Ind. Police Officer Taken Off Life Support After Being Shot at Traffic Stop Days Before Her Wedding

Richmond Police Officer Seara Burton, the city's first female K-9 handler, was shot nine days before she was supposed to get married

Officer Seara Burton killed
Officer Seara Burton. Photo: Facebook

An Indiana K-9 Officer who was shot in the head in the line of duty in August — nine days before she was supposed to get married — is clinging to life after being taken off life support Thursday, according to police.

Richmond Police Officer Seara Burton, 28, "is still alive and surrounded by family," Richmond Police Chief Michael Britt wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Burton, who was Richmond's first female K-9 Officer, was shot in the head on Aug. 10 when she and her K-9 partner were called to assist officers with a potentially drug-related traffic stop, Richmond Police said in a statement.

On Aug. 10, the Richmond Police Narcotics Unit was conducting an operation and allegedly saw Phillip Lee, 47, stop at a garage where they believe a drug transaction had taken place, police said, WTHR reports.

Officers then stopped Lee on the 200 Block of North 12th Street, police said in a statement.

Phillip Lee
Phillip Lee. Richmond Police Department

At about 6:30 p.m., Burton arrived on the scene with her four-legged partner, Brev, and had him conduct an open-air sniff on Lee and the moped he was driving, WTHR reports.

The open-air sniff allegedly indicated the presence of narcotics, police said, WXIX reports.

While the officers were talking to Lee, police allege he pulled out a gun and opened fire, striking Burton, WXIX reports.

Lee fled on foot as officers returned fire, striking him, police said.

Burton, a four-year veteran of the department who had recently become a K-9 Officer, was rushed to Miami Valley Hospital in critical condition, where she fought for her life, Chief Michael Britt said in a release on Aug. 18.

"There have been some bright spots since Wednesday but her condition is still very serious," he wrote. "The doctors and nurses are providing her with the best possible medical care, and we are very grateful. We as a Department, and a Community, continue to hope and pray for her recovery."

But on Wednesday, Richmond Police made the painful announcement that Burton would be taken off of life support on Thursday.

"Her injuries have been determined to be unrecoverable," Chief Michael Britt, Major Jon Bales and Major Aly Tonuc said in the statement.

On Friday, Chief Britt wrote in an update that "Officer Seara Burton's condition did not change much overnight and she is still with us this morning.

"She still remains off of life support," he continued. "We are closely monitoring the situation and we will provide updates to the public as the situation progresses.

"Seara continues to remind us just how strong she is," he wrote.

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Lee, who sustained injuries on Aug. 10, appeared in court via video from his hospital bed on Aug. 19 — the day Burton was supposed to marry her fiancée Sierra Neal, WIBC reports.

Lee is charged with three counts of attempted murder, unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and several other drug charges, WRTV reports.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is being held on a $1.5 million bond.

It is unclear whether Lee has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

'You Are My Wife'

On Aug. 19, Burton's fiancée visited Burton at the hospital, wearing her wedding dress as she walked toward Burton's hospital room.

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

On Thursday, police officers, hospital staff and Burton's loved ones lined the halls of the hospital as they held an honor walk for her as she was being taken from the ICU to the operating room for organ donation, Dayton 247 Now reports.

Leading the way was Burton's K-9 partner Brev, who was not injured in the shootout.

"He is currently being cared for by one of our Investigators that is a former K-9 handler," the chief said in the statement. He is in excellent hands and is being cared for in the best possible way."

In Chief Britt's update on Wednesday, he said, "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."

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