(9news.com) DENVER — Hayley VanderJagt is studying for her doctorate in psychology at the University of New Mexico. She said among the reasons she wants to be a psychologist is to help people emerge from adversity and find happiness after tragedy — skills that she was forced to develop herself at a very early age. “All we can do as human beings is work towards the good,” she said. On Nov. 12, 1997, an armed burglary suspect bailed out of his car and ran into an apartment complex on South Monaco Parkway in Denver. Hayley’s father, Denver Police Officer Bruce VanderJagt, went in after him, but he didn’t come out alive. The suspect ambushed and shot Officer VanderJagt with an assault rifle and then killed himself.
The video above aired in 1997: First responders talk about the shooting that killed Officer Bruce VanderJagt. “Just senseless to me, the way that he died,” said Hayley, who was 2 years old at the time. “Knowing that he died doing what was right, that’s some pride I carry with me.” Hayley also carries with her many of her father’s best traits: his love of the arts and the outdoors, his compassion, his sense of humor and his intelligence, according to her mother Anna VangerJagt. “I guess in many ways the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, even if she hasn’t had her dad in her life all this time,” Anna said. “They appreciate what they have in life and want to try to make life better for others.”
The video above aired on 9NEWS in 1997: Friends talk about the VanderJagt family. That is why Hayley said she’s pursuing her doctorate and hopes to complete what her father could not. Before he was killed, Bruce VanderJagt was studying for his doctorate in psychology at CU Boulder. Anna said he was about to write his dissertation and was thinking about becoming a police department psychologist. “His interests and passions sort of got realized through me,” Hayley said. “We both have this innate interest in human nature and human behavior. It makes me really glad to know that I inherited all those qualities from him despite not getting to fully know him.”
The 9NEWS story above on the memorial of Officer Bruce VanderJagt aired in 1997. Twenty-four years later, Bruce VanderJagt’s memory and legacy are powerful influences on his daughter’s life. Hayley proudly said that she is her father’s daughter and always will be. “When you’re a police officer, you have to see so much hardship, so many difficult things,” she said. “And yet he still was a good person. He didn’t let that darkness jade him or change him, he always saw clearly the right thing to do.”
The video above is a 9NEWS story from 1997 on the events leading up to the shooting of Officer Bruce VanderJagt.