RICHMOND, Ind. — Richmond Police Department K9 Officer Seara Burton fought for her life for more than five weeks after she was shot in the head on Aug. 10 in the line of duty.
On Sept. 1, Burton was removed from life support, but continued to show the community the meaning of the slogan “Seara Strong.” The 28-year-old officer was transferred to hospice care on Sept. 3, where she remained, surrounded by her loved ones.
“She deserved to still be here,” said resident Sherry Mills. “When they took her off that life support, she was still fighting. She was a fighter.”
The four-year veteran of RPD was shot nine days before she was set to marry the love of her life, her fiancée, Sierra. Friends of the couple tell CBS4 they couldn’t wait to be married. On what would have been their wedding day, Burton’s fiancée wore her wedding dress and visited her in the hospital, documenting it in an emotional video.
Burton’s courageous fight came to an end at 9:59 p.m. Sunday. She died at Reid Health, surrounded by her family, police chief Michael Britt announced.
“The family is extremely grateful for the massive amount of support from the community. We kindly ask that you respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time,” Britt wrote.
Many have described Burton as a warrior, a hero, and someone who served her community with great pride. Sadness overwhelmed residents who said they were holding out hope she would overcome her injuries.
“It broke our hearts. We’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, hoping that she would make it,” said Mills.
Following an autopsy at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, an escort of Indiana and Ohio law enforcement officers led Burton back to Richmond.
Near the police department and outside the Doan & Mills Funeral Home, people lined the streets to salute a fallen hero. Burton’s K9 partner, Brev, was also present with his handler.
Those who came out to pay their respects included Mills and her 9-year-old granddaughter, Lillie, nurses, firefighters, families, Indiana Patriot Guard Riders, and more.
“It never gets easy, but our motto is, we stand for those who stand for us. We just try to give back a little bit,” said Brad Cox, assistant senior ride captain for the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders.
Cox said he could see the hurt in the hearts of community members who rallied in support of Burton, her loved ones and the department Monday afternoon.
“It was very impressive and law officer communities really come together when something happens to one of their brothers and sisters,” said Cox. “We were expecting a lot even though it was short notice, we had no idea it would turn out like it did.”
The law enforcement community across Indiana is still reeling from the loss of an Elwood officer, killed just 10 days before Officer Burton was critically injured.
“It’s just — you can’t even find the right words, it’s heartbreaking. That’s what it is for the whole state of Indiana,” said Cox.
The impact of Officer Burton’s loss is transcending state borders and reaching far and wide within Indiana. Burton was a graduate of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy’s (ILEA) 217th class in 2019.
“We grieve her passing along with the community,” the organization wrote in a tweet Monday.
In a recent interview during a blood drive to honor fallen officers, ILEA Captain David Younce, who oversaw Burton during her training at the academy, said she was was someone who demonstrated her passion and talents through her actions.
“I was just so happy when I learned that she was K9. I’m thinking, that’s just perfect for her and I’m not surprised,” said Younce.
Richmond police have thanked the community, locally and beyond, for the support shown to Burton, their department and her loved ones. Cox said on Monday alone, he witnessed that community support as he stood outside of the funeral home.
“I think it brings everybody a little closer together; community, law officers, they understand that this was an awful tragedy and that the community’s behind them,” said Cox.
Although support in the form of cards, letters, stuffed animals, floral arrangements and more has been growing on and around Officer Burton’s cruiser, parked in front of the Richmond Police Department, since it was moved there on Sept. 1, the community has rallied around Burton in her fight since the moments following the shooting.
“The community just rallied around Seara. Businesses just helped in any way they could,” said Lori Troutwine, owner of Luxe Lizzie’s Boutique.
Troutwine said she previously held an auction to benefit an officer facing a cancer battle, which garnered phenomenal support, so she wanted to do the same for Burton.
“I knew when this came about, this was put on my heart, like we can do this again,” said Troutwine.
Troutwine, who has personal ties to the department, said there was no question she wanted to do whatever she could to give back.
“My dad actually hired Seara. He was Chief of Police and passed away from cancer a few years ago, so during that time of his illness, they drew together for us. They were our extended family and I’ll never be able to repay them for how they helped us, so absolutely anytime I can give back to my blue family, I’m going to,” said Troutwine.
Within an hour of sharing her idea on Facebook, Troutwine said she received more than 100 comments of support from people hoping to donate. The support grew so significantly, she said they needed to split the auction in two, to be able to raffle and auction off the more than 400 donations received from businesses.
“The first night we did about eight hours live and the second was about six hours,” said Troutwine. “I even had people asking if they could bid from Canada.”
“It spread like wildfire and to be a part of that, to be a part of all of the giving in support and love, it was just magical,” Troutwine added.
On top of the support from local businesses, Troutwine said bidders were placing bids for two to three times the amount of items. To them, she said, it didn’t matter what the item was, they just wanted to show their support.
In total, more than $55,000 was raised through the auction, Troutwine shared. As the last bit of transfers and payments come in, Troutwine said she is prepared to put the lump sum into the Blue Angels Fund at the Richmond City Employees Credit Union in Burton’s name.
The fund was created with the help of Troutwine’s dad to help support not only police officers, but also needs of community members. Once the money is in there, Troutwine said it will be for Burton’s family to use however they decide.
“She’s definitely leaving a legacy of support for our men and women in uniform,” said Troutwine.
“She was one that tried her best to protect our community,” said Mills. “There was just a very bad person that didn’t need to do what he did to her because she had a long life ahead of her.”
Funeral arrangements for Burton have not yet been announced.