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Home OHIO Richmond PD chief: Ofc. Seara Burton dies 5 weeks after being shot...

Richmond PD chief: Ofc. Seara Burton dies 5 weeks after being shot during traffic stop

Richmond Ofc. Seara Burton died Sunday night, more than five weeks after she was critically injured in a shooting, Richmond Police Chief Michael Britt announced.

In a statement, Britt said Burton died at 9:59 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18 at a hospital surrounded by her family. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced when details are available, Britt said.

“We would sincerely like to thank the Richmond community, and those who have supported Seara, her Family, and the Department from near and far,” Britt said in the statement. “Thank you to all of those who have shown unbelievable support throughout this very difficult time including the Dayton Police Department, The Indiana State Police, Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, Richmond Fire Department and Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, as well as many other agencies. 

“The family is extremely grateful for the massive amount of support from the community,” Britt said. “We kindly ask that you respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Burton was taken off life support on Thursday, Sept. 1, a little over three weeks after being shot at close range during a traffic stop. She was transferred to hospice care on Sept. 3. The Richmond Police Department updated that K-9 Brev visited Burton on multiple occasions. 

“Our hearts are shattered as we learn of the passing of Officer Seara Burton,” Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said in a statement posted on social media. “Officer Burton fought like a warrior through every minute of this battle. Her endearing spirit, professional service, and shining personality will live with us for years to come. 

Snow said the lights at the Richmond City Building will be turned off beginning Monday night, flags at city buildings will be lowered, and that he will ask Gov. Eric Holcomb to request all flags across Indiana be lowered on the day of Burton’s funeral.

On Monday, Sept. 19, the Richmond Police Department and multiple other agencies will be escorting Burton back to Richmond from Dayton, Ohio, Richmond Police announced.

The escort is scheduled to leave the Dayton area at 1:30 p.m. It will travel onto I-75 north from Dayton and onto I-70 west. Once it reaches Richmond, the escort will follow U.S. 40 to North 5th Street, passing Burton’s police car at the city building, and onto East Main Street, before traveling back to U.S. 40 to Doan & Mills Funeral Home, located at 790 West National Road in Richmond.

“If you wish to show your support for the family of Officer Seara Burton and the Richmond Police Department, please find a location that is safe along the route. Remember not to stop or park along the interstate,” Richmond Police Capt. Curt Leverton said in a statement.

This is breaking update. Previous story is below.

Previous updates:
Burton transferred to hospice

Burton was transferred to a hospice facility in the Richmond area on Sept. 3. The news came three days after police announced Burton would be taken off life support. 

Major Jon Bales announced Burton would be taken off life support on Thursday, Sept. 1. He said her injuries had been determined to be “unrecoverable” and that she would live on through organ donation.

“Seara will live on and continue to be a hero with her selfless gift of organ donation. Officer Burton will continue to serve others long after her passing,” Bales said Wednesday. 

When taken off life support, Burton continued fighting. 

On Friday, Richmond Police Chief Michael Britt said Burton hadn’t passed and that she “continues to remind us just how strong she is.”

And, on Saturday, Britt announced she would be transferred from the Intensive Care Unit at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton to a hospice facility in the Richmond area.

“She will continue receiving excellent care and be surrounded by her family.  The family is grateful for all of the community support but does request privacy at this time. Please be respectful of the family’s wishes while they spend this precious time with Seara,” Britt said in the update.

“We want to honor her”:
Community unites in face of tragedy

It was the news a police department and community had been praying wouldn’t come. As word spread Wednesday afternoon, people came to the Richmond police station to pay respects. 

“I came to light a candle and leave a flower for her,” said Richmond resident Karla Chasteen, a retired police officer who remembers the danger of the job.

“You always expect it to happen in the big city, you don’t expect it to happen in our small town,” said Chasteen. 

It was a feeling shared by other Richmond residents, many asking the question, “How could it happen here?” 

“For it to hit so close to home, it was shocking,” said Jennifer Lopez, who works in a local restaurant.

Lopez has followed news of Burton’s condition since she was shot three weeks ago. 

“To die doing your duty, to protect your community, it’s just … I have no words,” said Lopez. 

Hours after the devastating news, a local boutique held a live auction on Facebook, with items donated from local businesses, all to raise money for a fund in Burton’s name. 

“We want to honor her and her sacrifice for our community,” said Luxe Lizzy Boutique owner Lori Troutwine. Troutwine said her father had once been Richmond’s police chief and hired Burton to be an officer with the department. 

“So this is really close to my heart,” Troutwine said, adding that Wednesday’s fundraiser had already been planned when they got the news Burton was not going to recover. 

“We’re crushed,” said Troutwine.

There was never a thought to reschedule the fundraiser, though. The group of women who helped with it, pushed through their own grief to support Burton. 

“We have cried throughout, but the bottom line is we’re honoring Seara,” said Troutwine. “The fact that there’s so much support is so heartwarming.  The fact that there’s so much good, still out there.”

“We’re all just hurting”:
Community, police mourn on day Burton was taken off life support

For the many who came to the police station Thursday night, there were just no words. Only bowed heads, tears and quiet contemplation. 

Dozens brought flowers and other mementos of support for Burton. 

The woman in the larger-than-life picture in front of them is on their mind. Burton, standing proudly in her police uniform with her K-9 partner Brev at her side. 

“She protects our community, you know?” said Deanna Ripberger. 

“I think we’re all just hurting,” added Marquita Clemons, who brought her family to pray for Burton’s healing, despite word received Wednesday that she wasn’t expected to survive her injuries. 

“I’m so sad that this has happened to her,” said Clemons. “This is a senseless act.”

“I don’t know what to say, but it’s a tragedy. My heart goes out to everyone,” said Wayne Ripberger. 

“She’s got a lot of support that’s for sure,” added Deana. “A huge, huge support system. This community has really come together.”

Miami Valley Hospital released video of the honor walk for the officer: 

Burton was engaged to be married:

The shooting happened less than two weeks before Burton’s wedding day. In the face of tragedy, her fiancée Sierra Neal has shown incredible strength.

In a post a few days after the shooting, Neal said, “Seara is the strongest person I know and she continues to prove that every single day. She is the most beautiful human inside and out and anyone who has ever been lucky enough to know her will tell you the same.”

Neal ended her post with, “Seara Burton I love you more than anything in this entire world and I am so very proud of you. You are my person.”

I have stayed away from social media for a few days but I wanted to get on and thank everyone for everything and for all…

Posted by Sierra Neal on Sunday, August 14, 2022

And on what would have been their wedding day, Neal posted a video on TikTok of her walking in a white dress toward Burton’s hospital room. 

In the video, “Something in the Orange” by Zach Bryan plays in the background as Neal walks toward the room, surrounded by hospital staff standing in support of her and Burton.

“This walk was supposed to look a lot different, but I will always be thankful we still got to celebrate. Even if it is not legal on paper, you are my wife. I love you Seara,” Neal wrote in the caption for the video. 

A photo hangs on the door of Burton’s room, showing the Richmond officer and her K-9 partner Brev, who was with her when she was shot on Wednesday, Aug. 10. 

The video has been viewed more than five million times and has nearly 500,000 likes. It’s gained attention from people across the country, offering their prayers for Burton, Neal and their families.

Recounting Aug. 10 shooting:

Burton was shot at around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10. The day after the shooting, Britt said Burton was in “extremely critical” condition after suffering a gunshot wound to her head. 

At the time, she was helping other officers with a traffic stop. When her K-9 partner, Brev, went to check 47-year-old Phillip M. Lee’s moped, Burton went to talk to Lee. That’s when he allegedly pulled out a gun and shot several rounds toward officers.

Court documents say Lee was aiming at the officers’ “head and facial areas.” 

Burton was shot at close range and the officer next to her was nearly shot in the head. Other officers returned fire, and Lee shot at them as he ran away. 

“He just pulled the gun and fired. He was just so close to her. She didn’t stand a chance. It’s just not fair to her. It’s not fair to her family,” said Michelle Partin, who is Lee’s neighbor and witnessed the shooting. “He fired one shot and pop and there was a slight pause and then pop, pop, pop where [officers] returned fire and there was anywhere from 10 to 15 shots.”  

Burton was taken to the Dayton hospital in “very critical condition, fighting for her life,” said Britt.

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