RICHMOND, Ind. — Hundreds gathered around the south entrance of the Richmond City Building Friday night for a vigil to honor and pray for injured Richmond Police officer Seara Burton.
Officer Burton, 28, a four-year veteran of the department, remains in the hospital on a ventilator where she is considered ‘extremely critical.’ On Thursday night, Richmond Police Chief Mike Britt said that she successfully underwent surgery but “has not regained consciousness and is still fighting for her life.”
The community gathered to pray for Burton and her family, and to also show them that she’s not alone in this fight.
“Tonight, we stand here to fight with Seara and we’ll keep fighting with Seara,” said Richmond Mayor Dave Snow.
“Bear with me, I’m a little overwhelmed here. I didn’t know what to expect when I came here today. I’m amazed,” said Britt.
The sea of people in attendance also included fellow first responders from agencies well beyond Richmond, plus officers, both on and off-duty, from Richmond police. Chief Britt said RPD officers and staff are also deeply hurt by the tragedy that left their sister in blue fighting for her life.
“One of my warriors was hurt and needs your prayers. I have been asking for that, you have responded, and they are felt,” Britt said.
There has been an outpouring of support from the Richmond community and law enforcement since Burton was shot Wednesday during a traffic stop.
Many signs of support were also visible at the vigil, including printed signs with photos of Burton and “Seara Strong” written on them, stickers, a prayer board, a spot where that community and students have written messages of encouragement in her fight, and other individual ways that people have chosen to honor the injured officer.
“It meant the absolute world for her to come here, serve this community, and be here for you and it means so much that you have chosen to come out and join this fight for her,” said Snow.
Snow and many others shared their impressions of Burton and the way she has impacted to the Richmond community during her service as an officer on the department.
“When I swore her in, I met this fiery, young, brand new cadet that couldn’t wait to get out there and do that job,” said Snow. “If you know Seara, you know she’s an absolute warrior.”
“She is absolutely just the embodiment of what you want your child to grow up to be,” said Jamie Terhaar, one of the vigil’s organizers.
Many words have been used to describe Officer Burton, including: fearless, a fighter, kind-hearted, courageous, and selfless. She was recently elevated to K9 handler, and her fellow officers and friends shared, Burton has always worn her badge with pride and brought a smile that can’t be beat, to the job every day.
That same smile is on posters and signs across Richmond — a reminder of the warrior needing support from her entire community right now.
“That is what she looks like. That is what she is. The first time I met her she had that smile. I don’t believe she’s ever lost that smile,” said Britt.
The last few days have been heavy for the entire community impacted by this tragedy, including people who know the officer, strangers, and many whose loved ones serve alongside her.
“When we heard the call and when the shots fired came across the scanner, just the emotion in the officer’s voice when she went down, it shook everybody. You never want to hear that call. Then you know in your heart there’s only ‘x’ many officers that are female, you know, so just your heart hurts to not be able to wrap your arms around her family physically, I think this is the only way we can show them that we’re honoring them with anything they need and to reach out,” said Terhaar.
“You worry about it every night and I know my daughter does. You never want to get that call,” said Melanie Falcone, whose son-in-law is a sergeant on the Richmond Police Department.
“I would do anything to support RPD. Whether it’s a tragedy like this or celebrating,” said Falcone.
She said she has been blown away by the support shown for Officer Burton and her fellow officers.
“I ask that we continue to pray even after this event is over, because we know she certainly needs that,” said Wayne County Sheriff Randy Retter. “Most of all, I ask you to continue being a community that is worth the sacrifice she has made.”
“We need a miracle, brothers and sisters,” said Jeff Foy, a volunteer chaplain with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
Officer Burton is engaged and is set to be married next Friday. Organizers of the vigil and attendees asked people to continue to pray for her family, several who are members of law enforcement in Wayne County, her fiancé, and her fellow officers, who have been with her family around-the-clock at the hospital.
The man accused of shooting her was arrested and faces several charges including attempted murder.