RICHMOND, Ind. — Family members are surrounding Officer Seara Burton as officials say she is breathing on her own.

Richmond Officer Seara Burton and her K9 Brev
Richmond Officer Seara Burton and her K9 Brev

On Wednesday, the department said despite the best efforts of all the doctors and nurses at Miami Valley Hospital, Officer Seara Burton’s injuries have been determined to be unrecoverable. On Thursday, September 1, 2022, Seara will be taken off of life support.

While she was taken off life support, the department says Burton’s condition has not changed much. They are closely monitoring her condition.

“Seara continues to remind us how strong she is,” said Chief of Police Michael Britt.

Officer Burton was shot on August 10 while responding to a call from other officers to help with a traffic stop near 12th Street and C Street in Richmond. When she arrived, Officer Burton found a moped driven by a male, identified as 47-year-old Phillip M. Lee.

Indiana State Police say Officer Burton’s K9 partner Brev indicated the possible presence of narcotics sniffing around the moped.

ISP said while officers were talking with Lee, he pulled out a firearm and shot several rounds toward officers. Officer Burton was struck. FOX59 spoke to witnesses at the scene who said the officer was shot in the head. Police later confirmed Burton did suffer a gunshot wound to the head.

The shooting took place less than two weeks after Elwood police officer Noah Shahnavaz was killed during a traffic stop involving a repeat violent offender.

Burton was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Lee was transported to a Richmond hospital after being shot.

Burton remained in extremely critical condition after surgery. While she showed slight signs of responsiveness, she did not regain consciousness.

Burton’s family spent the majority of the day Thursday surrounding her, getting a chance to say their last goodbyes.

The department said Seara will live on and continue to be a hero with her selfless gift of organ donation. Ahead of the organ donation Thursday, officers and medical staff stood vigil during an honor walk that included her K-9 partner Brev.

We know the time of her passing is imminent; however, right now, her family is spending precious time with her. Please help us maintain calm, respect, and privacy as Officer Burton rests quietly with her family.

 Mayor David M. Snow

Final arrangements for Officer Burton will be released in the coming days.

As for Brev, Britt said Burton’s K-9 partner is doing fine and living with a Richmond police officer who previously had a K-9. The chief said he’s had “a lot of people” inquire about the Belgian Malinois’ welfare.

Outside the Richmond Police Department Thursday, Officer Burton’s cruiser was parked, giving the community their chance to pay their respects.

Image

The first woman who came up to place flowers said she met Officer Burton several times and has family who serves in the county. She is heartbroken and wanted to pay her respects.

Later on, Weslee Kemplen brought flowers to show his respect. While his mom says they have never met Burton, they know her family and the department need the community’s support now more than ever.

Richmond Police Chief Mike Britt said the department was devastated by the shooting, calling Burton a “fine officer.”

Burton is a four-year veteran and was recently elevated to the K-9 unit. Burton was also engaged and supposed to be married soon after the shooting happened.

Her fiancée, Sierra Neal, spoke out on social media the Sunday after the shooting thanking people for their support. She said Burton is the strongest person she knows.

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

The Richmond community and beyond held rallies and vigils in support of Officer Burton while businesses, community members and more offered donations toward Burton and her family.

After the shooting, officers recovered the gun used in the shooting, a black Ruger Max 9 9mm, with a 10-round magazine in it. Court documents show the following drugs and paraphernalia were found in Lee’s scooter:

  • Seven syringes
  • Two small plastic bags containing a substance that tested presumptively positive for methamphetamine
  • One small plastic bag containing a substance that field tested presumptively positive for cocaine
  • One small plastic bag containing a substance that tested presumptively positive for heroin

The State of Indiana asked for a $1 million bond because of Lee’s habitual offender status. He has a lengthy criminal history, with multiple convictions for burglary and drug possession.

Lee was most recently charged with child molesting in 2019, although that case was dismissed in April. At the time of the shooting, he was on parole on drug charges.

Prior booking photo of Phillip Lee

In addition to the two counts of attempted murder, Lee has also been charged with:

  • Possession of firearm by serious violent felon,
  • Possession of methamphetamine,
  • Possession of cocaine,
  • Possession of a narcotic drug

Matt Adams, Courtney Spinelli, Matt Christy, Luther Johnson, Izzy Karpinski and Lindsay Stone contributed to this report.