend its deepest appreciation to the Brandt family for sharing him with the city and its residents and offers its support during this difficult time."

No one knew on Monday just how difficult it would get.

Columnist Dermot Cole can be reached at dermot@alaskadispatch.com. 

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.

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