PHILADELPHIA » In his former career with the U.S. Coast Guard, Officer Jesse Hartnett braved rough waters directing boats and crews through their missions, but the waters were never rougher for Hartnett than they were Thursday night in West Philadelphia when he was ambushed in his patrol car by a gunman.
But the shooter had no idea who he was dealing with and Hartnett — a man described as “tough” by his father and a “warrior” by his boss — not only survived three gunshot wounds to his arm at point-blank range, he also got out of his patrol car and returned fire, striking his assailant in the buttocks.
“It’s both confounding and astonishing that he was able to escape … I can’t say enough for his bravery and how he conducted himself,” police Commissioner Richard Ross said of Hartnett, 33. “He really just demonstrated the paragon of excellence … in terms of being a warrior and everything else when he had to be.”
The alleged gunman, Edward Archer, told police he had acted “in the name of Islam” as a follower of Islamic State, authorities said.
Hartnett’s father, Robert, said his son always dreamed of being a police officer when he was growing up.
“He’s a very quality young man,” Robert Hartnett said of his son. “He has good determination and he’s always wanted to help people and be a policeman.”
In November 2001, shortly after graduation — and the attacks of Sept. 11— Hartnett joined the Coast Guard, according to Coast Guard spokesman Chief Nick Ameen. Hartnett worked his way up to the position of coxswain, a post that is a “big step” that requires “a lot of training,” Ameen said.
“The position has a lot to do with law enforcement; he has the authority to direct all boat and crew activities during a mission,” Ameen said. “On any given Coast Guard boat mission the coxswain is the one in charge, even if the captain is on the boat.”
Ameen said Hartnett changed to the Coast Guard Reserve in 2009 and remained in reserve status until November of last year.
Hartnett began his career in law enforcement in September 2010, when he joined his hometown police department in East Lansdowne, Pa., as a patrol officer.
East Lansdowne Police Chief John Zimath said Hartnett often worked by himself in a cruiser patrolling neighborhoods and answering calls that came in.
“He was a good officer. Actually, he was a great officer,” Zimath said. “He was very well-liked in the community and he had an exemplary record here.”
Hartnett left the East Lansdowne Police Department and joined Philadelphia’s force in July 2011.
As so many have, Robert Hartnett said the fact that his son survived being ambushed and shot three times was “a miracle.”
“Thanks to his training with the Philadelphia Police Academy and the Coast Guard, he defended himself to the best of his ability in the situation and they caught the guy,” Robert Hartnett said.
Zimath, Jesse Hartnett’s former boss, said it wasn’t too hard to believe the officer’s brave actions.
“With his training and maturity, I see Jesse doing what he did,” Zimath said. “It was a courageous act and he’s a good guy.”
©2016 Philadelphia Daily News