RICHMOND, Ind. – “Until we meet again, my love.”
The words from fiancée Sierra Neal typified the heartfelt remembrances of Seara Burton, the Richmond K9 officer who died on Sept. 18 after being shot during a traffic stop on Aug. 10.
Neal is Burton’s fiancée. The two met during the summer of 2021 and felt an immediate connection—a connection highlighted by family members, friends and colleagues during Monday’s funeral service at Richmond High School.
Speakers included Neal; Burton’s stepmother Ami Miller, also a Richmond police officer; RPD Officer Keifer Uphaus, Burton’s partner and self-described “work husband”; Muncie Detective Mariah Copeland and Allison Compton, who met Burton at the Indiana Law Academy in 2019; and Lt. Donnie Benedict with RPD.
Richmond Mayor David Snow also spoke during the service, which included an opening prayer and benediction from Rick Snyder, president of Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police and chaplain.
Capt. Bryan Wolfe with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office delivered a heart-wrenching rendition of “Amazing Grace, The Policeman’s Tribute.” Other musical selections included a recorded version of “Something in the Orange” by Zach Bryan, one of Burton’s favorite songs, and a photo montage set to Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart.”
Officer Burton was shot just nine days before she was set to marry Neal. Fighting tears as she remembered the “love of her life,” Neal recalled their first date on a searing day at Kings Island amusement park.
Their connection was instant; they spent eight hours together and didn’t want the day to end. She told mourners she had “no idea” where to start her speech.
“There are no amount of words to describe that could completely describe who Seara is and what she meant, not only to me, but to so many others,” Neal said.
She recalled a conversation early in their relationship in which Burton asked her if she was willing to accept the risks of her career as an officer. Neal understood the dangers a police officer faces but didn’t think something like this would happen to Burton.
“I told her I would completely support her in her career, but even in that moment, I still felt there was no way something like this could happen to such a wonderful human,” she said. “It still isn’t real.”
Neal said the officer loved her job and managed to stay upbeat no matter what.
“Behind that badge was the woman of my dreams. A woman who could be treated and talked to in awful ways for eight hours a day at work and could still come home and laugh and be so kind-hearted,” Neal said of Burton.
The two looked forward to having children together–Burton would be “the best mom”–and had already picked out names. Neal will never forget how Burton left her love notes “all over the place” and made her coffee every morning.
She called her time with Burton the “happiest year of her life.”
“I feel an emptiness without her here, but I will forever be thankful for the purest love she gave me and the wonderful family and friends she has that have become mine.”
She promised to carry Burton forever in her heart.
‘Strongest woman I’ve ever known’
Ami Miller, the Richmond police officer who is also Burton’s stepmother, said she was so incredibly proud of her daughter.
“I did not see her as a stepdaughter. I saw her as my daughter. I may not have given birth to her, but in my heart, she was my daughter and will forever be,” Miller said.
Miller said Burton had unmatched determination and drive. She had no doubt she would be a great police officer. Burton often called her or talked to her after her shift to ask for advice.
They could talk for hours about the job, Miller recalled. Sometimes Burton brought her K9 partner Brev by her house in the middle of her shift so he could take a break and grab something to eat.
“I hope she knew how proud I was of her and how much I loved her,” Miller said. “Seara was the strongest woman I’ve ever known and she recently showed the world just how strong she really was. I was honored to work beside you, and I was honored to be your bonus mom.”
She promised to take care of Burton’s mother and give Brev “the best life ever.” She also read a poem about Burton from her mother.
“Rest easy, sweet girl, I love you.”
Heartbroken ‘work husband’
Richmond Police Officer Keifer Uphaus choked up as he spoke about his partner. Uphaus said Burton expected “nothing but the best” from those around her. He described her as competent and trustworthy, unafraid to “make a decision and stand by it.”
The safety of other officers was always on her mind, he said.
“We spent a lot of the time on the phone, almost all the time, even if it was just at the end of shift. She would stay on the phone all the way back to my house after every shift to make sure I made it back home to my family,” he recalled.
Burton hated to lose. She was outspoken and driven in all aspects of her life. Her smile and laugh would “undoubtedly make you follow her anywhere.” Burton was smitten with Neal, Uphaus said, and she had no doubt they’d spend the rest of their lives together.
Burton loved his son and treated him like he was hers. She loved watching the “ridiculous” Snapchat videos his wife sent of their shenanigans at home. Her love for his family “meant the world to us.”
“I am honored and proud to have had the opportunity to call you my partner and my best friend,” Uphaus said as he fought through tears. “I know that my son and fellow officers will forever have a guardian angel. Thank you for everything. I miss you. I love you, baby girl.”
Burton’s ‘weird vegan food’ and ‘odd green’
Muncie Detective Mariah Copeland and Burton’s friend Allison Compton met Burton at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.
Compton recalled shaking as she stood with other trainees and noticed Burton was shaking, too. The trio ended up in the same room—111—and delighted in hijinks during their stay at the academy.
Compton noted that Burton’s name was spelled wrong on the door (Sera), but she didn’t mention it for weeks. Compton called her “Sera” for two weeks before Burton corrected her.
Copeland said their friendship grew by leaps and bounds during their 16 weeks of training.
“We made our memories jumping out of closets, scaring the life out of one another, trying Seara’s ‘weird vegan food’ and making funny videos,” Copeland recalled.
When Compton told her parents about their hijinks, her mother remarked that she didn’t think police academy was supposed to be fun. That didn’t apply, Compton said, to the three trainees in Room 111.
One famous story involved Burton shopping on her phone for tactical pants during a break. She thought it was strange that they were selling “odd green” color pants. From that day forward, they referred to “OD green” (a common military color; the OD in OD green stands for “olive drab”) as “odd green.”
After the academy, the three exchanged messages in a Snapchat group and called each other frequently to talk about their lives and jobs. Even though they didn’t see each other as much as they wanted, they “made it work” and kept in touch.
Like others, they mentioned that Burton was head over heels in love with Neal.
“This one is different,” Compton recalled Burton writing of Neal.
Burton was unselfish; no one could have asked for a better friend, Copeland said. Even Compton, who conceded that she “hates hugs,” loved it when Burton embraced her.
Copeland shared an anecdote in which she was taking pictures of the first time they met Brev. She accidentally hit record to capture a short video instead of taking a photo. It ended up being the perfect encapsulation of their friendship, and she’s now grateful she recorded the moment.
10-42 End of Watch
After the public memorial service, a procession headed to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, where Burton was laid to rest in the section dedicated to Heroes of Public Safety.
The procession took U.S. 40 to reach Indianapolis. This was the route:
- Richmond High School to Southwest G Street
- East (Left) on Southwest G Street to South 5th Street
- North (Left) onto South 5th Street to North A Street (US 40)
- West (Left) onto North A Street (US 40) to East Main Street
- West (Right) on East Main Street to Southwest 5th Street
- South (Left) on Southwest 5th Street to US 40
- West (Right) on US 40 to Illinois Street
- North (Right) on Illinois Street to 34th Street
- West (Left) onto 34th Street into Crown Hill Cemetery
The procession paused in front of the Richmond Police Department for Officer Burton’s final 10-42 call.
Visitation was held Sunday at the Richmond City Building on North 5th Street.