Seara Burton’s name was read first during Friday’s annual Peace Officers Memorial Service honoring Wayne County law enforcement.

The Richmond Police Department K-9 officer became the county’s 16th officer to lose their life in the line of duty Sept. 18, when she died from gunshot injuries sustained Aug. 10 during a traffic stop. Burton was among 143 officers from agencies throughout the county honored during the ceremony near the police and fire memorial at the Israel “Izzy” David Edelman Fire and Police Training Center.

Pam Branum, wife of late former Chief Jim Branum, hugs Jennifer Miller, mother of late K-9 Officer Seara Burton, after they honored their loved ones during the May 19 Peace Officers Memorial Service. Photo by Joshua Smith

Burton’s mother, Jennifer Miller, and stepmother, Ami Miller, were escorted by RPD’s honor guard to the memorial that now includes Burton’s name. Ami Miller, an RPD sergeant, placed a red carnation in Burton’s honor near a memorial wreath.

“Today, another very difficult day,” Mayor Dave Snow said. “Even though it’s been eight months, today we have to reconcile with Officer Seara Burton becoming a part of this annual ceremony.”

Burton’s family had participated in National Police Week ceremonies in Washington, D.C., prior to the local ceremony. Burton, a Northeastern High School graduate and four-year RPD officer, was honored during a May 13 LGBT Fallen Heroes Memorial Service and a May 15 National Police Officers Memorial Service. She was among 443 law enforcement officers, including seven from Indiana, to have their names added to the national memorial in Washington.

Family members could not speak about their Washington experience because of a gag order involving the criminal case against Phillip Lee, who is charged with murder in Burton’s death and with other felonies surrounding the drug-related traffic stop.

Richmond Police Department Capt. Bill Shake salutes after a flower was placed to honor a fallen law enforcement officer. Photo by Joshua Smith

After Burton, the other 15 officers to die in the line of duty, nine officers who died while in active service and 118 retired officers who have died were honored. Their family members also had the opportunity to place flowers at the wreath in their officer’s honor.

“And on this day, we honor the sacrifice of our officers, pay respect to their service and recognize the sacrifice these families make to give us dedicated police officers who stand in ready service to a grateful community,” Snow said.

About 115 people joined nearly 60 uniformed officers at the service. RPD Chief Mike Britt said the attendance means a lot to current officers and the families in attendance.

“Thank you for coming out to recognize their sacrifice and service,” Britt said.

Snow challenged anyone attending the ceremony for the first time to return each year and show gratitude toward law enforcement officers. 

“Police service is a challenging and demanding profession; it is also a noble and important one,” Snow said. “Police officers put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities. We should all do our part to support our police officers and to show our appreciation for their service.”

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A version of this article appeared in the May 24 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.