The unsolved killing this week of a St. Paul firefighter and decorated Army National Guard medic capped a string of recent police calls to his home involving drugs and other troubles after his military service left him traumatized and needing help for substance abuse.
That’s the picture Tom Harrigan’s family and police reports painted of the 36-year-old, who was fatally shot in the abdomen Monday night at his residence in the 1700 block of E. Ivy Avenue.
As of Thursday afternoon, police had yet to make any arrests in the killing and had not offered a possible motive for the crime. Police spokesman Steve Linders did say his department’s investigators believe that the victim and suspect or suspects had some sort of relationship.
“They do not believe it was random,” Linders said.
The officers’ response to the shooting was the sixth police visit to the address in the last 10 days of Harrigan’s life and the 22nd since November for a range a complaints at various times of the day and night, according to police reports.
On the Friday before the shooting, police went to Harrigan’s home about a group of seven people refusing to leave. Officers showed up an hour later but stayed for less than a minute with no apparent action needed, the police report noted.
Responding Aug. 17 to a call classified as a methamphetamine possession, officers arrested five people there, but not Harrigan, on warrants for offenses ranging from theft to property damage.
One day earlier, officers visited the home on suspicion that “ladies of the night and their customers [were] coming and going from the address at all times of the day,” the police report read. The case was later turned over to vice investigators. A similarly categorized report was taken on April 7.
On Aug. 2, police showed up to find a 19-year-old man unconscious and not breathing from an overdose. Less than 20 minutes later, according to the police report, the man was revived with the lifesaving opioid antidote Narcan.
Harrigan’s criminal record is limited to driving- and parking-related offenses.
In the midst of the repeated visits by police to the home, according to family, Harrigan was on medical leave from his firefighter duties while battling the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder connected to his service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Late Wednesday in a Facebook posting, John Harrigan recapped his son’s life — the highs and the lows — including when he was kicked out of the U.S. Department Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in St. Cloud, where he was receiving treatment and rehabilitation for substance abuse, because of a confrontation with a fellow patient.
John Harrigan alleged that “had the VA not expelled him, he would still be alive today” instead of “shot dead in his own living room by a person who had no right to be there.”
Tom Harrigan’s mother, Sandra, declined to offer more specifics about her son’s difficulties and said the family would have more to say next week.
When asked to respond to the father’s contention, Barry Venable, public affairs officer for St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Health Care System, said that federal privacy laws “don’t allow me to release any information.”
John Harrigan praised his son’s accomplishments as a firefighter and how he saved lives as a paramedic. “In one instance,” John Harrigan wrote, “he saved a woman from death by performing an emergency tracheotomy.”
The father also pointed out the numerous accolades Tom Harrigan received during his many years in the military while serving in Iraq and in Afghanistan as a medic.
Most notably, John Harrigan said, while in the Minnesota Army National Guard and deployed in Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class Harrigan earned the highly coveted Bronze Star for “exceptionally meritorious achievement.”
Harrigan was a Guard member in good standing at the time of his death serving out of Brainerd with the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor in Brainerd. said Col. Joseph Sharkey. He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and then to Afghanistan in 2011, the colonel added.
But despite his decorated service, Harrigan’s father pointed out, “all of these awards came at a cost, a high-level veteran’s disability rating, an affliction of Post Traumatic Stress that plagued him to the end, and a problem of substance abuse. … Our family has suffered a tremendous blow. The firefighters lost a dedicated brother. And our community lost a valued human being.”
Along with his parents, Tom Harrigan is survived by his brothers Kevin, Patrick and Timothy. A funeral is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 12 at the Fort Snelling Chapel, with internment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery to follow. There is a visitation the day before from 5 to 8 p.m. at O’Halloran & Murphy Funeral Home at 575 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482