The countless who knew Capt. Charles “Bo” Harrison, say they’re better people because of it.
And, the superlatives flow freely when people describe what he was like.
Here are just a few of those descriptions: Hero. Christian. Father. Brother. Husband. Friend. Leader. Coach. Servant. Great Officer. Integrity. Honorable..
He was “a servant-leader who made a difference to every man, woman and child who came in contact with him,” said Pastor Deundrick Reed of Living Waters United Church in Dade City.
Reed served as master of ceremonies for the Bo Harrison Memorial on June 1 at the Boys and Girls Club.
The event has been held each year since Harrison’s watch ended on June 1, 2003 — the day he was killed in the line of duty.
“He walked it, he talked it, and he lived it,” Reed said. “He motivated and inspired. He sacrificed himself for others, no matter what. He was a man who was an example how we all should live our lives today.”
Harrison, then a lieutenant, had served with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office for 31 years. It was just two weeks before he was scheduled to retire when he was shot and killed while on surveillance near a nightclub on U.S. Route 301 in Lacoochee around 2 a.m.
He was 57.
According to reports, several deputies who were across the street heard a gunshot and went to investigate. They located Harrison in his patrol car suffering from a gunshot wound to the back. He was transported to Dade City Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Harrison had been shot with a high-powered rifle by a sniper who was in the nearby woods. The shot went through the trunk of the car and struck him in the back.
A 19-year-old suspect turned himself in two days later and was charged in connection with Harrison’s murder. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no parole.
Harrison, the highest-ranking black officer in county history, was posthumously promoted to captain.
He left behind a wife and three children.
Before his law enforcement career, Harrison served in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Army paratrooper.
Dozens of law enforcement officers and officials from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, the Dade City Police Department and the Zephyrhills Police Department attended the memorial service.
Family, friends and members of the east Pasco community also attended, “honoring the memory of a man who answered the call to serve his country and community.”
The two-hour long gathering and reception also featured some of Harrison’s favorite gospel songs from his parish, St. John’s Missionary Church, in Dade City.
Harrison was mainly recognized for his impact to the community; serving as one of Pasco’s first black deputies; and for his life growing up in Dade City, where he was a sports star for the local black high school, Mickens High School.
Hazel Wells, 70, grew up with Harrison. She graduated high school with him in 1965 and remained friends long after.
In her words, Harrison was “a heroic, outstanding, God-fearing man.”
Last month, Wells wrote a proclamation to the Dade City Commission to forever make June 1 known as Capt. Charles “Bo” Harrison Day in Dade City.
Back in 2015, Wells successfully petitioned Dade City officials and neighbors to rename 11th Street as Charles “Bo” Harrison Street.
Wells also recalled Harrison for his upbeat, positive nature and athletic prowess.
“He was just a happy person,” Wells said, “and he loved sports.”
“I can still hear (people) on the Mickens ballfield yell, ‘Run Bo’ because he would run so fast. Any kind of sport, he excelled in,” Wells said.
Another lifelong friend, Willie Broner, 69, still cherishes fond moments with Harrison.
Both played on the same sports teams growing up and also served together in Vietnam. While serving in the war, Broner was caught in enemy territory when Harrison risked a 20-mile trek “all by himself” to help rescue his childhood friend.
Broner went on to become a longtime educator in Pasco County and a successful basketball coach at Pasco High School, where he recorded more than 300 career victories.
“I will always remember Bo,” Broner paused, “as long as I live.”
“He will always be remembered in my heart. …I will always remember a great man; a great, great, great friend,” Broner said.
Harrison, known as “BoBo” by those closest, was also reminisced for his radiant smile, his great sense of humor, and his distinguished, boisterous laugh.
Such a laugh would often echo through the hallways of the sheriff’s office, said Pasco Sheriff’s Det. Johnny Windsor, who worked under the fallen deputy early in his career.
“If you knew Bo,” Windsor said, smiling, “you knew the laugh that he had. …You always knew when Bo was in the building.”
Windsor, himself now set to retire after a 30-year law enforcement career, shared several stories and tales about working with Harrison.
One that still holds meaning: Harrison welcomed Windsor and family to his church and to share a meal as part of law enforcement appreciation week.
For Harrison, race was never an issue, said Windsor, who is white.
“It’s something for somebody to want to invite you to their church,” said Windsor, “when you’re not the same color as they are.”
Added Windsor: “He did not see color and it didn’t matter. This day and age that’s important. It should be important to all of us.”
Also oftentimes “the happiest guy on earth,” the veteran detective recalled Harrison as someone he could reach out to for help at anytime.
“He was a guy that was very approachable,” Windsor said. “You could walk up to him and have a conversation with him. You could talk about work issues. You could go to him about personal issues. At that time there were very few people in the agency that I would go to with personal issues, but I will tell you Bo Harrison was one of them. I was proud to know that man. I was proud to say he was my friend.”
Windsor also said Harrison was a major influence on his career.
Looking back in his early days as a deputy, Windsor remembers thinking Harrison as “the guy I want to be like.”
“I believe that Bo Harrison probably made me the deputy sheriff that I am today and I thank him for that,” he said.
Published June 6, 2018