Body of Fairbanks officer shot in the line of duty is returned home

A flight carrying the body of Fairbanks Police Department Sgt. Allen Brandt took a detour over Denali on Tuesday, a request made on behalf of Brandt's 8-year-old son, who rode with his father's casket from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

The boy was among those who helped place Brandt's body aboard the plane Tuesday afternoon, following a police motorcade through the city of Anchorage where hundreds of law enforcement officers and everyday citizens paused to pay their respects for the fallen officer.

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Brandt — who was shot while on duty Oct. 16 — died of complications from eye surgery Friday, almost two weeks after the shooting. His body had been transported to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Anchorage.

Many Anchorage residents stopped their day to watch as the motorcade made its way from the office on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to depart on a charter flight for Fairbanks, ahead of a planned memorial service in the Interior city Brandt called home.

At least 50 people stood along one side of East Tudor Road near its intersection with Elmore Road — with a couple of dozen more watching from an overpass there — to honor Brandt as law enforcement vehicles moved at a somber crawl down Tudor with lights flashing just before noon Tuesday.

Some held signs depicting blue ribbons. One read, "HERO." Another, "Our thoughts and prayers with the Brandt family."

Many of those standing along Tudor came out from the nearby Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium building to watch the procession. Shae Aliu, who works at there, said her husband also works in law enforcement.

"It's just to let law enforcement know there are people out here who care about them," she said of the procession and the many people who came out to pay their respects to Brandt.

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"Another important part is taking every opportunity to feel grateful for the life we have, the opportunity to live each day," said Rebecca Kleinschmidt, another onlooker. "Things can change on a dime."

Brandt was shot while responding to a call early Oct. 16. Dashcam video from Brandt's patrol vehicle showed a man walking down the sidewalk who then passed in front of the car with what appeared to be a gun in hand. Brandt was shot six times, and a piece of shrapnel entered his eye.

Anthony George Jenkins-Alexie, 29, was charged Monday with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder in the shooting. He was already facing charges of attempted murder and assault, among others.

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On Tuesday, as more than 100 vehicles belonging to the Anchorage Police Department, Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage Fire Department and other agencies rolled through Anchorage, three people beat ceremonial handheld drums. Gregory Nothstine, also from the health center, sang a song in Inupiaq.

"He's singing a goodbye song," said Gary Ferguson, a doctor who works for the consortium, wearing a black kuspuk with blue trim. "We're a part of the community, and law enforcement is an important part of our community."

As the motorcade arrived at the former Kulis Air National Guard Base at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the cars lined up along the ramp next to a waiting aircraft.

Several hundred officers and other law enforcement stood outside their vehicles as the white medical examiner's van carrying Brandt's body drove through the cars before stopping in front of the Ravn Beechcraft 1900.

Members of the APD and Anchorage Airport Police honor guards stood at attention in formal black uniforms holding U.S. and Alaska flags.

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Eight men, including Brandt's 8-year-old son, Fritz, helped unload a white casket with an American flag draped over it. Wearing a red flannel vest, Fritz kept his hand on the casket as the other pallbearers moved it from the van to the plane. Members of the Anchorage Firefighters Pipes and Drums Band played "Amazing Grace" as the casket was loaded.

Fritz was set to fly back to Fairbanks on the plane with his father and several other Fairbanks officers, according to Fairbanks Deputy Police Chief Eric Jewkes. Fritz is the oldest of Brandt's four children; Jewkes said the youngest is 2.

For the flight, Fairbanks police requested the pilots make an out-of-the-way detour over Denali. Jewkes said they wanted to create something positive for the Brandts' son.

"So he can have some good memories from such a horrible experience," Jewkes said. "There's so much we can't replace, but at least we can start now."

Jewkes said Brandt's wife, Natasha, was relying on her faith to help her through the difficult time.

"Soon after he died, his wife, Natasha, and I were talking and she said, 'I'm worried people will be mad at God, but they shouldn't be,'" he recalled. "'Because God didn't do this. We live in an imperfect world that requires police. We're imperfect people, we live in an imperfect world and this isn't God's fault.'

"I hope I can relay the message that's the faith that Natasha and Allen created for themselves and the people around them. I take comfort in that and hopefully others will, too."

Under cloudless skies in the Interior's Golden Heart City, another procession took the casket from the airport there to a nearby funeral home, arriving around 3:30 p.m. A public memorial for Brandt is planned for 1 p.m. Sunday at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Reporter Dermot Cole in Fairbanks and News Editor Ben Anderson contributed to this report.