K-9 Officer Seara Burton: Dedicated service and an unforgettable smile

RICHMOND, Ind. — Family and friends describe Seara Burton as strong and determined, as kind and loving.

One after another, through their tears, they stepped to a podium behind the four-year Richmond Police Department officer's flag-draped casket during her hour-long funeral service Monday inside Richmond High School’s Tiernan Center. They told about her smile and enthusiasm for her job, and about her being in love. Burton gave 100%, whether serving the city or with her loved ones.

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The funeral service for Officer Seara Burton is held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018. Burton was shot in August during a traffic stop and died Sept. 18, 2022, from her injuries.
The funeral service for Officer Seara Burton is held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018. Burton was shot in August during a traffic stop and died Sept. 18, 2022, from her injuries.

Burton, 28, who in April began her dream job as a K-9 handler with partner Brev, died Sept. 18 at Reid Health from injuries sustained when she was shot in the head Aug. 10. The shooting occurred just nine days before Burton was scheduled to marry Sierra Neal.

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The funeral service for Officer Seara Burton is held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018.  She was shot during a traffic stop Aug. 10 and died of her injuries Sept. 18, 2022.
The funeral service for Officer Seara Burton is held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018. She was shot during a traffic stop Aug. 10 and died of her injuries Sept. 18, 2022.

'She was going to be the best mom to our future children'

Neal sat with Burton’s mother, Jennifer Miller, and stepmom, RPD Officer Ami Miller, who wore her uniform, in the front row near Burton’s casket.

“I feel an emptiness without her here, but I will forever be grateful for the love she gave me,” Neal said. “Seara I promise to carry you in my heart wherever I go.”

Burton and Neal had their first date at Kings Island when the temperature approached 100. Neal said her mother told her she better like Burton otherwise it would be a long, hot day.

The funeral service for Officer Seara Burton is held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018. She was shot during a traffic stop Aug. 10 and died of her injuries Sept. 18, 2022.
The funeral service for Officer Seara Burton is held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018. She was shot during a traffic stop Aug. 10 and died of her injuries Sept. 18, 2022.

“She was going to be the best mom to our future children,” Neal said. "Seara was my best friend, and I love her."

Anyone around Burton was guaranteed to laugh and smile, Neal said, marveling at how Burton would come home from police shifts and immediately be kind-hearted.

Ami Miller said she would miss meeting Burton in parking lots and connecting on Facetime to discuss their shifts. She had watched Burton gain confidence and develop as an officer. With Burton’s determination and strength, Miller said she knew Burton would make an outstanding officer.

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“I was so incredibly proud of Seara,” Miller said; she would tell Burton about that pride and about how much she loved Burton.

Miller read a poem by Jennifer Miller, talking about how she loved being Burton’s mom.

Richmond Officer Ami Miller speaks during the funeral service for Officer Seara Burton, held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Miller is the stepmother of Burton and says she'll miss speaking after every shift with her.
Richmond Officer Ami Miller speaks during the funeral service for Officer Seara Burton, held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Miller is the stepmother of Burton and says she'll miss speaking after every shift with her.

“I don’t know if this pain in my heart will ever go away,” Miller read. “I love you so much and always will.”

Mayor Dave Snow remembered Burton’s “palpable excitement” when he administered her oath in August 2018. He spoke about Burton’s passion in her service and in her life, and Snow remembered her positive outlook and infectious sense of humor.

“She made a commitment of her time, talent and passion to this career and this city, and for that we owe her a debt of gratitude,” Snow said.

He asked that law enforcement, first responders and citizens who filled Tiernan’s lower level follow Burton’s example of love, optimism, compassion, humor and service and not leave Monday’s service with anger and sadness. Burton’s death has resonated with the community, drawing it together to support Burton’s family and her police department.

“Take from this the inspiration to serve, to stay united and to continue to support the courageous women and men who risk their lives every day to protect our communities,” Snow said.

When training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in 2019, Burton met Mariah Copeland, now a Muncie Police Department detective, and Allison Compton. They grew to be best friends.

Copeland said Burton was a loving and sensitive person.

“We all had our struggles, but it didn’t matter what Seara was going through, she always made time to talk,” Copeland said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.”

Copeland said an accidental video of the three laughing at themselves most accurately reflects their friendship.

Sierra Neal, the fiancée of Officer Seara Burton, speaks during the fallen officer's funeral service, held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018. She was shot during a traffic stop Aug. 10 and died of her injuries Sept. 18, 2022.
Sierra Neal, the fiancée of Officer Seara Burton, speaks during the fallen officer's funeral service, held Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, inside Richmond High School. Burton was appointed to the Richmond Police Department on Aug. 6, 2018. She was shot during a traffic stop Aug. 10 and died of her injuries Sept. 18, 2022.

Burton’s friends and family got 100% of her, Compton said, and could feel how much she loved them.

“If you were lucky enough to truly know her, then, like me, you’re a better person for it,” Compton said.

Compton said that Burton was happiest after meeting Neal. When the friends got to know Neal, they understood why Burton loved her so much.

“You will forever be missed, but you are always with us,” Copeland said.

RPD Officer Keifer Uphaus also remembered Burton's smile and laugh, and that determination.

“When she set her mind to do something, nothing was stopping her,” he said.

'Pain and sorrow like never before'

Burton knew her calling to become a police officer and expected to serve at the highest level, Uphaus said. She was not afraid to make a decision and stick with it, and she had a gift to speak with people in any situation.

Lt. Donnie Benedict said RPD was experiencing gut-wrenching pain.

“For the past 48 days, our officers have experienced pain and sorrow like never before,” he said, but he added that there is healing.

Benedict chose the word “protector” to describe Burton, and he said Burton combined her strength with grace.

"And who could forget that smile?" Benedict said.

Snow, at Benedict’s request, displayed a framed collection of eight $1 bills. Benedict described the city’s homeless taking up a collection for Burton’s family, leaving the dollars at the department’s information desk. He called it the most valuable gift.

“It’s a gift of love and kindness like no other,” Benedict said.

Seara's K-9 Brev included in services

After Burton’s family and dignitaries, including Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, were seated before the service, RPD officers led a half-hour entrance of law enforcement and first responders from around the county, state, region and country. In double file, the officers walked down the center aisle to Burton’s casket, then turned to their seats.

About four dozen K-9s and their handlers concluded the procession, then Brev was led to Burton’s casket.

The officers joined inside Tiernan citizens whom Burton swore to serve and protect. Some wore clothing that honored Burton.

After the service, Burton's casket was escorted to a hearse for her funeral procession.

Procession headed to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis

Law enforcement vehicles led Burton's hearse to the Richmond Municipal Building, where it stopped near her K-9 vehicle for the final 10-42 end-of-watch radio message. The procession then would drive under a garrison flag on West Main Street and proceed along U.S. 40 to Indianapolis and to Crown Hill Cemetery, about a 70-mile trip.

Burton was to be interred in the Heroes of Public Safety section.

Once arriving at the cemetery, a riderless horse with boots backward in the stirrups would lead Burton's hearse, with pallbearers at its side, to the heroes monument for a committal service. That service would include firing a traditional 21-gun salute, playing taps, folding the American flag that had covered her casket and bagpipers playing "Amazing Grace." Burton's mother was to receive the folded flag.

Each officer present would file past Burton's casket and place a white carnation with a red dot, symbolizing the blood Burton shed, onto the casket. Burton's stepmom would be the last officer placing a carnation.

She would then give Burton a final salute.

This article originally appeared on Richmond Palladium-Item: Seara Burton funeral in Richmond, Indiana