Vigil crowd hears pleas to continue prayers for wounded Richmond police officer

·4 min read

RICHMOND, Ind. — Chief Mike Britt stood looking over hundreds of people — maybe more than a thousand — covering the Richmond Municipal Building's south lawn.

They came to pray for and support wounded Officer Seara Burton, her Richmond Police Department colleagues and all first responders.

"My damaged heart felt a little better," Britt said after Friday night's hour-long program. "I never expected this. This is a wonderful, moving thing to see, and I'm so proud of my community. There's no more worthy cause than what we're facing right now."

Burton, 28, remained in critical condition at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, after she was shot in the head Wednesday while she and her K-9 partner, Brev, participated in a traffic stop. Phillip Matthew Lee, who also was wounded, is charged with two Level 1 felony counts of attempted murder and four other felonies in the incident.

Community support has included social media messages, signs, fundraisers, blue clothing and more since Burton was wounded. That continued Friday night with RPD personnel, other first responders and plenty of citizens writing messages on signs, joining in prayer, holding candles and singing.

Steve Martin and his daughter, Morghan Martin, have known Burton since she worked at a Fountain City pizza place a decade ago when Morghan was about 2. Steve Martin said Burton took to his child.

"It breaks my heart. I'm hurt. I'm angry," Martin said about Burton's injury. "I know the guy and I know his family. He's a lifelong criminal."

He called the vigil turnout amazing.

Morghan Martin said Burton's injury is "just sad."

"I hope she's going to be OK," the 12-year-old said. "I know she's strong. She'll get through this."

Mayor Dave Snow also mentioned Burton's strength. He said her mother, Jie, would show him pictures of Burton, whom he called "an absolute warrior," after workouts. Burton told him that was embarrassing, but he noted it shows how proud Jie is of her daughter.

Hundreds pray for law enforcement Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, during a prayer vigil for Officer Seara Burton.
Hundreds pray for law enforcement Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, during a prayer vigil for Officer Seara Burton.

The mayor drove to Dayton to visit and spend time with Burton, her mom and her stepmom, RPD Officer Ami Miller. He said they feel the support shown by those attending the vigil.

Miller posted on Facebook about 15 minutes before the vigil began.

"We would like to thank everyone for all the thoughts and prayers," the post read. "Please, please, everyone continue to pray as hard and often as you can. She is fighting so hard."

Snow noticed that fight when he first met Burton the day she took her RPD oath four years ago.

"I met a fiery, young, brand-new cadet who couldn't wait to get out there and do that job," he said. "Every day that she's been here, she's been a bright light in this department."

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Pastor Chip Belanga of First English Lutheran Church said he also has spent time with Jie at the hospital, and she asked him to pray at Burton's bedside. He stressed that prayers from those in attendance Friday need to continue after the vigil's end. Not just prayers for Burton, he said, but also for her colleagues who are hurting.

Belanga asked first responders to raise their hands, then had those in attendance gather around the responders and lay their hands on them during a prayer. Christa Brown, a Cambridge City school resource officer, was circled by people praying for her.

"It means a lot everybody came together for Seara, and it means a lot that everybody is coming together for law enforcement," Brown said. "I hate that it's under these conditions, but it's nice to see a positive presence and support for law enforcement and Seara. It means a lot everybody came out and prayed for everybody in law enforcement."

Centerville Police Department officers write messages on a banner Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, while attending a prayer vigil for Officer Seara Burton.
Centerville Police Department officers write messages on a banner Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, while attending a prayer vigil for Officer Seara Burton.

In his turn at the podium, Britt said it was a blessing to see so much support. He requested prayers for Burton and all his officers immediately after Wednesday's shooting, and reiterated that request Friday, asking that the prayers and support continue beyond the vigil.

He then referenced a photo of Burton with Brev that's now been widely distributed and reproduced on "Prayers for Seara" signs that were placed near the podium. He concentrated on her smile.

"The first time I met her she had that smile," Britt said, describing her pride at being a sworn officer and wearing the RPD badge.

Sheriff Randy Retter also said Burton and officers need continued prayers. He told those gathered that they are a testimony to the community support Burton and all of law enforcement has received.

"It's the type of community we live in, and it's a great one," Retter said. "We need to continue being a community worth the sacrifices she has made."

This article originally appeared on Richmond Palladium-Item: Richmond police officer's vigil crowd hears pleas to continue prayers