RICHMOND, Ind. – Michelle Partin will never forget it.
She remembers the traffic stop. A man pulling a gun. The sound of gunfire.
That man, police said, was Phillip M. Lee, the suspect accused of shooting Richmond Police Department Officer Seara Burton.
Partin described herself as Lee’s neighbor. She noticed a large police presence near her home Wednesday night and took a peek outside. From her doorway, she saw Lee pull a gun.
“The officer that was shot had a K9 unit,” Partin said. “As she tried to approach him to let the dog do its job, he just pulled the gun and fired. Whatever that dog was gonna find, he did not want it to find.”
Lee didn’t appear to be frightened in the least, she said.
“You could just see it all over his face. He was not afraid to get shot, he was not afraid to be wounded and survive. He just wasn’t… he wasn’t afraid of anything. That’s the scariest part,” she said.
When it was over, both the officer and the suspect had been shot. Burton was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to a Dayton facility. Lee was transported to a Richmond hospital.
It’s unclear how many times Burton and Lee were shot.
According to Partin, the area where it happened is “not the greatest neighborhood.” Still, violent crime isn’t common.
“It’s more drug use and stand in the middle of the road and do stupid stuff,” she said.
“That kind of violence is definitely devastating. There’s tons of kids at that house, tons of kids at this house, my daughter upstairs. We’re good people, we try to work together and protect each other, but then we get guys like this,” she said of Lee.
Burton’s shooting happened in the blink of an eye.
“She didn’t stand a chance. It was a split second. Bam, it’s over,” Partin said, adding that the officer didn’t have any time to react.
“You heard the gunfire from him, pop, then there was a slight pause, then there was pop, pop, pop, pop, where RPD returned fire in that direction. Which happens to be my yard,” Partin said.
“[Police] obviously took [Lee] down, they took him down quick. Got it over with,” she said. “He wasn’t going to hurt nobody else. He was taken off the streets. And that’s exactly what we need.”
“There is no routine traffic stop and what this should remind everybody is there’s nothing routine about the work police do,” said Indy FOP President Rick Snyder.
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.
“Last night I can say it took the breath away of every law enforcement officer in the state of Indiana. It’s hard to believe it happened so soon, but it’s a reminder it can happen every single day,” said Snyder.
Court records show Lee has an extensive 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.